Networking different types of computers

Tips & Hints

We’re getting a new computer for the office that will have Windows XP on it. Can we network this with our older Windows 95 computers?

13 February 2002

The short answer is yes you can. The whole idea of the World Wide Web came about because of the need to link different types of computers. If all the computers are one type then networking is fairly simple.

The basic Microsoft networking works on all the flavours of Windows from 3.1 through 95, 98, ME, to NT and XP. There is a quirk in that older Microsoft networks use the NetBeui protocol and MS have dropped support for Netbeui in XP and hidden the required files on the XP installation CD.

A protocol is the language that computers speak to each other on the network.

To find out what protocols you are running, right click the network neighborhood icon on your computer and select properties, The protocols are listed in the configuration section. For the XP machine to talk to the Windows95 computers it must be running the same protocols. It must also be set to the same workgroup and have it’s own unique name in the workgroup.

Netbios networks are simple to set up, as long as the workgroup is the same, the computers should see each other. TCP/IP, the Internet protocol, is a little more complex and involves numbering systems. We’ll explain how they work on a future business tip.

Networking different types of computer usually requires some software for the different types to recognise each others protocols. Windows users wanting to see Unix and Linux machines use SAMBA and NFS. Having Macs and PCs on the same network require programs such as Dave and PC-Mac LAN.

Basic networking of computers is reasonably simple. But it is important to get it right first time, it can be very difficult to find problems on a badly set-up network. When setting up a network make sure to use good quality cable, network cards and employ a competent electrician to install any data cables that have to be run through walls and ceilings.

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