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Troubleshoot your SOHO network connectivity issues with this...

I have a Netgear RT-314, and two computers, both running Win98 SE. We can get both computers to access the Internet but not to see each other. It's as if the router is assigning the same address to both computers. We've tried manually assigning addresses with negative results. When we contacted Netgear support we were told that as long as both machines accessed the Internet, that's all they cared about, the rest was up to us. Thanks Netgear!

There's about 90 man-hours wasted in the past two years trying to get these computers networked. I would be happy if I could just get them to communicate with each other; don't even care if they can both access the Internet.
It is not uncommon to see hours being wasted trying to get working simple networking features of Windows workstations. In my experience, it's the lack of understanding how Windows networks actually work, which as a result, have most technicians and support groups looking for solutions in the wrong area.

Your problem is clearly not your Netgear router. A quick check on your specific model showed a router with an integrated 4-port switch. Take away the routing capabilities and you have yourself a simple 4 port unmanaged switch. Also, the fact that both workstations can access the Internet shows that your switch is functioning properly.

Unfortunately you haven't provided much detail on the network settings each workstation has, so I'll try my best to guide you through your problem to a valid solution.

From my understanding, you problem is surely a Windows connectivity issue, which means we must start from the very basic configurations and slowly move up to the more complicated areas. Because I have no idea on the history background the machines in subject have, we are going to take some steps which will I usually follow on similar machines. These steps will help refresh a lot of files that are crucial to the network functions of the Windows operating system.

Note that you will need to have your Windows Operating system installation CD in hand to complete the steps below.

So let's begin:

  1. On both workstations, enter the network properties of the network adapters installed. For windows 95, 98, Me right click on 'Network neighborhood' and select 'properties', for Win2k,XP right click on 'My network places' and select 'properties'. Now for each network card, remove all protocols and services that are currently installed. Reboot the PC's as required.
  2. Once the PC's have restated you need to enter the same area in order to reinstall the services and protocols. To keep things simple, install the 'Client for Microsoft Networks' and 'TCP/IP' protocol only. At this point, you might be required to insert the Windows installation CD into the CD ROM. The Client for MS Networks does not require and setup, you will only need to enter an IP Address in the TCP/IP properties and also make sure you enable file sharing. In Windows 95,98, Me you will find the "File and Print Sharing" button on that same window, hit it and make sure you enable file sharing. With Windows 2000,XP you need to install the "File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks" service. Also make sure you enable Netbios over TCP/IP.
  3. Once the installation of the above services are installed and you have configured an IP Address for each workstation, you need to reboot in order for the effects to take place. Remember not to use as an IP Address since its most possible the router might be using it, so try something like &
  4. Once you finish reboot the machines, try a simple 'ping' test to verify the TCP/IP. Also make sure both machines are unique computer names and are assigned to the same workgroup.
  5. When all the above is complete, you can try sharing drives. I'd suggest you share drives on both pc's and then wait for approximately five minutes for them to update each other.
  6. You should now be able to view both machines in through the network neighborhood. If not, try opening a dos prompt and enter the following command: "nbtstat –n". This will list the workstations each machine can see. If you cannot see any, then check your network settings again, and also try to update your network card drivers.

The above steps should work for most cases, but is also not guaranteed as you might have other unknown serious problems with one of the machines. If you can connect one more workstation to the router and configure it for file sharing, you can then see which of the two workstations and see the third (new) one you just installed, this will then allow you to pin point t

This was last published in August 2003

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