Step-By-Step: Networking in Windows 2000 Professional

Learn the issues youll face when using Windows 2000 Professional in a network environment

If you’ve recently upgraded to Windows 2000 Professional or you’re thinking about an upgrade, you might have discovered that the general networking infrastructure is set up differently than in previous versions of Windows. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll discuss some of the issues you’ll face when using Windows 2000 Professional in a network environment.

New networking icon
If you’ve ever tried to connect Windows 2000 Professional to a network, the first thing you probably noticed was that the Network icon in Control Panel that we’ve all become so accustomed to is gone. In its place is an icon called Network And Dial Up Connections. When you double-click this icon, it opens a folder containing network and dial-up networking icons. These icons are organized similarly to those in the Printers folder, with each icon representing a unique connection, as well as an icon that you can double-click to add a new connection. In this case, each icon represents a network or dial-up networking session.

Simply double-click the icon called Make New Connection to create new network or dial-up networking connections. Windows 2000 then launches a wizard that guides you through the process. Once you’ve created a connection, an icon representing it will appear in the Network And Dial Up Connections window. You can use the individual connection icons to review or modify connection properties.

A typical Desktop system in an office environment would have at least two icons in the Network And Dial Up Connections window: the Make New Connection icon and an icon that allows you to control the machine’s LAN connection.

Laptops and disappearing networking icons
Laptop computers behave a bit differently. On a laptop system, the Network And Dial Up Connections window would still contain the Make New Connection icon, but it would probably also contain one or two icons related to dial-up networking. One icon might be used to connect to an Internet service provider, while the second icon might allow a dial-up connection to a corporate RAS server.

Laptops also have icons for LAN connections in this folder, but their behavior is strange. Consider that most notebook computers connect to LANs through either a PCMCIA network card or through a network card that’s built into a docking station. When the computer is connected to one of these devices, the icon for it exists. However, when you remove a PCMCIA card or disconnect from a docking station that contains a network card, the connection icon disappears until the network device is reconnected.

For example, I usually keep a PCMCIA network card in my laptop. Recently, however, I installed a 3COM 11-MB wireless networking system in my home. This wireless networking requires a special network card. Depending on which network card is in my laptop at any given time, I’ll see a connection icon for that network card but not the other one. When I switch network cards, the icons change.

New approach to networking
The way that notebook computers running Windows 2000 Professional deal with network connections is also different than in previous versions of Windows. In older versions, such as Windows 98, mapped network drives tended to be temporary. For example, in Windows 98, you might run the Net Use command to map a network drive while connected to the network. As soon as you log out, the drive mapping would no longer exist. You would no longer see any references to the drive whether you were connected to the network or not.

This isn’t the case with Windows 2000. Suppose that you run Net Use to map a network drive within Windows 2000 Professional. Now suppose that you log off, unplug from the network, and dial up from home. At home, if you opened My Computer, you’d see an icon for the mapped network drive, but the icon would indicate that the connection was currently unavailable. The next time you plugged up to the network, the mapped drive would become available once again without your having to remap it.

Logging into domains
One reason why you can see the broken connection while working offline is that Windows 2000 has a different way of logging you in. As you may know, in Windows 98, you can’t log in to a domain unless you’re actually connected to the network. If your laptop isn’t connected, you usually press the [Esc] key at the login prompt to bypass the login process. Likewise, Windows NT Workstation won’t let you do a domain login unless you’re connected to the network—you can only log in to the local machine. The problem is that Windows NT treats the local login account and the domain login account as two separate accounts, even if they have the same name. This means that if you log in to the local machine, your Desktop, Start menu, and possibly your applications will be different, even if you use the same login name. It’s sometimes possible to attempt a domain login while offline. However, Windows NT will generate error messages when you try to do so.

Unlike Windows 98 and NT, Windows 2000 allows you to log in the same way whether you’re plugged in to the network or not. This means that you’ll always have the same Desktop and Windows environment. The only difference is that when you’re not plugged in to the network, some resources may not be available. You can, however, set up Windows 2000 to make some types of network and Internet resources available when you’re away from the network.

Three methods for networking
The three basic ways to connect Windows 2000 Professional to a network are:
  • As a member of a workgroup.
  • As a Windows NT domain.
  • As an Active Directory client.

If you’ve been using Windows NT for any length of time, you might be tempted to skip the sections on workgroup and domain connections. The methods for establishing such connections have changed considerably, however. Therefore, unless you’re experienced at networking Windows 2000 Professional, I recommend reading the following sections. Connecting to a workgroup or a domain is a simple procedure. Connecting as an Active Directory client is a little more complicated, and I’ll cover this topic in a future article.

The networking basics
Several aspects of setting up a Windows 2000 Professional network connection apply to all three types of connections—workgroup, domain, and Active Directory client. To see your networking components, double-click the Active Network icon. You’ll see a dialog box similar to the one shown in Figure A. The dialog box displays the number of bytes that have been sent and received across the network. When you’re having network problems, this dialog box is a great place to begin checking the network’s status. Note also the buttons you can use to disconnect from the network and access the network’s property sheet.

Figure A
The Connection Status dialog box allows you to see how your network is performing.

When you click the Properties button, you’ll see a dialog box similar to the one shown in Figure B. The Properties dialog box has changed quite a bit from the versions in Windows 98 and Windows NT. The first thing listed in the Properties dialog box is the network card that’s bound to the connection. You can click the Configure button to configure the NIC’s properties.

Figure B
The network Properties dialog box has a new look.

Yet, some elements are similar to those found in previous versions of Windows. For example, the dialog box usually contains a protocol, a client, and a reference to the File And Print Sharing Service. As with other versions of Windows, you can use the Install and Uninstall buttons to add and remove network services. You can also select any individual network component and click the Properties button to see the properties specific to that object.

This is where the similarities end. The Identification tab no longer exists. Client For Microsoft Networks no longer contains an option for joining a Windows NT domain. In the sections that follow, I’ll explain the techniques used for connecting to the various types of networks.

As you’re probably aware, setting up a workgroup involves loading a group of machines with a common protocol. Each of these machines shares a common workgroup name but has a different computer name. To join a workgroup, log in as the Administrator, right-click the My Computer icon, and select the Properties command from the resulting context menu. In the System Properties sheet, select the Network Identification tab. Then, click the Network ID button to launch the Network Identification Wizard. Click Next to start the wizard.

Select This Computer Is A Part Of A Business Network, And I Use It To Connect To Other Computers At Work, and then click Next. On the screen that follows, select My Company Uses A Network Without A Domain, and then click Next. Finally, type the name of the workgroup, click Next, and click Finish. Keep in mind that each machine in a workgroup must have a unique computer name. If you need to change or verify the computer name, you can do so by clicking the Properties button on the System Properties sheet’s Network Identification tab.

Windows NT domains
As with Windows NT Workstation, attaching to a Windows NT domain is similar to connecting to a workgroup. The main differences are that you must specify a domain name and you must create a computer account within the domain. To join a domain, log in as the Administrator, right-click the My Computer icon, and select the Properties command from the context menu. In the System Properties sheet, select the Network Identification tab. Then, click the Network ID button. This will launch the Network Identification Wizard. Click Next to start the wizard.

In the wizard, select This Computer Is A Part Of A Business Network, And I Use It To Connect To Other Computers At Work, and then click Next. On the screen that follows, select My Company Uses A Network With A Domain, and click Next twice. You must now provide a username and password for a user who has the authority to create computer accounts within the domain (this is usually the Administrator) and provide the name of the domain you’re joining. Remember that the domain you’re trying to join must also contain the user account for which you just entered the password. Click Next, and then click Finish to complete the process. Windows will now require you to reboot your computer.

Networking set up in Windows 2000 Professional differs from that found in previous versions of Windows. However, many of the key ideas will be familiar to you if you supported Windows 98 and Windows NT. This Daily Drill Down should help you navigate the new menus and dialog boxes.

Brien M. Posey is an MCSE who works as a freelance technical writer and as a network engineer for the Department of Defense. If you’d like to contact Brien, send him an e-mail. (Because of the large volume of e-mail he receives, it's impossible for him to respond to every message. However, he does read them all.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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