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The most daunting part of upgrading to Windows Vista may be trying to figure out where in the layers of menus the networking and file-sharing options are hidden.

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Troubleshooting Q&A - July 7, 2004

Sharing a Dial-Up Connection in a Broadband World

If you live in an area where DSL and cable Internet access is difficult to come by, can you still enjoy the convenience of a wireless router? Plus ... can you tell your firewall from your anti-virus?

By Ron Pacchiano

Q. I have a rather unusual question. I have two computers at home: one desktop and one laptop. I'd like to be able to share an Internet connection with both of these systems. I would also like to be able to use a wireless connection with my laptop, so that I could still surf the Web, while moving around the house. The problem is that I live in a somewhat rural area, so a broadband Internet connection, like cable or DSL, is out of the question. This, unfortunately, means that I'm stuck using a 56kps, dial-up connection. I know what I want to do can be done with a broadband connection, but I don't know if it's possible to get a wireless router that works with a dial-up connection. Do they even make this type of a product?

A. There are definitely companies out there that make this type of product. The problem is that they're pretty rare. Typically today, any router that has dial-up functionality reserves it for use as a backup in case the primary broadband connection fails.

A few years ago I had tested a product called the ZoomAir IG-4165 Wireless Internet Gateway which was pretty good. The only other one that I know of was the SMC Barricade Wireless Router. These two products share a number of characteristics. They are both NAT routers equipped with a 4-port 10/100 Mbps switch with a hardware firewall, built-in print server, DHCP services, 802.11b wireless conductivity and are managed through a Web-based configuration system. I'm not sure if they even make these products anymore. I'm sure if you were interested in them, though, you would be able to find them floating around on eBay. However, since you're saddled with a slow dial-up account anyway, I can't see the justification for you spending the extra time and money on a router.

Instead I would suggest that you simply purchase a low-cost access point such as the D-Link DWL-700AP. A product like this would give your laptop wireless access to your desktop PC. The D-Link DWL-700AP can be found for less than $60. That would take care of your wireless access.

Then using Microsoft's Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), you could configure your desktop PC as a Host computer that would share its Internet connection with your laptop. It works with dial-up accounts and your existing modem, so you won't need to spend weeks looking for a router with dial-up capabilities.

Configuring ICS is a simple process and instructions for this can be found at here. This article will explain how to configure both the host and client sides of ICS. Be aware, however, that two computers sharing a modem connection will not impress you with swift downloads (then again, even one computer using a dial-up isn't that impressive these days).

This method I'm suggesting will give you the mobility you're looking, but without the additional headaches. I would also recommend that you install a personal firewall to protect you while you're online. At a minimum Microsoft's own Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) or download ZoneAlarm, which is free for individual users and some not-for-profit charitable organizations.

Q. I have two computers at home and finally got around to networking them. Both systems are equipped with Windows XP Professional. I have a DSL line for Internet access and use Microsoft's Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) and Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) to share the DSL line with my other PC. To protect me from viruses, I installed Norton Antivirus 2003 on my primary system only. I was under the impression that if the anti-virus software was installed on the computer with the Internet connection then that would be sufficient to protect any other PC on my network. A friend of mine however is insisting that I need to install the anti-virus software on all of my systems.

This brings me to my question. Is it really necessary for me to purchase and install another anti-virus product on my second PC if I already have anti-virus software protecting the PC that the Internet traffic is coming in on? I'd rather not spend the extra money if I don't need to. Thanks!

A. You may be confusing the function of the anti-virus software with the function of a firewall. The anti-virus software protects your PC and network from becoming infective with troublesome and sometimes destructive viruses. A firewall protects your entire network from unauthorized access into your network. This prevents intruders or hackers from accessing your personal information or from participating in a Denial of Service Attack on another company's Web site.

Even though only one of your PC's is directly connected to the Internet, both of your systems have Internet access and both systems are capable of accidentally downloading or opening virus-infected files. For that reason it is absolutely imperative that you install a good anti-virus package on all of your systems.


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