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Setting up dial-up networking for calling an ISP

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By Ronald Nutter, MCSE/MCNE

Published in TechRepublic's Windows Support Professional

Most PCs come with dial-up networking (DUN) already installed. Many ISPs have their installation programs check to see that DUN is installed; they will then install it if necessary. Knowing how to install DUN can be very important if you must install Windows 95 from scratch or re-create it if part or all of it has been accidentally removed from the system you're working on. In this article, we'll explain how to set up DUN.

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Adding the dial-up adapter

Adding the dial-up adapter

To call an ISP, DUN needs at minimum two basic components: a dial-up adapter and TCP/IP. If the Network Neighborhood icon doesn't appear on your desktop, that's your first clue that one or both of these components aren't installed. In this case, you can get to the icon by double-clicking the Network icon in Control Panel.

Your first step will be to add the dial-up adapter. In the Network dialog box, click Add to open the Select Network Component Type dialog box, shown in Figure A. Then, double-click the Adapter network component type.

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Figure A: In this dialog box, you select the dial-up adapter (and, later, the TCP/IP protocol) to form the basis for DUN.

In the resulting Select Network Adapters dialog box, select Microsoft in the Manufacturers list. Now, the Dial-Up Adapter will appear in the Network Adapter list; other drivers may also appear, depending on the updates installed on the Windows 95 system you're working on. Double-click Dial-Up Adapter to install it and continue setting up DUN. When the screen refreshes, the Network dialog box should look similar to the one shown in Figure B.

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Figure B: The Configuration tab in the Network dialog box will look like this when the Dial-Up Adapter has been installed.

Adding the TCP/IP protocol

Next, you'll add the TCP/IP protocol necessary to make the connection to your ISP. In the Network dialog box, click Add and double-click Protocol. Click Microsoft in the Manufacturers list; then, double-click TCP/IP to complete the protocol installation.

In the Network dialog box, you can delete the Client For Microsoft Networks, Client For NetWare Networks, IPX/SPX-Compatible, and NetBEUI protocols by selecting them and clicking Remove. (You could also leave these items without causing problems when you connect to the ISP.) If you delete the unnecessary network components, the Network Neighborhood icon won't appear on the desktop.

Installing a modem

Your next step in setting up DUN will be to ensure that a modem is installed and configured on your system. Double-click the Modems icon in Control Panel and use the resulting dialog box to check for a modem connected to your PC.

If you're adding a modem to the PC for the first time, you should connect the modem to the PC and turn the modem on before you turn on the PC. Doing so will let Windows' auto-discovery process run and automatically handle this part of the process. In the event your modem doesn't support auto-discovery or the system can't identify the type of modem you've connected, you must either manually install the modem or select a driver that's close to what your modem expects. (Consult the manufacturer's documentation to determine which driver will work best with the modem. If a particular driver isn't listed in the manual, you can use a generic driver that shipped with Windows 95.)

Maximum speed

Assuming that you're using a 28.8-KBPS or faster modem, you may want to experiment with the Maximum Speed configuration option that appears on the General tab in Control Panel's Modem applet. By raising the maximum to a speed such as 57600, you send the data to the modem as fast as possible. This way, the phone line becomes the bottleneck in the communications process, rather than the modem being the slow point.

Configuring a phone book entry

The last piece to the DUN equation is to configure a phone book entry. Double-click the My Computer icon on your desktop; then, double-click the Dial-Up Networking icon. Double-click Make New Connection to start the Make New Connection wizard.

Enter a name for this connection. Typically, this will be the name of the ISP you're connecting to. If you'll be using this service from more than one city on this PC, you may wish to create a connection for each city you'll be connecting from. Click Next to move to the next step in the wizard.

Enter the area code (if the call is long distance) and phone number for the ISP and click Next. The name you've specified for the ISP should now appear in the Make New Connection wizard window. Click Finish to complete this part of the setup process.

Once the screen refreshes, right-click the connection you just created and select Properties. On the General tab, clear the Use Area Code And Dialing Properties check box.

At this point, click the Server Types tab to proceed to the configuration changes that will complete your DUN setup. Under Advanced Options, clear Log On To Network. Under Allowed Network Protocols, clear the NetBEUI and IPX/SPX Compatible options, leaving only TCP/IP selected, as shown in Figure C.

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Figure C: Only the TCP/IP network protocol should be selected.

Next, click TCP/IP Settings to perform the final steps needed to connect to your ISP. Most ISPs will dynamically assign you a temporary IP address to use for the duration of the time you'll be connected. This is accomplished by a process called Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), which sends the required information to the workstation after a request has been broadcast to get information such as the IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway.

Depending on how your ISP has set up its network, you may not be required to do anything else to connect to the ISP. (Your ISP can provide the details necessary to connect to its system.) The ISP I use (NETCOM) requires that I manually specify the Domain Name Server (DNS) addresses in the setup at my workstation. (When you're looking for a Web address such as http://www.techrepublic.com or http://www.microsoft.com, DNS converts the name you type at the workstation into a numeric address—such as 172.18.44.3—that's used to connect to the requested service.)

To manually configure the DNS addresses on your system, click Specify Name Server Addresses in the TCP/IP Settings dialog box. Type the IP addresses of the DNS systems, as shown in Figure D. Don't worry about putting in addresses for the Windows Internet Name Server (WINS) servers—most ISP don't use those. Click OK when you finish. You'll need to click OK a second time to close the wizard for this connection.

Figure D: The TCP/IP settings will look similar to these when you manually specify the IP addresses of the DNS systems at your ISP.

Figure D: The TCP/IP settings will look similar to these when you manually specify the IP addresses of the DNS systems at your ISP.

Making the connection

Now all you need to do to establish a connection to the ISP is double-click the connection you created. The first time you execute the connection, you'll need to enter the username and password assigned to you by the ISP. Check with the ISP for the exact format—for example, NETCOM requires me to enter the username as us,ppp,username. Once you've defined and tested a connection, you shouldn't have to make any changes to the configuration unless your ISP modifies its network.

Performance booster

You may want to download the file MSDUN13.EXE from Microsoft. It provides an update to DUN that can help with performance. Although it's primarily intended to address issues with ISDN connectivity, it's boosted the performance of my COM port connection to the ISP. For further details on setting up this type of connection, consult the Windows 95 Resource Kit.

Ronald Nutter is a senior systems engineer in Lexington, Kentucky. He's an MCSE, Novell Master CNE, and Compaq ASE. Ron has worked with networks ranging in size from single servers to multiserver/multi-OS setups, including NetWare, Windows NT, AS/400, 3090, and UNIX. He's also the Help Desk Editor for Network World. You can reach Ron at Rnutter@ix.netcom.com.

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