Installing and Configuring Microsoft Client for Microsoft Networks

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By Ronald Nutter, MCSE for

Connecting a computer to your network involves more than just adding a network card and installing the client software. In this article, I'll walk you through the steps of getting everything up and running. Along the way, I'll note any differences between Microsoft® Windows® 9x and Microsoft® Windows NT®.

On This Page

Installing the Network Card
Configuring the Client
Configuring a Windows NT Workstation for a Microsoft Network
Co-Existing With Other Client Software

Installing the Network Card

The first step is installing the network card in the computer. If the machine is a portable, the installation process will consist of sliding the network card into the PCMCIA slot and letting the computer "autodetect" the card. Depending on the card, the Add New Hardware Wizard may be able to do most of the work for you in Windows 9x. Windows NT will query for the existence of the network card most of the time—even if you haven't tried to implement plug-and-play.

In case the operating system has trouble identifying the network card, or the card isn't supported out of the box by Windows 9x or Windows NT, make sure you have the driver disk provided by the manufacturer of the network card. As part of the installation process, you'll probably want to check the manufacturer's Web site to make sure you have the latest drivers. Once the basic setup has finished, the Configuration tab of the Windows 9x Network dialog box will resemble the one shown in Figure A.


Figure A: In Windows 9x, the Configuration tab of the Network dialog box will look like this once the installation process has finished.

Configuring the Client

Although it is possible to have more than one client (also known as a redirector) installed on a computer at one time, for the purposes of this article I'll set up access to a Microsoft network only. You'll want to delete the Client For NetWare Networks.

Now you'll need to select the protocol(s). Figure B shows the most common network protocols. IPX is used mostly with Novell networks; TCP/IP was initially used mostly at universities and companies connected to the Internet; and NetBEUI (NetBIOS Enhanced User Interface) is used mostly in workgroup networks because it's easy to set up and configure.


Figure B: You'll see these protocols in networks today.

If you decide to use IPX, don't be concerned if your workstation doesn't "see" the network when it reboots for the first time. The protocol will attempt to autodetect the frame type used on your network, but the process doesn't always work. I have seen cases where the frame type autodetection only works on 802.3 networks or doesn't work at all. Having the latest versions of the network card driver may prevent this from being an issue for you.

As shown in Figure C, the four frame types are Ethernet II, Ethernet/802.2, Ethernet/802.3, and Ethernet SNAP. Ethernet II is used primarily for TCP/IP, although you can use it for other protocols if you're trying to limit the number of frame types you have to configure. Ethernet/802.2 and Ethernet/802.3 are similar except for a few differences at the packet layer. Older Novell networks (i.e., NetWare 2.x/3.x) will use 802.3 as their default whereas NetWare 4/5 networks will use 802.2. For this example, I'll install TCP/IP, which uses Ethernet II.


Figure C: You can expect to see these frame types on a network.

Once you've selected the components that will let your computer talk to the network, the Configuration tab of your Network dialog box should look like the one shown in Figure D.


Figure D: The Network dialog box shows the components necessary to make your computer talk to a Windows NT Server using TCP/IP.

Next, in the network components list, select TCP/IP and click the Properties button. If you'll be using DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, a standard method of dynamically assigning a workstation an address, subnet mask, default gateway, and other information necessary to communicate over the network), on the IP Address tab make sure the option to automatically obtain a TCP/IP address is selected. If you won't be using DHCP, enter the subnet mask, default gateway, DNS servers, and other settings.

Regardless of whether you use DHCP, there is one option you'll need to select to be able to resolve a host name (i.e., ) to an IP address. Click the DNS Configuration tab and verify that the Enable DNS option is selected. If it isn't, you'll have problems accessing host systems by name but will be able to reach them using their IP address.

Configuring a Windows NT Workstation for a Microsoft Network

Installing and configuring a Windows NT workstation for access to a Microsoft network is similar. When you click the Services tab in the Network dialog box, you'll see a list of the Windows NT Services currently installed, like the one shown in Figure E. These services enable a Windows NT workstation to access a Microsoft network. A few additional steps will get you up and running on a Novell network (adding Client Services for NetWare on the Services tab and the IPX Protocol on the Protocols tab). To install the protocol(s), select the Protocols tab and click Add to install each protocol.


Figure E: This Network dialog box is a little different from the one you see in Windows 9x.

The final step is adding the driver for the network card in the workstation you're configuring. If you'd like to get a feel for installing and configuring the services and protocols, but don't have a network card in the computer you're using, select the MS Loopback Adapter as your network card to see how the process works.

Compared with configuring a Windows NT 4.0 client, installing a network card in a Windows NT workstation or server is a little more complex. The main reason for this is that Windows NT 4.0 doesn't ship with plug-and-play like its Windows 9x cousin. Those of you willing to take a risk can install an .inf file that will give you some degree of plug-and-play functionality. However, there's no guarantee it will work properly.

To install the .inf file, first insert your Windows NT 4.0 CD and locate the Pnpisa.inf file in the Drvliv\Pnpisa\i386 directory. Right-click on the file and select the Install option from the shortcut menu. As I explained, this file may give you some degree of the plug-and-play functionality you have in Windows 9x, but keep in mind that Microsoft won't support this functionality.

Editor's Note

Although Windows NT lacks the plug-and-play service you have used in Windows 9x, it does offer some degree of this functionality when you're installing network services in Windows NT for the first time. Compaq periodically releases software enhancements for its hardware platform called SSD (Software Support Disk). You can download this file from Compaq's Web site at . When applying a Windows NT Service Pack to a system after making a software or hardware change, remember to reapply the Compaq SSD after the Windows NT Service Pack has been applied. The reason for this is that the Windows NT Service Pack has been known to downgrade some of the files that the Compaq SSD brings up to the latest release.

Now, select the Identification tab in the Network dialog box and click the Change button. Enter the Windows NT Domain you want the workstation or server to participate in, along with a logon account with sufficient rights to create a workstation account (required for a workstation to participate on a Windows NT network). After you enter the required information and click OK, you'll see a Welcome to domain-name message. You'll need to reboot the workstation in order to log on to the domain. If you have a problem logging on to the domain, try removing the workstation from the domain by placing it in a workgroup and then adding the workstation back to the domain.

Co-Existing With Other Client Software

The situation may arise when you'll need to access more than one type of network. Both Windows NT and Windows 9x handle this fairly seamlessly. The biggest challenge you'll face is keeping the passwords synchronized between systems so that users won't be prompted to enter the correct password for the system they're trying to access. When implementing multiple client software in Windows 9x, you'll need to specify which client is the primary one you'll use to log on to the network; in Windows NT, you must specify the hierarchy of the client execution order. A good rule of thumb is the network you'll access the most (i.e., Windows NT or Novell) should be the primary client software.

Installing and configuring support on a Windows 9x or Windows NT workstation to enable access to a Microsoft network is fairly straightforward. Using the same network card throughout your network will minimize any problems with connecting workstations to the network. Doing a little advance planning and having the latest drivers available for the network card will go a long way toward avoiding problems.

Ronald Nutter is a senior systems engineer in Lexington, KY. 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 (Because of the large volume of e-mail that he receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

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