October 18, 2001
Revised April 2002
You've just bought a computer with Windows XP Home Edition or
Windows XP Professional installed, and you can't wait to
add it to your local area network. Or maybe you've upgraded
an older computer to XP, and now it can't see the network
Windows XP can network successfully with all other versions of
Windows, but there are many potential traps and pitfalls. We'll
help you avoid them, starting with a quick list of the main points,
and then adding the details.
Top Ten Rules for Adding Windows XP to an Existing Network
- Even if it tells you to do it, don't
run Windows XP's Network
Setup Wizard on the other networked computers. You
want to make the Windows XP computer conform to the existing
network. The Wizard wants to make the rest of the network
conform to XP.
- You must disable Windows XP's Internet
Connection Firewall (ICF) on a local area network
connection to other computers. If it's enabled on a LAN,
ICF will block File and Printer Sharing
- To make most network settings, you must
be logged on as a user that is a member of the Administrators
- Use the same protocol for File and Printer
Sharing on all computers.
- Remove all network protocols that aren't
required for a specific purpose.
- If you have multiple protocols, un-bind
File and Printer Sharing from all but one. Using more than one protocol, even on just one networked computer, can make networking with XP unreliable.
- TCP/IP, by itself, works for all Windows
- If you assign IP addresses manually,
use the same IP subnet on all computers.
- NetBEUI isn't necessary.
- Use the same workgroup name on all computers.
Upgrading to Windows XP
You can upgrade a computer that runs Windows 98, 98SE, or Me
to Windows XP Home Edition. Those same versions, along with Windows
NT Workstation 4.0 and Windows 2000 Professional, can be upgraded
to Windows XP Professional.
To ensure a smooth upgrade and avoid networking problems, follow
these tips before starting the upgrade:
- Install all network cards. XP will detect
them and automatically install the right drivers.
- Have your Internet connection available.
The XP setup process will connect to a Microsoft server
to download the latest setup files, including changes
that have been made since XP was released.
- Some programs are incompatible with XP
and can cause networking problems. Un-install these programs.
After the upgrade is complete and the network is working,
re-install XP-compatible versions of these programs:
Windows XP Networking Default Configuration
When it detects the presence of a network card, Windows XP automatically
creates a connection named "Local Area Connection" in
the Network Connections folder. The connection shows the type
of card that XP detected. Some manufacturers use generic chipsets
in their cards, and XP often identifies the card using the chipset
name. For example, it identified my Netgear FA310TX card as "Intel
21140-Based PCI Fast Ethernet Adapter (Generic)". To see
the connection's configuration, right click it and select Properties.
Windows XP automatically installs these items for a new network
- Client for Microsoft Networks,
which allows the XP computer to access other computers
on the network.
- File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft
Networks, which allows other computers on the network
to access the XP computer.
- QoS Packet Scheduler. Allows programs to reserve bandwidth for critical applications like streaming video.
- Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). TCP/IP
is a core component of the XP operating system and can't
More to Know
If you've already run XP's Network
Setup Wizard on the other computers, don't worry. Check
the other computers' network settings and manually reset
anything that the Wizard changed. The most likely changes
are in the TCP/IP configuration and workgroup name.
Network Protocols: Learn
how to get XP to use the same protocol as the rest of your existing
File Sharing: The preceding information
should get your new Windows XP computer on the network and enable
it to access shared files on other computers. All that's left
to do is enable sharing on XP so that other computers can access
For Windows XP Home Edition, see our article on Simple
For Windows XP Professional, Simple File Sharing lets you share
folders on a network where there are no concerns about security
need to control access to shared files. If you want more security
control, see our article on Windows
XP Professional File Sharing.