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Direct Cable Connections

One major improvement in Windows 98 over Windows 3.x is in connectivity. Windows 98 offers many different methods for you to connect together two or more PCs to share files and printers. One of the easiest methods is Direct Cable Connection, which enables you to connect together two PCs using a null-modem serial or parallel cable. Although Direct Cable Connection was designed to make it possible to share resources between notebook and desktop PCs, you can use Direct Cable Connection to connect any two Windows 98 PCs to create a small network.

Understanding Direct Cable Connection

Microsoft's Dial-Up Adapter enables Windows 98's Dial-Up Networking software to connect to a remote access server or other Windows 98 PC through a modem connection. The Dial-Up Adapter also serves another purpose: it enables you to connect together two PCs using a serial null-modem cable or a parallel cable. Using the Direct Cable Connection software included with Windows 98, the two PCs can share files and printers, just as if they were connected by network cards and cables. Although transfer speed isn't as fast with Direct Cable Connection as it is with a standard network connection, the cost is minimal: less than $15 for the cable. There are no other gadgets or software to buy. In a Direct Cable Connection between two PCs, one PC acts as a host and the other acts as a guest. The host system "listens" to the serial or parallel port, waiting for a guest to request a connection. When the guest makes that request, the host validates the connection, authenticating the logon password (if you've configured Direct Cable Connection to require one). Then, the guest can connect to resources shared by the host in the same way you connect to resources on a LAN — you can map resource IDs (such as drive letters) on the guest to resources on the host, or use the Network Neighborhood to browse for resources. You then can transfer files between the two PCs and print from the guest to the host PC's printer(s).

Direct Cable Connection also can provide connectivity to your LAN. If the host PC is connected to a LAN, the guest PC will gain access not only to the host's resources, but also to the shared resources on the network. Essentially, the host computer acts as a gateway to the LAN for the guest.

Direct Cable Connection doesn't support connection by computers on the LAN to the guest PC. The guest can access the LAN, but not the other way around.


Direct Cable Connection uses the same types of security as the Windows 98 network. You can access shared resources with user-level security or share-level security, depending on how the host and guest are configured. For this reason, access to the network using Direct Cable Connection is the same as it is with a PC connected directly to the LAN. You must either have the required share-level passwords to access a shared resource, or if user-level security is active, your user account must be validated by a security server on the LAN.

If you want to connect your two PCs using a parallel cable, both PCs' parallel ports must be configured as bi-directional ports. For best performance, the two ports should also be configured as ECPs (Enhanced Capabilities Ports). You configure a computer's parallel port options through the PC's BIOS Setup program. Check your PC hardware manual if you're not sure how to run the BIOS Setup program.