How to setup a PC network - The software

Preparing the software for network access

Now comes the software side of preparing the PC network. This involves (i) installing the Windows OS if it is not already done on all the computers in the network; (ii) installing the relevant network components (i.e. protocols) for communicating on the Internet and between PC computers; (iii) writing down the computer name and workgroup of the network you will set up; and (iv) configuring the network components.

Let us begin by deciding whether to install Windows or check/change the Computer Name on the PC already running Windows.

Specifying the computer name

To determine/change or create the computer name considered critical to establishing a Windows network:


We shall assume the OS for the workstations you will install is Windows 98 and the server is Windows 2000 Pro. The procedure for installing the OS on all the computers in the network is as follows:

  1. It is a good idea to burn enough copies of the original Windows 98 CD (i.e. the operating system to be used on the workstations) onto CD-R disks so you can install the operating system simultaneously. This speeds up the installation process.

    NOTE: Remember, you only need one CD to install Windows 2000 Pro on the server!

  2. Insert the Windows CDs (e.g. Windows 2000 Pro, Windows 98 etc) into the CD-ROM drive of each computer. The server machine usually has Windows 2000 Pro or Windows NT or Windows 2000 Server installed instead of the ordinary Windows 98 or whatever for the workstations. So insert this more powerful Windows CD into the CD-ROM drive of your server.
  3. For the workstations that have never had Windows OS installed, installing a brand new copy of Windows 98 for the first time may require you to type in DOS the following:


  4. When installing the Windows 2000 Pro (or Windows Server Pro) on the server machine, you won't have to worry about this silly DOS command. You can boot the PC straight off the CD. Thank God Microsoft was thinking about the customer on this one!
  5. During the installation process, you may be asked for your network details. For the purposes of this exercise, let us type the following information for each workstation:

    For workstation 1, type...

    Computer Name: Workstation1

    Workgroup: Training

    For workstation 2, type...

    Computer Name: Workstation2

    Workgroup: Training

    For last workstation, type...

    Computer Name: Mailserver

    Workgroup: Training

    Or you can press the Cancel button if you prefer. You do have the option to add this information in the Users and Password control panel, bearing in mind you must be in administrator mode to make the changes. But let us get it out of the way now. Similarly on the server side, type the following information:

    Computer Name: Server

    Workgroup: Training

    NOTE 1: The Computer Name for the server is pretty much universal. However the workgroup name can be different. It depends on the purpose of the server and how it will be used. Ask your client or network administrator for directions on this one. For the purposes of this exercise, we shall use "Training" as the workgroup.

    NOTE 2: Remember, if the workstations are to see each other and have access to the Internet, each workstation's "network identification" details must have the same workgroup name. So if the Server PC has "Training" for the workgroup, all other workstations must have the same workgroup in their own network details.

  6. After the OS installation is complete and the PC workstations automatically reboot, you should see the Enter Network Password login window. The username defaults to "Administrator". If the workstations are to be used by a number of users and you want to restrict how the OS will behave, you have to go into the workstations as the administrator. Fortunately Microsoft has not made the password too cryptic. Just type "password" (without the inverted commas) as the password. You should be able to get onto the desktop of all your workstations as the administrator.

  7. Again type "password" for the server as soon as you see the Log on to Windows login prompt after restart.
  8. Remove CDs from all the workstations and the server.


To determine and decide whether to change the name of your computer if the OS is already installed (used in username when logging on), right-click on My Computer icon on the desktop, choose properties, and click the Network Identification tag. To change the computer name, click the properties button. Remember, only an administrator can change the identification of your computer.

Installing network components (i.e. protocols)

  1. For the server, click on the Start button in the lower bottom left corner of the PC screen. You will see menu commands such as Programs, Documents, Settings, Search, Help, Run... and Shut Down... appear on the screen. Select Settings. You should see Network and Dial-up Connections in the pop-up submenu (for pre-Windows XP systems). Choose this command. Alternatively, go into the Control Panel and look for Network and Dial-up Connections.

    NOTE: For Windows XP, the Network Connections control panel allows you to configure your broadband network and modem. The Network Setup Wizard makes it a breeze to set up a home network of computers in a matter of minutes. All you do is give meaningful names to each computer, give an overall name to the network, and answer questions in the wizard about establishing the network. The Phone and Modem Options control panel is for configuring standard 56K modems for internet access (as opposed to broadband connections using the Network Connections control panel). The Wireless Network Setup Wizard control panel handles everything to do with wireless networks. Finally, the User Accounts control panel is for setting multiple accounts when other people want to use the same computer as you do.

  2. Double click on the icon called Local Area Connection, then choose Properties.

    The Local Area Connection Properties dialog box appears.

  3. Now we must add the network components needed to give your computer access to the network. This means placing a tick in the box (if it is not already there in the first place) next to the components needed for network access. If the tick is already there, you won't have to do anything. But if not, select the correct components.

    NOTE: Choosing the right components is probably the trickiest part of installing network components because there are many settings to choose from.

  4. The correct components you should have a tick against are Client for Microsoft Networks and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). Sometimes it is necessary to install the File and Print Sharing for Microsoft Networks component as well. But ask your client or network administrator for advice.
  5. If you don't see any or all of these two essential components, you will have to click the Install... button and choose the correct network components to install. Have the Windows CD at hand in case it is needed.
  6. With the two essential network components in front of you (with a tick next to them), let's change the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) settings so you can have Internet access through the network. Click on the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) component once to highlight it, then click on the Properties button. Another window will pop up known naturally enough as Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) Properties.
  7. Click the General tab within this Properties window. Depending on the information you were given from the network administrator, you can type your IP address and DNS server address, or let Microsoft Windows obtain the addresses automatically. In most modern networks, the option is to let Microsoft Windows select the IP address and DNS server address on its own. Click the OK button when finished.
  8. Now comes the interesting part that is intended to stop freeloaders getting access to the Internet or to snoop around on the network. It is known as Network Identification. You will see this under the Advanced menu command of the Network and Dial-up Connections window. Or try System under the Control Panel to find it. Go ahead and choose this command.
  9. The System Properties window will pop up. Click on the Network Identification tab. And click on the Properties button.

  10. Under the Identification Changes window, you will see three fields where you can type additional information about your computer to help identify it as a legitimate workstation on the network. Two of those fields are located under the heading Member of. In most cases, we will not be choosing this option. Instead, make sure Workgroup is selected and not Domain.

  11. The critical information to type into the available fields are:

    (i) Computer Name: [Firstname].[Lastname]

    (ii) Workgroup: [Name of Workgroup]

    The Computer Name could be "Michael.Smith" or "frontdesk." with no last name. The name can be the same as the User Name when logging onto the workstation. The workgroup, however, is a name chosen by the network administrator such as "Training". For the purposes of this exercise, let us name the Workgroup "Training". Type the Computer Name (if it is not already done at startup) as "Server".

    TIP: Want to change the User Name to something else? Open the Users and Passwords control panel and make your changes from there.

  12. Click OK at the bottom of the window and OK again in the System Properties window.
  13. When it asks you to restart the computer, click Yes for the changes to take effect.

You should now have network access from the server to other workstations and the Internet (depending on how nice or mean your employer/network administrator is).

Establishing user accounts - the server

Establishing user accounts on the server is essentially about telling the server who is on the network by creating folders whose names are based on the Computer Name of the PC clients and specifying how those user accounts can access to network resources available through the server.


  1. On the server (i.e. a PC), get into the administrator mode in the login window. You'll need the username and password for this. Ask your administrator (real nicely) for this information.
  2. Start>Settings>Control Panel.
  3. Launch the Users and Passwords control panel.
  4. Click on Add button.
  5. Enter the new user account name. This involves type a username, the full name and a description. For this exercise, we shall call each account the following:

    User Name: Student1

    Password: password

    User Name: Student2

    Password: password

    User Name: Mailserver

    Password: password

    Then make sure the Computer Name of the server under the Network identification tab has the following details:

    Computer ID: Server

    Workgroup: Training

    The word "Training" is arbitrary. If you like, call it "Workgroup" instead. This is important so that the PC clients can recognise the server providing the network access.

  6. When creating each user account, click Next button and enter a password and confirm it again by retyping it. This is the password the PC clients must use to access the network through the server
  7. When creating the user accounts, you must also choose the user mode for each client. This means specifying how you want the client to access the server. Specify Standard user if you want to restrict the user from reading files of other users but permit the installing of programs and modifying the computer in any way the user sees fit. The Restricted user mode stops users from modifying the computer and installing programs. You can only open programs and save documents. The Other mode allows administrators to make custom restrictions.
  8. Click the Finish button.
  9. Once all the user accounts have been created, click OK to get out of the control panel.


There is a dedicated Windows 2003 Server OS to replace Windows 2000 Professional. For Windows 2003 Server:

  1. Start>Administrative Tools>Computer Management
  2. Click the + sign to open Local Users and Groups
  3. Go into Users folder
  4. Create user account. This means a new folder with a name. The name is the Computer Name of the PC client.
  5. Click Action button.
  6. Enter password and name. Give the user account settings to control how the user can modify his/her password.

Establishing user accounts - PC clients and other servers

Now we must prepare each workstation (i.e. PC clients) to access network resources through the server (e.g. shared folders, access to the Internet etc). The user account names on the main server should correspond to the username (or Computer Name) of the PC clients and other servers.

  1. If you haven't done so already, create new user accounts in the Users and Passwords control panel of the server.
  2. Go to each workstation and open the Network control panel under Windows 98.
  3. If the Print and File Sharing network component is loaded, click the File and Print Sharing button and put a tick in the box that says "I want to be able to give others access to my files" (in shared folders you specify). Otherwise you will be asked for the Windows 98 CD to install this network component.

    NOTE: No file or folder is actually shared with anyone on the network until you specify which file or folder you want shared. We will explain how to do this later on.

  4. Within the list of network components you can see in the Network window, find TCP/IP. Please bear in mind that sometimes there may be more than one TCP/IP component in the list. If you see this, be aware that "TCP/IP -> Dial-Up Adapter" is for the internal modem (if your workstation has one). Because we want to access the Internet through the server via the network card of the workstation, you must choose something that looks like "TCP/IP -> 3Com Fast EtherLink XL 10/100Mb TX Ethernet NIC (3C905B-TX)" This is just goobledygook from the network card manufacturer. Look for a name with TCP/IP in it and words to the effect of "Ethernet".
  5. With the correct TCP/IP Ethernet network component selected, click the Properties button.
  6. Within the Properties window, go into the IP Address tab and type in the IP address as given to you by the network administrator. In most cases, you may not have to do much except select the option that says "Obtain an IP address automatically".
  7. Next, we should give a Computer Name and specify the workgroup (which in this case will be Training) for each workstation to help the administrator at the server end to identify who is on the network. It is preferred you give a different name to the PCs' Computer Names (but must be the same as those specified in the user accounts of the server). But this is not absolutely mandatory. If you want to confuse the administrator, keep it the same. But we will call each workstation for this exercise as follows:

    Computer Name: Workstation1

    Workgroup: Training

    Computer Name: Workstation2

    Workgroup: Training

    Computer Name: Mailserver

    Workgroup: Training

  8. The painful work of establishing a network is almost there. All we have to do is create a folder on the server to share with all users of the workstations. We will call this folder "Backup". On the server, open the My Computer icon on the desktop. Find the C: drive. This might be called "Local Disk". Go under the File menu command of the C: drive window and create a New Folder. Name it "Backup".
  9. At the moment, your Backup folder is nothing special. All it does is let you, as the administrator on the server, store files inside it. But if you want other users to access it from their workstations, highlight the Backup folder (by clicking once on it), go under the File menu command, and choose File Sharing...
  10. You will be shown in the Backup Properties window two options: (i) Do not share this folder; and (ii) Share this folder. You will see this under the Sharing tab.

  11. Click the radio button to allow sharing of this Backup folder with other users. Keep the Share name (i.e. the name to be used by all legitimate users on the network) as Backup.
  12. Now the rest of the stuff under the Sharing tab is a heap of complicated Permissions, Security and Auditing features to help the administrator on the server specify what users can do within this folder, such as reading and changing files, how many users can access the folder, whether the entire contents of the folder can be listed, and so on. This is generally useful for administrators who are paranoid about their security of information within this folder.

    This one should excite the Department of Defence, most Government departments, and individuals who don't want their work to prematurely reach the eyes of others while accessing network resources. But for most normal people, we will leave these features alone.

    By having this backup folder shared on the network, your users can make backup copies of their work on the server. Obviously not a very good idea for a user who wants real security. But sometimes you may have no choice because workstations may have no hard disks except the standard network access to the server. In which case your security is determined entirely by the honesty of your administrator sitting behind the chair of the server (time to work from home?).

  13. It is also considered a good idea, or so we are told, to create a shared folder on each workstation. Just one folder of course! Make sure it is an empty one. This is so that people can deliver large documents directly into your folder or for you to send your large documents to other users on the network having their own shared folder. It presumably beats having to send the documents through the email system. For this exercise, create a new folder called "student1", "student2" and "mailserver" on each workstation under the C: drive. Share these folders in the same way as before.
  14. Once this is done, go into the Network Neighbourhood icon on the desktop of your workstations or My Network Places on the server (if running Windows 2000 Pro), add the network place known as "Training", and you should have immediate access to all these shared folders on the network.

    Also test the ability to access the Internet. It should work like a breeze.

Network access should now be fully established.

Mapping a drive to a network resource

Once the network is established, you may want to set a drive letter (e.g. I: J: etc) and an icon linked to the drive to double click on to give you immediate access to network resources. We call this "mapping a drive to a network resource".

  1. Login as a client.
  2. Right click with your mouse on My Network Places on the desktop.
  3. Choose a letter to assign to your network server.
  4. Click the Browse button to find the network resource. A network resource is basically a folder on the network for you to store and/or access resources.
  5. After clicking the Browse button, you will be shown network places consisting of computers near you and other networks covering a much wider area (e.g. Microsoft Windows Network). We shall go for the latter.
  6. Open up Workgroup and search for your network resource. In this case, it would be a folder on the server for storing files (i.e. an additional hard drive for your PC).
  7. Click the OK button to assign the location of your network resource to the drive number. Then click the Finish button on the Map Network Drive window. From here on end, you can access this network resource straight from My Computer on the desktop — just double click on the icon and you'll see it.

    NOTE: Windows should make it easier by doing what Apple does: show the network resource on the desktop.

NOTE: The tiny images of computers in the Browse For Folder window list named Student1, Student2, etc are also under the "Computers Near Me". These are the shareable PCs of other users in your local neighbourhood which you have access to. In other words, you can send and receive information directly with users.