All I want is a simple home network that works
July 3, 2006 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Argh! Can anyone give me a walkthrough for setting up a simple home network for two Windows 2000 Professional computers? I'm frustrated by unreliable mapped drive connections, and am ready to break down and follow a step-by-step procedure for creating a home network.

Part of the problem is Google turns out reams and reams of stuff for Windows XP. I don't have XP.

I'm beyond any hope that this network can be fixed... but if anyone cares, here is the scoop.

Each item is plugged into the one above it. Network names are hypothetical CAT and DOG.

* DSL modem
* Linksys BEFSR81 Regular router - CAT is connected to it
* Linksys WRT54G Wireless - DOG is connected to it

Computers are both basic Windows 2000 SP 4, both workgroup "WORKGROUP". All firewalls are removed. No antivirus. On CAT I mapped Z: to \\DOG\C$, and on DOG I mapped Z: to \\CAT\C$. Set both computers with NetBEUI protocol, set NetBIOS to disabled (this seems to be what works best).

Doing ping is pointless because most of the time I can do a DIR on the command line and list the mapped drive. It's when I try to do anything (like copying) that I get trouble.

Basically what happens is I can read directories on both computers, but if I try to copy more than 20-100 files the connection craps out with stuff like "Error performing inpage operation", "the path is too deep" (yeah, right, I'm copying ONLY files in c:\tempdir), and "the network name is no longer available" (bullcrap). Then any further attempts to use the network drive say "the network name is no longer available". Basically it appears the network is completely lazy and not sustaining any kind of usable connection for more than 10 seconds. I considered that maybe the WiFi connection is weak, but I'm not having any problem with any WiFi I/O out to the Internet.

It's occurred to me the routers might be causing trouble, but if so I am clueless.
posted by zek to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Each computer has a name and an IP address. I don't usually use mapped drives on a Windows home network. Connect using 2 backslashes and the machine name or IP address. Start Windows Explorer (Start, All Progs., Accessories, Windows Explorer). In Windows Explorer (one of the most useful apps to come out of Redmond, in my opinion), make sure that the full path is displayed in the address bar, and the address bar is visible. (View, Options) On Cat, in the address bar, enter \\dog\c$. Or enter \\192.168.1.X, which is more reliable.

Try mapping Z: to \\DOG\C$, and on DOG map Y: to \\CAT\C$. The existence of 2 drives named Z may be trouble.

Some googling suggests that this could be a catchall error message, and could indicate hardware trouble, so see if swapping ethernet cables helps.

Lastly, if the wired and wireless routers are both using NAT (Network Address Translation), and they almost certainly are, you might try using static IP addresses. Wired router is, Wireless router is, Cat is, Dog is
posted by theora55 at 8:59 PM on July 3, 2006

I understand your frustration; when everything is not working in the way you would like, it can be hellishly frustrating.

First - why don't you use TCP-IP standard-issue w/dhcp? Why dick around with netbeui?

Second - Double-check both routers and the DSL modem to make sure they are assigning addresses in THREE DIFFERENT SUBNETS. If any of these three devices are assigning addresses or thinks they are part of the same subnet, wierdness may result.

Third - Have you tried connecting the two workstations to the same router, instead of using two different routers? Why two routers? What I would do if the PCs were too far apart is go wireless all the way and get as many WLAN adaptors as needed to connect the workstations. Using two routers is asking for trouble. Until you can get the new hardware, try relocating both boxes to the regular router connected via ethernet - this may help you narrow the problem to wireless, or to a malfunctioning router.

Fourth - Create a new share on each workstation - I can imagine that using the administrative c$ share may bring trouble. Just make a new directory on each box and name it something like shared, then share it with wide-open permissions.

Good luck
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:05 PM on July 3, 2006

Sorry I cant help much. But my first thought is you may simply have a bad cable. Sounds like your getting dropout which would explain the seeming random (and thus meaningless) error messages. If you have some extra CAT5 cables laying around, I would try em. I also realize that part of your network is wireless, but trying new cables may be worth a try.
posted by BillsR100 at 9:12 PM on July 3, 2006

why don't you use TCP-IP standard-issue w/dhcp? Why dick around with netbeui?
Because the computers don't see each other at all (regardless of my tinkering around) unless netbeui is installed. I note that Windows 2000 Professional has no built-in DHCP server (you need Enterprise for that), so I figure this could be why.

Why two routers?
The BEFSR81 has no WiFi. The WRT54G has no Ethernet ports.
posted by zek at 9:56 PM on July 3, 2006

I'm not sure about Windows 2000, but Windows 98 would silently map Z: to the NETLOGON share when logging on. Try not using Z:.

Also try using UNC names directly. What happens if you copy stuff from \\DOG\C$\TEMPDIR instead of using mapped drive letters at all?

If this were my network, I'd get rid of the non-wireless router (the WRT54G has four wired Ethernet ports on the LAN side of the router and one on the WAN side, IIRC); I wouldn't use NetBEUI; I'd set up TCP/IP and enable the router's DHCP server; I'd make sure everything can ping everything else; then I'd turn on file and print sharing on top of TCP/IP, and go from there.

And I'd install Ethereal all over the place, and watching what packets go where.
posted by flabdablet at 10:28 PM on July 3, 2006

Far be it from me to sit on the other side of the world and tell you I know better than you do what's right in front of you; but I just checked user guide available on the Linksys website, and it says that the WRT54G does indeed have four wired Ethernet ports (and an inbuilt DHCP server, too).
posted by flabdablet at 10:53 PM on July 3, 2006

The very first and simplest thing to check: On your WRT54G, make sure you plug into your internal network from one of the four internal ports, not the 'external' port. You can simplify your problem, in fact, by pulling the BEFSR81 out completely, assuming the WRT has enough ports to work okay for you. The 54GS *should* be able to do everything the BEFS can, and it's easier to troubleshoot when you have only one network hub/switch.

If you're presently plugging the WRT54G into the external port, it thinks CAT and the BEFSR41 are the Internet, and it's doing NAT and firewalling, which will screw you up completely.

If that's not the case, NetBEUI may be your problem. It's a completely different protocol than the TCP/IP that's used today by nearly everything. It wouldn't surprise me if your routers are confused by it and dropping things they shouldn't.

I'm assuming you can browse the web from either computer. If so, that's means you have TCP/IP working. Most likely, one or both of your Linksys routers are being a DHCP server for you.

Windows networking is very strange. Network Neighborhood is a completely different service than file sharing. Seeing or not seeing a machine in that service actually tells you almost nothing about whether or not you can connect to it. If the machines don't list each other, that can just mean that the browsing service (which is easily confused) hasn't figured things out.

You can easily connect to another machine without seeing it in NN. All you need is the IP address. What I would suggest:

1. Turn off and remove NetBEUI, that will only give you trouble.
2. On each machine, open a command prompt and type "ipconfig". Jot down the IP address on a piece of paper. Each number will be different, and often they'll be immediately adjacent. I think Linksys by default uses the 192.168.1.X network, but it could be any number of different things.

For purposes of example, I'll assume Machine A is, and Machine B is
3. Open a share on each computer.
4. On both machines, right click on Network Neighborhood and choose Disconnect Network Drive for any and all drives you have mapped.
5. On Machine A, right click Network Neighborhood and choose Map Network Drive. Use whatever drive letter you like. For server name, use:


(this is machine B's share.)

If your username and password are the same on both computers, the share should pop open in a couple of seconds.
6. On Machine B, do the same thing in reverse: use machine A's IP address. It should again pop open.

You may never get Network Neighborhood to browse properly, but you don't have to have it. And give it awhile after you've removed NetBEUI... fifteen or twenty minutes later, the browse service may mysteriously start working.

If you are unable to connect in the way I describe here from one machine to another, check that they are in the same network (very simplified version of that: check that the first three numbers in the network address are the same). If they are different, that points back to the first thing I talked about... that your WRT54G is doing NAT and/or firewalling.

If the network share works from the machine on the 54GS but not from the other, that would be absolute ironclad proof that the 54GS is firewalling.
posted by Malor at 11:24 PM on July 3, 2006

I have owned, by the way, a BEFSR41 (same as your 81, but with four ports), and I have two WRT54GS units here, both of which have 4 internal and 1 external network jacks.

As far as I know, the regular G version also has four internal switch ports. If yours doesn't, I'm not sure what the heck is going on... maybe Linksys has a model I haven't heard about?

If the 54G is new, I'd suggest returning it for a 54GL, which is better... it runs Linux and is a MUCH better unit. That version should replace your BEFS (which also runs Linux) seamlessly, as long as you're using 4 internal ports or fewer.
posted by Malor at 11:30 PM on July 3, 2006

The WRT54G has no Ethernet ports.

posted by sophist at 1:14 AM on July 4, 2006

The WRT54G has no ethernet ports

Then it's a WAP54G. Anyways.

The BEFSR81 is likely your problem. This router is trash. I attempted to use one for a while as my DSL gateway and home router for a few machines and it simply blows. It will decide to drop packets and/or reset ports or its entire switch when it gets too busy, like for example doing a LAN file transfer. It would do the same thing on the WAN port.

If you can manage it, start a file transfer and then watch the lights on the '81 at the same time. If you notice things like all 4 or 8 port lights flashing in unison, that means it's resetting the ports. Get a new router, like a WRT54GL, and the DD-WRT aftermarket firmware.
posted by chuma at 5:58 AM on July 4, 2006

NetBEUI is not a routable protocol. Set up on TCP/IP.

Wireless routers with 4 Ethernet ports are cheap (less than $50) and universally available. WiFi cards of the same brands are also relatively cheap and available. It's worth using the same brand of router and WiFi card just for interoperability of features, as not everyone implements 802.11 b/g exactly the same way.

Seriously, any doubts about your network, trash the whole lot of networking hardware, and start fresh. Hours of screwing around with setup won't fix flaky hardware.
posted by paulsc at 9:45 AM on July 4, 2006

zek, once you've perspired, wept and bled, and you're still nowhere, go to, download and install the trial, and go outside and get some sun.
posted by rinkjustice at 10:38 AM on July 4, 2006

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