LAN Tweak Guide
Posted: February 20, 2000
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
Divorce - the splitting up of the modem and LAN tweak guides was a painful decision, but there are simply too many tweaks for LANs to do justice to them all in a guide also shared by one of the largest and most complete modem tweaking guides on the 'net. And since home LANs, and more importantly LAN parties, are becoming more popular, I thought you guys might appreciate an entire guide devoted to the subject.
Before delving into specifics, however, I'd like to point out that these LAN settings have been optimized for two things in mind - small home networks and gaming. Although these tweaks WILL work on large LANs and WANs, the server must be set up properly for them.
Before beginning, make sure you have the most current drivers for you LAN card. You should get these either from the manufacturer's website. If you can't find the URL find it through Drivers Headquarters. This will increase overall stability over your network and make sure that your card will be as cooperative as possible.
Basic Network Settings
There are a few things that need to be installed on your system for your LAN to function properly, and a few things that you shouldn't have installed unless you absolutely need them. The following things should be installed:
- Client for Microsoft Networks [Client]
- Network Card driver [Adapter - should already be installed]
- TCP/IP (ex: TCP/IP -> Intel 8255x-based PCI Ethernet Adapter) [Protocol]
- IPX/SPX-compatible protocol [Protocol]
- File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks [Service]
If any of these are missing, install them using the add button (right click Network Neighborhood, choose Properties, then click Add). Go to the section that I have listed in the above square brackets and search for the appropriate drivers.
The following things you absolutely shouldn't have installed unless they are necessary for your network card/network:
- Microsoft Family Logon [Client]
- NetBEUI [Protocol]
They may slow down your network and you should only use them if you absolutely have to have them installed.
Setting up Client for Microsoft Networks
This is a pretty simple procedure. Select Client for Microsoft Networks from the installed components list and click on the properties button. Unless you are running with a Windows NT server, untick the Logon to Windows NT Domain. It is also advisable to select the Quick Logon radio button unless you have a problem connecting to your network drives. This will speed up your boot times tremendously.
Setting up Your Ethernet Adapter
Select your Ethernet adapter from the installed components list (remember, right click Network Neighborhood and choose Properties) and click on the properties button. On the bindings tab, make sure both TCP/IP and IPX/SPX are selected, and then move on to the Advanced button. Within this section, make sure the following settings are selected:
- Coalesce Buffers - 8
- Duplex Mode - Full unless you have a half-duplex card on your network, in which case you should choose Auto
- Ethernet ID - 0
- Map Registers - 64
- Receive Frame Descriptors - 32
- Speed - set to your network speed unless you have some 10 mbps cards on a 100 mbps network, in which case you want to choose Auto.
- Transmit Control Blocks - 32
Setting up the IPX/SPX Protocol
Open up the properties of your IPX/SPX protocol. On the NetBIOS tab, untick the NetBIOS setting unless you use a NetBIOS application over your network. Make sure that the protocol is bound to both Client for Microsoft Networks and File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks under the Bindings tab. Under the Advanced tab, select the following settings:
- Force Even Length Packets - Not Present
- Frame Type - Ethernet 802.3 (if this doesn't work, select Auto)
- Maximum Connections - 16
- Maximum Sockets - 32
- Network Address - 0
- Source Routing - 16 Entry Cache
Setting up the TCP/IP for your LAN
Open up the properties of your TCP/IP stack for your network card. Make sure that it is bound to both Client and File and Printer sharing for Microsoft networks under the bindings tab. Under the Advanced tab, select the "Set this protocol to be the default protocol" tickbox. You also want to disable DNS and WINS resolution unless your network specifically requires it. Under the IP address tab, however, is where our real work begins.
Due to the way that a TCP/IP stack is designed, the fastest IP number to resolve is 125. This means that the more 125's that you have in your IP address, the faster your network is going to be. Here's how to set up your network with the fastest possible IP addresses. Select the Specify an IP address radio button. In the IP field, input an IP address in the format 125.125.125.X. Make X a different number between 0 and 255 on each computer on your network. If your network just happens to have more than 256 computers on it, you will also need to use more than one sub-domain (125.125.x.x). Note: Only use these settings if the IP address is set for your internal LAN only - when you are on the internet you want to either dynamically determine your IP address or use the one dictated to you by your ISP. To set this IP address, use the TCP/IP stack for your Internet adapter (be it xDSL, Cable, or Modem).
This faster resolution will be offset by the networks computer search, however, unless you properly set up the Subnet mask. The subnet mask should be 255.255.255.0, unless you have more than 256 computers on your network, in which case the subnet setting of 255.255.0.0 would be appropriate. This subnet mask stops the network from searching for any computers that don't share the first 2 or 3 domains (depending on the subnet mask setting) of your IP address with you.
Other Configuration Settings
The Configuration tab in the network applet has a few other settings that need to be decided upon before moving on. For your Primary Network Logon, you are most likely going to want to choose Windows Logon. As for File and Printer sharing, feel free to enable it, but realize that this may open you up to hackers on the Internet. To prevent them from being able to upload files to your computer, when you share drives, make sure that you set them to read-only access. You can always go to the other computer and download the files from there, and this way, while hackers may still be able to read your email, they can't crash your system or send you a virus by simply cracking your file sharing passwords.
When setting up your network identification, you need to make sure you do two things:
(1) Choose a name for your computer that is unique to your network.
(2) Make sure the workgroup is the same one everyone else is on.
The first one is simply common sense, and the second one will make it easier to browse your network, and may even speed it up a little bit.
Choose share-level access control unless you never connect to the Internet (not likely) or you absolutely have to. This makes it more difficult for hackers to attack your system because you can give each drive/folder it's own password.
I know, this really isn't a tweak, but I wanted to reiterate the fact that it is very important to only give read-only access (with a password) to other computers if you are going too be to lazy to disable file sharing when you are on the Internet. This is extremely important so don't forget it!
Hub / Switch / Crossover Cable
A crossover cable (in which the send and receive cables are reversed) makes the fastest network overall because there is no signal negotiation, but it only works if you are networking two PCs. The nice thing about it is that you can set up a two-computer network without a hub or a switch. A hub is for slightly larger networks and is slower than both a crossover cable and a switch, but that generally won't affect LAN gaming. A switch (also known as a switch hub) is quite a bit faster than a regular hub, and is designed to connect multiple hubs together in a large network, however it can also be used as a regular hub - with the added benefit of extra speed. They are quite a bit more expensive than a standard hub, so unless you've got the extra bucks (you can grab an 8 port Intel switch hub for between $200 and $300 USD, which is over a hundred dollars more than a similar sized standard hub) you will probably want to stick with a regular hub.
Tweaking your home network can be a very important thing, particularly if you participate in a lot of LAN parties. As you all know, even with a 100 mbps network you can get a little lag (nothing compared to the 'net though) during a fragfest with 15 of your closest friends. If you need more information about setting up a home network, check out Dan's How To guide on the subject. As always, feel free to e-mail me with your comments and questions.
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All Content Copyright ©Dan Kennedy; 1999