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How can I connect my Windows 9x and NT 4 systems to the network using TCP/IP?

I have a difficult problem I have been trying to solve for a long time. I have tried searching the MS site, MS Technet, the entire Web and every other source I could think of, all to no avail. Here is my problem:

On Windows 9x and NT 4 systems I have a problem connecting to the network with TCP/IP. When using IPX, everything works fine. When I remove IPX and only have TCP/IP, I cannot connect to any of the hundreds of other computers on the network. To further complicate the problem, it is not consistent across all machines at all times. Some systems install TCP/IP services and connect with no problem, others don't. Same hardware (NIC, MB, etc.), connected to the same network switches, same IP domain, same NT domain. Interestingly enough, this problem may show up after a system has been working fine for a period of time. Other machines may not work initially but sometimes start working at a later date.

Even though the computer does not "see" any other computers on the network, it will still be able to browse the Web, so this appears to be a problem with local connectivity only. I have tried various tricks with WINS and DNS, LMHOST, etc., again, all to no avail.

Another interesting behavior that may provide a clue is that with Win98SE, if I have both IPX and TCP/IP installed, and the TCP/IP stack is not working properly, when I try to connect to certain servers using Network Neighborhood or a DOS Net Use command, the system still hangs, waiting for a connection that never takes place. The only option is to use a three-fingered salute (CTRL-ALT-DEL) to bring up the Close Program window where I can then end the non-responding program. Removing TCP/IP from the protocol list eliminates that problem from Win98.

This has been an ongoing problem for years, but since we have both IPX and TCP/IP protocols, it has been possible to work around the problem most of the time. However, when I have an IP only application this is a major problem, and that is happening more frequently now. From talking to others in the field I understand that this is not an isolated problem, but no one has come up with a good solution.

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This is a somewhat odd problem, as TCP/IP should be more reliable than IPX. Here's how I would approach it:

1. Is this a name resolution or connection problem? Can you ping local subnet hosts by name or IP address? Can you ping remote subnet hosts by name or IP address?

2. Is this a problem with the dreaded browser service? If so, the problem is related to the placement of DCs, master browsers and backup browsers. Check out my book on Troubleshooting Windows 2000 TCP/IP for ways of dealing with browser service problems.

3. Have you done a network trace using Network Monitor or another network analyzer? That information would be very useful in determining what the exact problem might be. Run the analyzer on the source and destination computer.

Start with these steps and see what comes from your investigations.

This was first published in June 2002

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