Last month I showed you how to set up a small network using two network interface cards and a hub. If you were successful in getting this up and running, then the next step you might like to consider is sharing your Internet connection over those networked computers. This task can be achieved with great ease under Windows Me through the built-in ICS (Internet Connection Sharing) utility.
Where's ICS hiding?
First, install the ICS utility by going to the Control Panel and double clicking on the Add/Remove Programs applet. Under the Windows Setup tab, double-click the Communications listing. One of the components listed should be "Internet Connection Sharing"; place a check mark next to this item and click OK.
This will bring up the Home Networking Wizard, which you should recognise from last month. Click the Next button to proceed to the Internet Connection screen. Click the radio button next to "Yes, this computer uses the following:" and after the greyed-out radio button becomes active, make sure it is placed next to "A direct connection to my ISP using the following device"; select Dial-Up Networking from the drop-down list and click the Next button.
The following screen asks you if you want to allow other computers on your network to share this connection; choose Yes and ensure that your network adapter is selected as the device that connects you to the home network. Click Next to proceed to the next screen, which will ask you if you want to be connected to the Internet automatically each time a computer requires it. Select No to this for now and click the Next button.
As mentioned last month, the wizard allows you to create a diskette that you can use to set up other, non-Windows Me computers. Creating one allows you to install the wizard on other systems to make network setup a breeze - or it should. (Trying to get ICS working on a combination of Windows Me and Windows 98 machines proved to be a painful experience.) Click Finish to complete the wizard, and this computer is now the host.
Note: only the host computer (i.e., the one that will be providing the Internet connection) should have the ICS component installed.
After completing the wizard you will be prompted to restart your host system - you should comply. After your computer reboots, open Internet Explorer and go to Tools-Internet Options. and head for the Connections tab. From there, click on the Sharing. button and ensure that a check box is placed next to "Enable Internet Connection Sharing".
Now you must set up the other machines on your network so that they can access the shared Internet connection. These computers will be the clients.
On the clients, run the Home Networking Wizard once again. When you reach the Internet Connection screen, turn on the radio button next to "Yes, this computer uses the following:" and ensure that, unlike the host computer, the next radio button is placed next to "A connection to another computer on my home network that provides direct access to my ISP". Click Next and give your computer a unique name if it doesn't already have one (if it's already successfully networked, you shouldn't have to change this setting) and make sure it's in the correct workgroup.
The next screen and final step allows you to share resources on this computer - proceed as you wish and allow or "disallow access to printers and My Documents by checking or unchecking the boxes. After finishing the wizard, your "system(s) should now be set to access "the Internet through your home network and host computer.
In a spot of bother?
If you can't access the Internet from the client computer after going through these steps, check your protocol settings. The most common cause of problems is network adapters' IP settings. Right-click on My Network Places and double-click on the TCP/IP entry that is bound to your network adapter (should look similar to TCP/IP -> Intel[R] PRO/100+ Mini PCI, where the name of your adapter is shown after the arrow.) Go to the IP Address tab and turn on the radio button next to "Obtain IP address automatically".
If you're having problems connecting to the host through a Windows 98 machine, you will need to do some extensive research on Microsoft's Web site.