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Windows 95/8/ME-- Easy Networking

By Alan Zisman 1999, 2002, 2005

~ Needs ~ Software ~ Sharing ~ Workgroups ~ Passwords ~ Mapping ~ Printers ~ Tricks ~ Windows 2000/XP issues

Anyplace where there are more than one computer-- home, office, school, wherever, their usefulness can be greatly enhanced by creating a local area network. Prior to the release of Windows 95, PC users had their work cut out for them, however, and often had to purchase additional and expensive networking software. (Mac users have had basic, easy-to-use networking built-in to the Mac OS almost from the beginning). Starting with Microsoft's 1994 Windows for Workgroups, and continuing with Windows 95, Microsoft added everything needed to create a basic network right into Windows.

If you're in a Vancouver school, your machines are connected to the VSB’s Wide Area Network; the hard part of networking your computers has already been done for you—they have a working network interface card (NIC), are cabled to a hub, the TCP/IP protocol is installed with a valid IP address—and you know all this works!

After that, it will take only minimal work to create one or more simple peer-to-peer networks.

We’ll also look at what it will take if you’re starting from scratch, however—in case you have other machines that you want to add to the network.

We’re going to look at setting up and using a simple, peer-to-peer network, using software built into Win95/98. For questions about connecting to more complex, server-based networks, you will have to go elsewhere... a good starting point is the Windows 95 Resource Kit, available as a (US$50) book from Microsoft Press. The complete text is also available for free, as a Windows HELP file, buried deep on your Win95 CD... specifically, at D:\Admin\Reskit\Helpfile\Win95rk.hlp Win98 users can access that version of the Resource Kit as: D:\Tools\Reskit\Help\ Rk98book.chm

Note: I’ll be referring to Windows 95 or Win95 or W95—in all cases, Windows 98 or ME is identical. The older Windows 3.1 or Windows for Workgroups 3.11 are different-- and are not covered in this tutorial. Neither are the NT-family of operating systems, currently Windows NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP. Windows XP (Home and Professional) users may want to take a look at Microsoft's: How to Configure File Sharing in Windows XP page.

1) What do I need to create a simple network connecting Windows95 machines?

Not much-- most of the software you need is already included with Windows 95. You will need a Network Interface Card (NIC) for each computer. Get either a reputable name brand, or a lower-priced no-name brand clone... but if you go generic, make sure it supports the NE-2000standard.
And you'll have to make a decision about cabling. In general there are two standards-- coax cable (like your TV uses but different) with BNC connectors (also known as thinnet or 10-base-2), or twisted pair (like your telephone cable, but different) with RJ-45 connectors (also known as UTP or 10-base-T). Almost everyone uses twisted pair, these days.

If you use coax, you'll need a T-connector for each machine, and two terminators-- one for each end of cable-chain. Make sure you've got cable for Ethernet-- Arcnet cables look virtually identical, but will work at best, intermittently!

If you use twisted pair, you need a hub, to plug each machine into. Plugging into a WAN drop connects you to a hub, usually in the server-room. 

(A handy trick-- if you have a single drop in a classroom, you can connect multiple computers to it by purchasing a mini-hub with 4 -8 Ethernet ports ($50 or less). Plug the mini-hub's WAN or Uplink port into your drop, and the computers into the hub's other ports. Note that some mini-hubs don't let you use Port 1 if you're using the WAN/Uplink port-- or have a switch you need to set so the WAN/Uplink port will be active).

2) If I need to add a NIC, how do I install the hardware?

Installing network cards is no different from installing other hardware under Win95. If your cards are not plug-and-play, make note of the default IRQ and IO settings, and run Control Panel/System/Device Manager, and check that those settings are free, making changes to your NIC or other devices if necessary.
(If you right-click on the Computer icon on the top of the list in Device Manager, you can see how IRQs (etc) are being used).

Computer Properties

Shut down the machine (very important!), open the case, and insert the card. Close it up, and restart. Win95 may notice the new hardware on startup... if it doesn't, run the Control Panel/Add New Hardware wizard. In either case, if Win95 is unable to identify the new hardware, you can identify it manually to the wizard. Either select the card's manufacturer and model, or click on the Have Diskbutton to point the installation to use drivers provided on disk with your card. Afterwards, you may have to restart your machine. Check Device Manager again... if your network card is conflicting with another device, it will be identified with a coloured warning triangle. Otherwise, you should be okay!

3) How do I install the software?

The key here is Control Panel/Network. (Also accessed by right-clicking Network Neighborhood and picking Properties from the popup context menu):

Network Control Panel

For a Win95 network, you'll need an installed network adapter, a networking client, and a networking protocol, all bound to one another (so that they can communicate), along with at least one machine set to share files with the others.

You should already have a network adapter listed-- the NIC you just installed.

Click on the Control Panel/Network Add button, and choose Client, then Microsoft, then Client for Microsoft Networks (which has nothing to do with Microsoft's same-named on-line service). Click OK.

(Some systems configured for Internet access may need to have the Client for Microsoft Networking added in order to connect to your network).

Similarly, if your computer is not already on the WAN, Adda Protocol. Select Microsoft, and TCP/IP. Click OK. If you got SPX/IPXinstalled, remove it-- unless you're connecting to a Novell Netwarenetwork or to a network printer or print-sharing device. Similarly, remove the NETBEUI protocol. (Extra, unneeded protocols just reduce performance!-- however, if you're having problems connecting with your network, experiment by adding Netbeui back in!)

Click on your network adapter, then choose Properties, and look on the Bindings tab.

Select Network Client dialogue

Add a checkmark if needed, to bind it to TCP/IP. Similarly, check the TCP/IP Properties and Bindings... it should be bound to Client for Microsoft Networks...

If your machine is already connected to the WAN, you shouldn’t have to deal with the other TCP/IP Properties  but if not, take a deep breath!

Open Control Panel/Network on an already connected machine, click on TCP/IP and then on Properties(in fact, do it for all the computers in the school and list the IP Addresses) & you should see:

TCP/IP Properties dialogue

On the new machine, make it similar—changing the last digit(s) of the IP address, so create a new address.

All machines should have a Subnet Mask of 255.240.000.000.(aka 255.240.0.0)

Important tip:

if you are connecting to a router or a gateway computer with DHCP, it will automatically do the messy IP address assignment-- if you know this is the case, select the [ ] Obtain an IP address automatically option... it will make life much easier!

Go to the DNS Configuration and Gateway tabs, and copy what you see in the connected machine.

4) How do I share files and printers?

On each machine that you want to use to share files and/or printers (i.e. act as a server to the rest of the network), on that same Control Panel/Network/Configuration page, click on the File and Print Sharing button.

Choose:

[x] I want to be able to give other access to my files
[x] I want to be able to allow others to print to my printers

as you desire. Click OK.

Sharing properties

Next, go to My Computer or Explorer, and select a drive icon or folder that you want to share (sharing individual folders rather than an entire drive keeps students from having access to the rest of your drive). Right-click and choose Sharing from the pop-up menu. Give the folder or drive a share name, and decide about the other options. Click OK.

Notice that the icon for that drive now has an arm and hand holding the drive icon, indicating that it is shared.

Similarly, in the Printer Control Panel, you can right-click on a printer icon to share that printer, if printer-sharing has been enabled.

You can require a password in order to access a shared resource—for instance, I have set a password on my shared colour printers, but not on my black and white printer.

Important tip:  Very few of your systems need to have sharing turned on... only the systems that are acting as peer-to-peer file or print servers need this. Most of your systems will be network clients-- accessing shared files and printers, but not sharing anything of their own. While this would be greedy, uncooperative behaviour in a school playground, it's the way networking works-- if you turn on sharing on all your computers, network performance will be awful, as each computer is continually checking each of the others.

5) How do I make sure my computers recognize one another?

Back to the Control Panel/Network icon... Click on the Identification tab.
Each computer on the network needs a different, unique name, but needs to be identified as a member of the same workgroup. Make sure that the workgroup is exactly identical-- failures to connect as expected are most often due to minor differences in the workgroup names. However, the Workgroup name is not case sensitive: ‘Lab’ is the same as ‘lab’ is the same as 'LAB'.

Network identification

If you have trouble getting the computers to show up in Network Neighborhood automatically, go back into Control Panel/Network. Click on File and Print Sharing then on Properties then on Advanced. Make sure only one computer has Browse Master enabled—usually your main server. And make sure that one is fully booted before you turn on the other machines.

Another trick-- sometimes, a computer you know is sharing resources on the network simply doesn't show up. I don't know why this happens, but adding a second network protocol (IPX/SPX or Netbeui) to both the 'server' and all the clients has always fixed this problem in my experience.

6) What about passwords and logon?

Creating this network will change the primary network logon to Client for Microsoft Networks in the Control Panel/Network/Configuration page. You may want to change the Primary Windows Logon item back to Windows Logon. When you’re start, you'll be asked for a name and password... If you are not using multiple logons, leave the password blank. You'll be asked to confirm this; after you do so, you won't be asked for a logon again.

Having individual users logon to a fancy server-based network like Novell or NT provides important security. Windows 95 peer to peer networks do not provide strong user-based security—there is not need for a network logon on these systems—whether or not you have separate Student/Teacher/etc logons and user profiles with your Windows logon.

Note however that if your shared folders or printers are on a Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP system, you will need to keep the Microsoft Networks log-in-- and you will have to log-in with a user-name and password that are listed as registered users on the NT/2000/XP system in order to access the shared resources.

7) Look at Network Neighborhood...

You're finally ready to view your network. Double-click on the Network Neighborhood icon on the Desktop. You may see your other computers, or you may just see an icon for your computer, plus a globe for the Entire Network. Double-click on the globe, and you should see an icon with your work group name... double-clicking on that should get you a list of all members of the network with shared resources—remember, you don’t need to set up your workstations for sharing, so they needn’t appear in Network Neighborhood—doing so if not needed will just slow everything down!

8) How can I access files on another computer more directly?

If you 'map' the network drives, they will appear as simply another drive in My Computer, Explorer, and your applications OPEN and SAVE dialogue boxes. To do that, view the shared drives/folders in Network Neighborhood. Right-click on a drive, and choose Map Network Drive from the popup menu.

Map Network Drive dialogue

Choose a drive-letter to use, and click on the [x] Reconnect at logon option if desired.
(If you choose that option, if the other computer isn't already up and running at startup, you'll need to click an error message when you're unable to connect to its drives-- in other words, you must start your 'servers' first, before starting up the client systems!)
Repeat for each drive/folder you want to map.

9) How can I use a printer across the network

First, you need to set a printer as shareable-- you do this the same way as for a drive; open Printers in Control Panel, My Computer, Explorer, or the Start Menu's Settings/Printers option. Right-click, choose Sharing from the popup menu, and give it a Shared Name.
Then, on the other computer, go to Printers, and choose the Add Printer option. Choose to add a Network Printer, and you can browse to find your shared printer on the network... you'll get a mini-network neighborhood list, letting you choose the computer with the printer you want... clicking on the [+] sign next to that computer will drop down a list of shareable printers. Pick the one you want-- a nice touch is that in many cases, the wizard will simply copy the drivers needed from the other computer.(With HP LaserJets, however, you may need to trick the installation, telling it the printer is connected to LPT1: Ignore the error message when if fails to find the printer.

Browse for Printer dialogue

If the printer is already installed on your computer, you can change its connection setting, to point to the network: right-click the printer’s icon (in the Printer Control Panel), and choose Properties from the popup menu. Go to the Details tab. Click on the Add Port button. Then click to Browse the network, select the computer the printer is connected to, and click on the printer’s share-name.

Printer Properties dialogue

(Notice we’re getting the same dialogue box we did if we were simply adding a new, network printer!)

Note: You can share printers attached to workstations, but sometimes heavy printing will bog down use of that machine—or error messages popping up will confuse students. As well, some programs, when running on that computer—DOS programs especially, will slow down or completely shut down printing (Word Rescue does this). A good thing is to connect printers to a dedicated print server computer—you can use an old, donated 486 for this—the print server doesn’t have to be a fast, new machine. Even better is to spend $1000 or so and get a real network printer, with a built-in Ethernet port, such as the Lexmark Optra S1620. You can also connect the printers you already have with a network printer sharing device such as the Hewlett Packard JetDirect series—a $440 model lets you attach three printers to one device, which connects directly to a single network drop. (Note—some people (included me!) have had problems getting Win9x computers to recognize JetDirect printers… apparently, the undocumented trick is that you need to install the IPX/SPX networking protocol onto each machine in order to make it work.... with this hardware, TCP/IP only works with Win NT/2000/XP systems).

10) What are some things I can do with my network?

  • Use your teacher’s computer as a (pretend) server. Create a folder called Students and set it shareable, and map it with a drive letter on all your workstations. Within it, create folders for your individual divisions and within those, for each student. (Keep names at 8 letters or less if you want them to show up nicely in Win 3.1 programs like MS Works 3.0 or KidPix—use Div01 instead of Division 01, and Katie_G instead of Katie Gilhoolie. Long names show up as KATIEG~1 under Win 3.1 applications). The fastest way to create a large number of folders is from a DOS prompt—type: md Div01 [enter], etc.(If you do use long file names, enclose them in quotation marks if working at a DOS prompt—md “Katie Gilhoolie”).With practice, this can be pretty fast—it took me about 3 minutes to create folders for all the students in a division. Now your students can save in these folders, rather than onto floppy diskettes. Important Note: There is no security on these folders—note that students can see into other folders—more often, accidentally, students move folders into the adjacent folder—if a student (or whole division’s) folder has seemed to disappear, look in nearby folders, and use Explorer to move it back! (Using passwords and an add-in like Zedex (see below) makes this problem disappear).
Reset your applications to look at the shared drive by default—on my network, the shared Student folder is mapped on the workstations as the E: drive& so I changed the properties of the Start Menu or desktop icon that opens each application, so that the Working Directory points to the shared drive; as a result, when students click on Save or Open, they see the list of their divisions.

MS Works properties dialogue
  • Install a single copy of All the Right Type on your ‘server’, and access it from all the workstations (see appendix). It will be slower starting up, but it will run fine (I do this with 28 workstations).Use ATRT’s Utility Center to create your Divisions and lists of students—now students will be able to access their records no matter what workstation they’re at, without floppy disks. 

To do this, here's what you need to do:

Install a copy of ATRT on the server, in a shared folder/drive (with full read/write privileges). Be sure to pick the Typical installation option.
All workstations must map the shared folder/drive to the same drive letter.
If any other drive letter than (the default) F: is used for the mapped drive, you need to edit the Utilcntr.ini file in the folder on the server where ATRT is installed-- change the CommonDrive setting to the correct drive letter.
Find the SetupWS.exe program on your install disks, and run it on each workstation to install the program onto the workstation.
If needed, create icons on each workstation for ATRT that point to the copy of Altrtype.exe on the server. Make sure that the Start In setting points to the folder on the server where the program is installed!
Create Recordfiles on the server, using the Utility Center program for your divisions and students-- they should be available on all the workstations.
(Optionally) edit the C:\Windows\Atrt.ini file on each workstation (and your server) to point to a non-default word processor-- for instance, MS Works. Edit the ini file with the following (adjusted for your setting):
[Word Processor Options]
WordProcessor=c:\progra~1\msworks\msworks.exe
WorkingDirectory=e:\

(Instead of manually editing the file on each workstation, do it once, then copy it to your shared drive, and copy that to each workstation-- make a simple DOS batch file to do it for you.)

(The new All the Right Type 3.0-- which is provincially licensed for all public schools in BC-- is much easier to run across a network-- but the network data must be on a computer with a fixed IP address, rather than one assigned by DHCP).

  • Teachers with computers in a classroom can be set to join your lab’s workgroup—this will enable them to access their students’ saved work, or to print from your shared printer (nice as a backup if they don’t have a printer in their classroom, or it’s broken).
  • Set up a small network for your office and administrators’ machines—by making them all members of a workgroup, for instance, Office. This will let your principal print from the office’s laser printer (and not need a printer in her/his room). As well, you can map the drive on the machine where TurboSchool is installed, and with a simple modification. Let the other computers on the workgroup access the single copy of Turbo—giving your principal or VP instant access to that information. Doing this will score you mega-brownie points with your administration. If they’re paranoid, password-protect these shared resources. (Probably a good idea in any event—and for extra protection, use Poledit on non-office computers to remove access to The Entire Network in Network Neighborhood—this will make it impossible for students to access a workgroup different from their own).
Your current office computer starts Turbo using a file: c:\goturbo.bat. Create a second, similar batch file on that drive:c:\goturbo2.bat,reading:

@echo off
e:
echo Loading Turbo School
cd \main650
newmenu e:\data650
cd \
c:
exit

Make shortcuts to that batch file on the other machines on the office network. Note that the first machine that opens Turbo will have read/write access-- other machines that open it will have read-only access.

  • Share other applications across the network. Note that this can be a major drain on your network, and if you only own a single copy of an application, you can’t legally run it on a bunch of workstations at once—but you can (usually) legally set it up so it can run on multiple machines—one at a time.
Again, DOS batch files can be used to ensure that only a single copy runs at a time. (Who said DOS is dead?) For each such program, create a dummy file-- perhaps an empty text file. Let's pretend we're sharing the programMyprogram.exe and have created a dummy M.txt file, in Myprogram's folder on the server. Let's also create a folder called Junk on the server. On each workstation, copy a batchfile:

@echo off
if exist e:\junk\m.txt goto warning
e:
cd \myprog~1
copy m.txt e:\junk
start /wait myprogram.exe
del e:\junk\m.txt
goto end
:warning
echo Only one person at a time can run this program...
echo Please try again later. Thank you.
:end
exit

Temporarily, copy the installation files for a program into a shared folder (best on a mapped drive), and go from workstation to workstation, running the Setup program across the network. If your program is on multiple diskettes, create folders: Disk1, Disk2, etc& most programs will automatically find the next disk when needed.
If you are comfortable with DOS batch files, you can create batch files to automatically install programs, clean up the Start Menu, and perform other administrative tasks& save them to the shared drive/folder, and then use the Start Menu’s RUN command to run them on each workstation& again, much faster than running from a floppy diskette. (A workshop on DOS for ITSTs might be handy!)
  • Use a drive-imaging program like Ghost or Drive Image to create an image of the hard drives of your various machine-types& store them on your server. If you need to restore a damaged machine, or if you get new computers, copy it across the network, and then run it to get an exact duplicate of your original machine.
Use the network to synchronize the date/time on all your workstations at bootup. Make a batch file such as C:\Settime.bat—
@echo off
net time \\Maq00 /set /yes <=change \\Maq00 to point to your server name
exit
Create an icon for it in your Startup Start Menu folder so it will run automatically at boot time. Set the properties to run it minimized and close when completed. No more room full of machines, each with a different date/time.
  • Let students play networkable games across the network—in this way, students can interact with one another in real time. A favorite on Maquinna’s lab is X-Games Pro-Boarder snowboarding (developed in Vancouver!)…
Let students chat with one another across your classroom or lab network—you could structure this as a formal assignment, or have them go at it freely. Especially interesting with ESL students. Windows includes a WinPopup utility, but it’s awkward to use to get a conversation going. Much better is the free T-4-2 program, which pops up a dual-paned window, letting two users type to one another, and see what each other is typing. Get it here!
  • Get a license for Zedex from http://www.zedex.net. This affordable (free for a school-wide license) add-on to Windows networking makes it much more convenient to maintain secure network folders for each individual student and teacher in a school-- even using the minimalist Windows 9x networking. Works great using standard Win98 (etc) workstation as a 'server'. Highly recommended for school networks!

A problem and a solution...

Microsoft did a stupid thing, in my opinion (you might think they've done more than one stupid thing, but that's a different discussion...):

When you try to access a shared, but password-protected network resource (typically a drive, folder, file, or printer), you're faced with a log-on screen... all that's fine except that the default is to save the password. If you don't manually turn off that option, you won't be asked for the password again when you access that resource. While this may seem convenient, it completely defeats the purpose of password-protecting the resource, as anyone sitting down at your computer now has free rein of the shared resource, whether they know the password or not!

<>To change this, run Poledit 95 (opening Admin.adm), click on the File/Registry menu (as described above)-- but instead of opening theUser icon, double-click on the Local Computer icon. Open the Network section, then Passwords, and check the option to Disable Password Caching. After saving your changes, when you access password-protected network resources, the log-in dialogue box will no longer have an option to remember the password. (Thanks to Vancouver teacher Luigi Tallarico for this tip!)

For more on using Poledit-- the Windows System Policy Editor to set security on standalone or networked workstations, take a look at my Poledit Tutorial.

Windows 2000/XP issues

Windows NT, 2000, and XP can participate in Win9x-style peer-to-peer networks; Microsoft added a number of Wizards to XP that are supposed to make setup easier-- but in my opinion are actually more awkward to access and use than what is described above. To access them, open My Network Places, and click on the Set up a home or small office network item on the left-hand pane.

As well, Microsoft does not make it easy to add the NetBeui protocol to WinXP systems; in my experience, adding NetBeui solves many mysterious networking problems. For example, I recently tried to add a new WinXP system to my existing peer-to-peer network. The XP system could see the peer-to-peer servers, but wouldn't show the shared folders; it gave a "You Don't Have Permission..." error message. Adding NetBeui made this work.

To add NetBeui, explore your WinXP (Professional or Home version) CD; go to the
D:\VALUEADD\MSFT\NET\NETBEUI folder. As the NETBEUI.TXT file in that folder explains, you'll need to copy the NBF.SYS file to your C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\DRIVERS folder, and the NETNBF.INF file to your C:\WINDOWS\INF folder (which is typically hidden-- use the My Computer or Explorer Tools\Folder Options\View options to show hidden folders or type the folder name in the Start Menu's RUN commend).

Once you've copied those files, right-click My Network Places and choose Properties from the popup menu (or choose the Network control panel item). Double-click the Local Area Connection button then click Properties. Click the Install button, select Protocol and click Add... You should see NetBEUI listed as an optional Network Protocol. (Whew!)

Note that there is no guarantee that Microsoft will continue to include NetBEUI in future Windows releases.

As well, there is an additional problem you may encounter when using Windows 95/98/ME systems to try to access folders or printers that are on a Windows NT/2000/etc system.

The defaults in Win9x are for share-based file sharing; when you set a folder as shared on a Win9x system, it lets you set an optional password-- that's applied to the folder; anyone on the network can work with that folder, if they enter the password (if one is required).

The default serving in a WinNT-family OS is for user-based serving... a user enters a recognized user name and password when logging in, and then has access to all shared resources without having to enter a password again.

In order to do that on a Win9x system, you need to set it up (using the Network properties), so that the Primary Network Logon is Client for Microsoft Networks. Then, when a user starts up or logs on, they need to enter a user name and password that are listed as a valid user on the server.

When that happens, they have access to all the shared resources on the server.

Note that if your Win9x system is set to startup/logon using the Windows Logon (which will work fine for Win9x peer-to-peer networking), they will not be able to access shared resources on a WinNT-family server.

(This doesn't seem to be an issue when accessing shared resources on a WinXP system, however... )

Worth Reading:

Two articles from PC Magazine (2002):
"Teaching Windows XP to Share": http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,5983,00.asp
"Win XP Home Networking: Two Steps Back": http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,2212,00.asp

 
By Alan Zisman 1999, 2002. Last revised, 24 October 2005

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan