Tech Tip: Manage IP addresses on the network

If you use the TCP/IP protocol on your Windows 9x network, there are three ways you can manage your IP addresses: static addressing, autoconfiguration addressing, and a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server. Here's a brief look at each method.

Static addresses

Static IP addressing involves manually setting an IP address and associated information in the TCP/IP Properties page of Control Panel's Network applet on each computer. This is generally useful only for very small networks, where few devices move around or are added or removed.

One of the biggest drawbacks to this method is that an administrator needs to keep a definitive list of which address is assigned to which host on the network, including network-attached printers and print servers, routers and switches, servers, and computers.

Windows 9x "out of the box" doesn't provide much protection from users who might alter the carefully configured TCP/IP properties. However, static addressing is widely used and works well under controlled and documented conditions.

Autoconfiguration addressing

IP autoconfiguration addressing is a feature that allows Windows 98 to determine an IP address. While this is a good alternative to static IP addressing, there are a couple of drawbacks:

  • IP autoconfiguration addressing was introduced in Windows 98. If you have Windows 95 computers on the network, you'll have to upgrade them to either Windows 98 or Windows 2000, which also supports autoconfiguration addressing.
  • IP autoconfiguration addressing works well only where a single IP subnet is sufficient. The addresses that are selected by the computers fall within a network reserved for this purpose. A benefit of this configuration for a small network is that when a DHCP server is introduced, no further computer configuration is necessary. The DHCP server is automatically discovered when it's activated.
DHCP server

The big brother to static and autoconfiguration addressing is the DHCP server. This service is usually set up on an NT server in a Microsoft network environment, and it dynamically allocates IP addresses and associated configuration information to clients—Windows 9x computers—as they connect to the network.

This centralized method is desirable for many admins and provides the flexibility in addressing topology that the autoconfiguration method lacks. However, you don't necessarily have to implement an NT server to achieve this flexibility, especially if you administer a smaller network.

Search the Internet for free downloads of this software that will run on a Windows 9x computer. In addition, check out some features of dial-up routers that are targeted at the small network market for their built-in implementations of DHCP servers.

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