How To: Windows XP Network Troubleshooting

By Steve Winograd

Microsoft has tried to make it easy to set up a Windows XP network, share files and printers, and share an Internet connection. The Home Networking Wizard makes all the necessary network settings without requiring the user to have any knowledge of network protocols, IP addresses, and other technical details. And it works, for most people, most of the time, especially when setting up a new network.

But Murphy was right, and things do go wrong in Windows XP networking. We’ll help you find and fix those aggravating problems and get your network working right.

Note : This article applies to Windows peer-to-peer networks using the TCP/IP protocol in a workgroup. It doesn’t specifically address problems with other protocols or with Windows NT/2000 domains.

Preliminary Steps
Here are most important steps in Windows XP network troubleshooting. Follow them, and you might not need to read the rest of this article! Ignore them, and your network might never work properly, no matter what else you do. Click each step to see the details:

All networks:

Use the same, single protocol for File and Printer Sharing on all computers.
Make sure that each network card is set up properly.

Networks that use the TCP/IP protocol for any purpose:

Remove all firewall programs while troubleshooting.
Assign all computers to the same IP subnet.

Networks that use the TCP/IP protocol for File and Printer Sharing:

Permanently disable XP’s Internet Connection Firewall on a local area network connection.
Enable NetBIOS Over TCP/IP on all computers.

As you look for troubleshooting help, you’re likely to come across information that looks helpful, but will actually interfere with your efforts.

Use Windows XP’s Built-In Troubleshooters
Windows XP’s built-in troubleshooting tools are much better than those in previous versions of Windows. Give them a try, especially if you’re new to networking.

Simple Steps
You’ve performed the preliminary steps, avoided the missteps, and run XP’s troubleshooters, but your network still isn’t working right. View some simple steps that can solve problems quickly and easily.

Avoiding Future Trouble
Once your network is running right, follow these tips to keep it healthy.

Use System Restore in Windows Me and Windows XP to create a restore point before making network changes, installing software, or changing hardware. If something goes wrong, you can restore the system to its previous working configuration.

Reboot all computers after adding a DHCP server (e.g. ICS host, hardware router) to the network. This will make them get new IP addresses from the DHCP server.

Disable and then re-enable all firewall programs after making any IP address changes on the network.

When you remove computers, shared disks, or shared folders from the network, open My Network Places and delete shortcuts to them.

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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