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Mix and match operating systems using a wireless network

Can I mix and match XP and 98 OS using a wireless network with all machines hanging off a wireless router?

I have just set up DSL modem to Netgear Wireless/4 port router. All wireless adapters are Netgear product. PCs #1 and #2 are running XP; PC #3 is running 98se. All PCs can reach the Internet. PCs #1 and #2 can file share. PC #3 can share files from PCs #1 and #2. My problem: PCs #1 and #2 cannot see or share files from PC #3.

Do you know a trick or something that I should to try?

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Most likely, PC #3 is not part of the same workgroup as PCs #1 and #2. Go to the Windows 98se Network Properties Panel and pick the Identification tab, and look at the Workgroup name. Then go to the Windows XP My Computer / View System Information and pick the Computer Name tab. If that tab does not say WORKGROUP and the same workgroup name, then change these settings. Each PC should have a different computer name but the same workgroup name, and you want a WORKGROUP, not a DOMAIN. Reboot after making any name changes.

Once all three PC's are members of the same workgroup, make sure that resources are really being shared by PC #3. Go to the Windows 98se Network Properties Panel and pick the Access Control tab. Make sure that Share-Level access control is selected - this lets you share folders without requiring you to list specific user accounts and PC names, avoiding any account mismatches you might encounter. Next, on the Configuration tab, choose File and Print Sharing, and check the boxes to give others access to shared files or printers or both. If you make any changes here, reboot.

Next, make sure that you have actually shared resources on PC #3. On PC #3 itself, browse the Network Neighborhood until you find the icon representing the workgroup configured in step 1. Open that workgroup - you should see all three workgroup PCs listed. Click on the icon for PC #3 - you should see at least one share. If there are none listed, then you must share something to verify that PCs #1 and #2 can share files from PC #3. Choose a folder and use the Properties / Sharing tab to share that folder with read-only or read-write permission, setting an access password.

Once you can "see" shared folders on PC #3 from PC #3, go to either XP system and use My Network Places / View Workgroup Computers to verify that those PCs can now share files from PC #3. If you "see" shared folders on PC #3 ONLY from PC #3, then the problem may be that NetBIOS packets are not getting through. For example, is there a personal firewall running on PC #3 that might be blocking NetBIOS? (To answer your other question: No, you don't need IPX or static IPs to make NetBIOS file sharing work.) My bet is that your problem lies in Workgroup and Share configuration (above). If you rule those out and are you're still having trouble, ask again and I'll suggest how to diagnose packet blocking problems.

This was first published in February 2003

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