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Troubleshooting Q&A - May 19, 2005

Make a Wireless Peer-to-Peer Connection

Tips and tricks for setting up a P2P wireless network with no access point and wireless cards from different vendors ... plus, how to remove unused ports once and for all.

By Ron Pacchiano

Q. I'm trying to set up peer-to-peer wireless network between two desktop computers. One is running Windows XP Home Edition and is equipped with a NetGear PCI wireless card. The other is running Windows XP Media Center with a D-Link USB wireless adapter. Both cards look like their configured correctly and are coming up as working in Device Manager, but they can't seem to communicate with each other. Although an icon in the status bar says I'm connected, I can't ping from one machine to the other. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

A. Before we continue, I just want to point out that in spite of the fact that the status bar says you're connected, there is a good possibility that your network isn't configured correctly. All this indicator really implies is that the card can see the presence of another wireless adapter or access point. It doesn't mean that it can communicate with it.

Now with that being said, you didn't provide enough details on your network configuration to allow me to tell you exactly what the cause of your problem is. However, there are a number of things I can have you check that should help resolve your problem. You didn't mention if these systems had access to the Internet, so any of the suggestions I make might have to be modified a bit to keep your Internet connection up and running. Use the following information as a guideline only.

The first things you should check are the basics. Make sure that both computers are members of the same workgroup. Next you'll need to double-check your IP settings. In a Peer-to-Peer environment (or one without an access point) you should make sure that both PCs are using a static IP address and share a common subnet mask. A typical example for this would be to give PC1 an IP address of 192.168.0.2 and PC2 an IP address of 192.168.0.3. 192.168.0.1 is usually reserved for the Router/Gateway address. Then each PC would be given a Subnet mask of 255.255.255.0.

With that done, we now need to take a look at your wireless settings. Since you're not using an access point, check and make sure both wireless network cards are in ad-hoc mode rather than infrastructure mode. Most cards default to infrastructure mode, so this is a common problem.

Next verify that both wireless cards are configured to use the same wireless settings. They should share a common SSID (just like the workgroup name) and they should be transmitting data on the same channel. Adapters made by different vendors sometimes default to different channels, which would prevent communication.

All levels of encryption should also be disabled for the time being. While I understand that you want your data to be secure, both WEP and WPA encryption can be extremely problematic to configure, particularly from cards made by different vendors. Once you have conductivity between your two systems then you can worry about getting the security encryption to function properly.

When you do finally enable it, take your time and ensure that the security settings on both cards are set to the same encryption type (WEP/WPA), level (64 bit, 128 bit and so on) and are using identical encryption keys. If you follow these steps carefully, you should find yourself online in no time. Good Luck!

Q. Over the years I've had a couple of different printers. Each time I added one, I ended up having to add a new TCP LPR port to my system. Since I don't use (or even have) most of those old printers anymore, I thought that I would just delete those unneeded ports from my system. However, when I attempt to remove them I get an error message that says that the resource is in use and cannot be removed. Most of these printers aren't even connected to the PC anymore, so I don't understand how the port could possible be in use. Do you have any idea how to go about removing these TCP ports from my system? Thanks.

A. In order to change or remove a port from the system, it has to be unallocated. When you first created the port it was assigned to a specific printer. Even though that printer might not be physically connected to the PC, the port is still being allocated to it. This is why the system tells you that the resource is in use and cannot be removed. In order to remove it, all you need to do is delete the printer that it was originally created for. If you used that port for any additional printers, those will need to be deleted as well.

Now that the printer(s) have been deleted, you need to delete the unused port. To do this, go into the properties of any printer installed on your system and proceed to the Ports tab. FYI: Make a note of the port currently assigned to this printer so you can put it back later. Now highlight the port you wish to remove from your system and press the "Delete Port" button. The system will ask you if you're sure you want to remove this port. Answer yes. Repeat this process for all of the ports you want to remove. When finished deleting the last one, set the port back to the one that you made note of earlier and press "Close." If you forget to do this, the printer will no longer function. Hope that helps.

Use our feedback form to submit your questions on home or SOHO networking issues. Please be as specific as possible. We cannot guarantee to answer every question we get, but we’ll consider them all.



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