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Always Keep Networks Simple

The more complex your network, the more likely that you're going to experience problems with an always-on solution. Sometimes it's easy to complicate a network without really meaning to do so. For example, Windows 2000 Server encourages you to create a domain controller. Although corporate networks sometimes use a domain controller with Active Directory installed to maintain a safe working environment, creating such a server for your home network is an invitation to disaster.

When prompted for the kind of server you want to install, always choose a standalone server for a Windows 2000 network. The standalone server doesn't require use of special services such as Domain Name Services (DNS) and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP). In addition, you can share a connection using a very simple technique. Instead of having to create your own Network Address Translation (NAT) setup, all you need to do is click an Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) option for the connection. Both Windows 2000 and Windows XP support this feature.

To set up ICS, right-click Network Neighborhood (My Network Places) and choose Properties from the context menu. Right-click the broadband connection and choose Properties. You'll see the connection's Properties dialog box. Select the Sharing tab when working with Windows 2000 or the Advanced tab when working with Windows XP (see Figure 1). This tab contains an option for sharing the connection with other computers:

  • Windows 2000: Enable Internet Connection Sharing for This Connection

  • Windows XP: Allow Other Network Users To Connect Through This Computer's Internet Connection

Select the appropriate option for your operating system and then follow the prompts to set up the computer with the Internet connection.

Figure 1Figure 1 Set up the main networked computer to share its connection to the Internet.

Once you perform this setup, you can tell all of the computers (including the computer sharing its connection) to use the new broadband connection by opening the Internet Options applet in the Control Panel. Select the Connections tab of the Internet Options dialog box and click LAN Settings to open the Local Area Network (LAN) Settings dialog box shown in Figure 2. Click Automatically Detect Settings and click OK twice to clear the two dialog boxes. Reboot all of the systems on your network before you attempt to use the new connection. Be sure to start the system with the broadband connection first so the other computers can find it.

Figure 2Figure 2 Make sure that the machines on your network use the new connection.

When you start Internet Explorer, you should see the message Detecting Proxy Settings quickly flash by on the status bar. Afterward, whatever web site you selected should appear onscreen. If Internet Explorer complains that it can't find the page, you might have a problem with the system configuration. Selecting ICS changes the IP address for the network to a number that begins with 192.168.0.XXX (where XXX is any number between 0 and 255). You can check for this change by using the IPConfig utility. Open a command prompt by selected Start, Run and typing CMD in the Open field of the Run dialog box. Click OK. Next, type IPConfig /All at the command prompt to display the IP addresses for all of the connections for your system. If you don't see an address that begins 192.168.0.XXX, type IPConfig /Renew. This command tells your system to get a new IP address from the machine that's acting as a server to the Internet. Now the connection should work.

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