In my Daily Drill Down on Windows 2000 direct connections, I described how to connect two Windows 2000 computers using infrared, parallel, or serial ports. But what do you do if you’re also supporting Windows 98 and Windows NT workstations and you need to exchange data without a LAN? In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you how to connect from Win2K to these operating systems, either as a guest or a host.

Connecting to Windows 9x
You can find the Windows 98 Direct Cable Connection feature in Start | Programs | Accessories | Communications. If it’s not listed, then it needs to be installed using Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel. Start Add/Remove Programs, click the Windows Setup tab, and then click Communications to open these options. Select the Direct Cable Connection option and click OK twice to install.

Direct Cable Connection (DCC) has limited choices. Therefore, it’s easy to use. When you open DCC, a window shows your current configuration. (If this is the first time DCC has been started, this window won’t appear.) Either accept the current configuration or click the Change button.

If you click Change or if this is the first time DCC is activated, choose the computer’s role, host or guest, from the next screen (Figure A) and click Next.

Figure A
Choose the role of your Windows 98 system—host or guest.

From the next screen, choose a port. You can use parallel or serial ports. Infrared ports work between Windows 9x machines but not between Windows 9x and Windows 2000, due to differences in the way these OSs configure virtual ports. Click Next.

The next screen allows you to choose whether or not to use password protection. Check this option and click Set Password if you need to change the password, then click Finish. If you set up Windows 9x as a host, it will listen for a connection; if you chose guest, Windows attempts to connect to the host through the port you specified.

Windows 2000 as a guest
To connect a Windows 2000 guest to a Windows 98 computer configured as a host, you’ll need to make one change in the Win2K guest configuration. Right-click the guest connection in Security properties, enable Advanced (Custom Settings), and click the Settings button. In the Allow These Protocols section, check the box for Allow Older MS-CHAP Version For Windows 95 Servers.

Windows 2000 as a host
Connecting a Windows 9x guest to a Windows 2000 host doesn’t require any special configuration. However, if you have trouble viewing the host shares, try enabling NetBEUI.

Parallel port bug
When you’re using a parallel port connection between a Windows 2000 host and a Windows 9x guest, the connection may be dropped after some seconds of inactivity. This is due to a failure in the Windows 2000 parallel port driver. Microsoft has a workaround, as well as a fix. To work around this problem, continuously ping the Windows 2000 host from the Windows 98 guest using ping’s –t switch. For example, in an MS-DOS prompt, use the command
Ping –t

(replacing the above IP address with the address of your host). Pinging the host will keep the connection alive.

Connecting to Windows NT
Windows NT direct connections can only be configured using serial ports. As anyone using Windows NT can expect, direct connections are more difficult to set up and troubleshoot. In Windows NT, you must first install a “modem,” Dial-Up Networking Serial Cable Between 2 PCs. Set up this connection as follows:

Add a serial cable modem.

  • Double-click the Control Panel’s Modem applet and click Add.
  • Select Don’t Detect My Modem, I Will Select It From A List.
  • The serial cable “modem” appears under Standard Modem Types. Click Next and choose a port for your device.

Connect the modem to RAS.

Now you must add your connection to the Remote Access Service (RAS).

  • Click the Control Panel’s Network applet.
  • Go to the Services tab. If you haven’t yet installed RAS, install it now. Otherwise, double-click Remote Access Service to open the Remote Access Setup window. Click Add and select the serial cable connection from the drop-down list.

What if RAS doesn’t list the serial modem?

Windows NT 4.0, as you know, does not set up networking easily. If RAS doesn’t show the serial modem from a drop-down list of available RAS devices, you may need to remove the device from Modems, remove RAS, reboot, reinstall the modem, reboot, and reinstall RAS in order for the serial cable modem to become visible. Once you’ve managed to attach the serial cable connection to RAS, configure it to Dial Out And Receive Calls.

Windows NT as a guest
When you’ve accomplished adding the serial modem to RAS, you need to create a phonebook entry for Windows NT to use to dial up a Windows 2000 host.

  • Open Dial Up Networking (double-click My Computer and then Dial Up Networking) and create a phonebook entry using the serial modem.
  • Check the rather long-winded box, The Non-Windows NT Server I Am Calling Expects Me To Type Login Information After Connecting, Or To Know TCP/IP Addresses Before Dialing.
  • Skip the telephone number entry screen.
  • On the next screen, enable Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP).
  • On the following screen, choose None for login script. In the IP Address screen, either leave IP addresses set to 0 (for DHCP) or add a fixed IP address to use. Do the same for the DNS server screen. Click Finish to create your phonebook entry.

Set serial line speeds.

Before you can dial or receive connections, you need to set the serial line speed to the same rate on both ends. While Windows 2000 supports serial line speeds of up to 115,200 bps, 19,200 bps seems to be the maximum for a Windows NT configuration.

Windows NT as a host
Setting up Windows NT as a host begins with starting the Remote Access service.

  • Open Remote Access Admin by choosing Start | Programs | Administrative Tools (Common) | Remote Access Admin.
  • From the menu, choose Server | Start Remove Access Service.
  • The name of your NT system should appear as the server in the Start Remote Access Service dialog. If it doesn’t, type it in. Click OK. Starting the service takes a while. You’ll see the message Attempting To Start Remove Access Service On (your computer name). When the service starts, your computer will be displayed in Remote Access Admin (see Figure B). Your computer is now ready to receive calls.

Figure B
After the Remove Access Service is started, your computer will appear in Remote Access Admin.

Make sure a user is set up with permission to dial in. From the Remote Access Admin menu, choose Users | Permissions. Highlight the user and check Grant Dialin Permission To User (Figure C). If the user account exists on Windows 2000 but doesn’t yet exist in Windows NT, first set it up in Start | Programs | Administrative Tools (Common) | User Manager.

Figure C
Set up a user with permission to dial up the NT host.

Now that you have given a user permission, Windows NT is ready to receive a call over the slow serial connection. Connect your cables and dial in using the Windows 2000 guest icon you created. Since this connection is quite slow, I don’t recommend enabling connection sharing in Windows 2000.

Checking connection status
In Windows NT’s Remote Access Admin, you can check the status of ports and users.

  • Click Server | Communication Ports to review the port being used, user connected, and connection start time.
  • From this Communication Ports dialog, click Port Status to open a dialog box that shows this connection’s configuration, statistics, and errors.

Error: Serial port unavailable
It’s not uncommon, when trying to dial up a host, to receive an error stating that the serial port is not available. Assuming you removed any modem cable and connected a correctly wired crossover cable, you’ll often find the conflict is caused by a PDA syncing cradle, such as a Palm device’s HotSync Manager. Simply right-click the HotSync icon in the Start menu and select Exit.

For situations when you need to get to data from a nonnetworked machine, direct connections can be very useful. Connections between two Win2K systems are the easiest to establish. Connecting Win2K to a Win9x machine takes some work. You’ll feel a true sense of accomplishment getting Windows NT 4.0 to connect to Win2K, as this is the hardest one of all to configure. Knowing how to configure direct connections and keeping a null parallel and null serial cable in your troubleshooting kit will increase your ability to recover data from computers in an emergency.
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