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Direct Crossover Cable Connections

Linking two Windows computers takes more than just a crossover Ethernet cable. Also: opening ports in a firewall for sharing folders and why networked PCs can't use all the functions of a multi-function printer.

By Joe and Ron of Neighborhood Techs

Q. Q. I'm trying to set up a simple network between two machines using a crossover cable. One is running Windows XP Home Edition and the other has Windows 2000 Professional. Even though I know the network cards and cable are good, I can't get it to work. I'm trying to find out what the proper settings are, but I'm unable to find documentation anywhere.

A. The problem likely lies with your software configuration.

First, double-check your Device Manager settings to make sure that the drivers for each network card are the correct versions and also installed correctly. Then verify that both machines have IP addresses on the same subnet (as in the first octets of the IP address should match, such as 192.168.1.X -- only the X should be different on each system) and that the subnet mask is the exactly the same (usually 255.255.255.0). A seemingly subtle difference in the subnet mask, say 255.255.0.0 vs. 255.255.255.0 will be enough to prevent connectivity between the computers.

After verifying that all your network settings are correct, you should be able to ping successfully between machines. At the Start Menu, select Run, then type CMD to bring up a DOS command line window. Type ping and then the IP address of the other computer. It should say "Reply From..." with some information on the time it took for the ping to return.

If you can't ping the other computer, try pinging the loopback address (127.0.0.1) -- this is an IP address localized on your computer. If this doesn't work, your probably don't even have TCP/IP networking installed. Chances are that it's one machine or the other that is causing the problem, so try this from each computer.

Another rare problem to consider -- sometimes older network cards will not communicate (or only do so intermittently) with newer NICs (especially when one is a 10Mbps card and the other is 100 or 10/100. Try purchasing two inexpensive brand new NICs from the same vendor so you'll have uniform configuration options on each machine.

Q. I have managed to network two home computers, both running Windows 98 Second Edition. However, I'm running a Symantec firewall, and I can't access the other computer unless I disable the firewall. How can I configure the firewall to let me use the network?

A. Here is an overview of what you'll need to do.

The quickest and simplest approach would be to configure your firewall to not block traffic any from computers on your internal network. This would give you full and unfettered access to the other machine.

Alternately, you could open up the specific ports that you need in order to access the other machine. Of course, access is a generic term that could mean a lot of things, but chances are you're most concerned with accessing shared folders on the other machine.

If this is the case, you'll need to make sure that TCP and UDP ports 135, 137, 138, 139, and 445 are open. (Please be sure you enable these ports only for machines on the local network. You do not want these ports exposed to the Internet.)

Keep in mind that if you're running a firewall program on both machines, you'll need to configure both of them accordingly.

Q. I have three computers networked with a SpeedStream 2614 4-port router and would like to share a Canon MultiPass C5500 Color printer/scanner/copier/fax machine on my network.

This router has a built-in print server, but a Speedstream representative told me I wouldn't be able to use all the features of my printer if I shared it that way.


A. The Speedstream representative was correct. You could connect the printer to the router's print server and all of your computers would be able to print to it, but none of them would be able to use the extended features like the scanner or fax capabilities.

It may seem odd in this time when home networks are becoming more and more common, but the vast majority of the all-in-one multi-function printers designed for home environments are designed to be used on a stand-alone computer. Their included software gives you access to all the features, but can only communicate with a printer directly-connected via a parallel or USB port.

Your best option is to connect the multifunction printer to a single machine. Install the software there, and you'll be able to use all the printer functions from that machine.
You can then share the printer on the network, which will at least allow all your computers to print.

The process for sharing a printer varies slightly depending on the version of Windows you are running and how your network is set up. Go to the Printers section of Windows; find the icon for your printer, right-click the icon and select Sharing, and follow the prompts. If you don't see Sharing displayed in the context menu, then you'll need to load File and Print Sharing. You can do this from the Network control panel.

Use our feedback form to submit your questions on home or SOHO networking issues. We can not guarantee to answer every question we get, but we'll consider them all



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