Windows 2000 LAN Tweak Guide
Posted: April 30, 2000
Written by: Keith "Farrel" McClellan
The NT code base will always be, first and foremost, a networking operating system. It was designed from the ground up for stability and security over a network connection. Sure, it offers local passwords and the like, but it really ‘shines’ (at least in comparison to other Windows-brand operating systems) in the area of network security. As such, it would be incredibly foolish for us, as the highest of all high holy tweakers on the net, to not approach this incredible daemon with the same zeal as we do every other tweaking topic under the sun. The product of this incredible lust for the best performance in a networking environment is here, on your computer screen, now. All hail the mighty Win2k LAN tweak guide – may ye reign long.
Before I go into this any farther – this guide is for small home networks. Large networks need not apply. I’m not going to talk about DHCP servers (well, not in this revision anyway) or anything like that – we’ll start ‘simple’ first.
Drivers are incredibly important, especially in a networking environment. If there are problems with your network card’s drivers, there is a good chance that you will either have lousy networking performance or may not even be able to connect to the network at all. As far as I know, a specific site hasn’t been set up yet for finding Windows 2000 drivers – but you should be able to get the most current drivers for your network card from the manufacturers website (Drivers Headquarters should still have a link to the manufacturers page if you are lacking…). The Win2k standard networking drivers that are included with the OS, while not perfect, are better than the drivers that come with Win9x – so if you really have to, defaulting to the included Windows drivers shouldn’t kill you. Don’t expect stellar performance though. Those drivers are designed solely for stability, and speed isn’t even considered in their implementation.
Setting up your Networking Card
After the actual manual installation of your card and its drivers, you really need to tweak a few of the driver's settings to get the optimum performance out of them. Each driver has different settings, however, so it is impossible to give recommendations for every one of them, but I will cover some of the most common ones and the ones that are applicable for my specific network card (Intel 10/100 Mbps).
To change the settings for your network card, you need to start up your system applet and go into the Device manager. In there, you need to find the listing for your card and go into its properties. The tab you are looking for is called “advanced.”
Packet Tagging – Disabled
Coalesce Buffers – 8 or 32
Link Speed and Duplex – As per your network (auto if you don’t know or have a mixed networking environment)
Locally Administered Address – not present
Receive Buffers – 32 or 48
Transmit Control Blocks – 32
You will notice that some of these properties have more than one setting – you will have to choose which one works the best for your particular networking environment. That, more than anything will dictate exactly which settings you should choose.
Setting up your Workgroup
For the sake of this article, I will assume that you have chosen to use the workgroup model for your network and are not working with domains. To make sure you are in the correct workgroup, go into the system applet under the Network Identification tab and click on the properties button. From within this sub-applet you can name your computer and give its workgroup or domain. As I said, for the rest of this article I will be assuming you chose to go with the workgroup model.
Just about all of the rest of the tweaks that pertain directly to the speed of your system within the Network and Dialup Connections section of the Control panel. Open up the folder and get into the properties for your local area network (if one isn’t already set up, you can do so using the “Make New Connection” applet.
Inside the connection applet, make sure that the following components are installed. If they aren’t installed, make the point of installing them:
- Client for Microsoft Networks
- File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks
- NWLink NetBIOS (will later be disabled – but you can’t uninstall it
- NWLink IPX/SPX/NetBIOS compatible transport protocol
- Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)
Unless your network has some kind of special requirements, these are the only components you should have installed on your LAN. If you had to install File and Printer Sharing, make sure you go into your Internet connection and disable it if it appears in there so you don’t have a security risk.
Setting up Installed Components
Before you go any further in setting up these components, disable (un-tick) NetBIOS, and if you don’t need it for older games, IPX/SPX as well (I personally recommend leaving the last one enabled). The computer will not allow you to totally uninstall the former, but if you feel so inclined you could remove the latter. I will cover IPX/SPX tweaking anyway.
To tweak out your IPX/SPX settings, select it and click on the properties button. The Internal Network Number is irrelavent to what we are doing, but if you know which frame type you are using (Ethernet 802.2 and Ethernet 802.3 are the most common) you can choose the appropriate setting. Auto will pretty much always cause some overhead in your network. If you do choose to set this, you can most likely ignore the network number setting that becomes available – I have never had a problem with leaving it at the default.
Setting up Installed Components Continued...
Tweaking out your Internet (TCP/IP) settings however, is a little bit more complicated. There are two routes you can go with this – you can either go for one of the standard IP address ranges (I would recommend the 192.168.0.x range personally) or go for the 125.125.125.x range. I received a lot of ‘flame’ messages over my recommendation of that range in my Win9x LAN tweak guide – so I’m disclaiming now – if you don’t like it, send me some proof as to why. I’ll be honest; I haven’t tested the 125.125.125.x range for speed on Win2k as of yet (even though I’m using it and it runs just fine – just haven’t done a comparison yet). My current theory on the range is that because of the way that the Microsoft programmers choose to code their TCP/IP stacks. Using the recommended range will NOT cause a security issue on your computer as long as you follow my instructions, so don’t worry about your LAN being accessible from the Internet.
Okay, now that I’ve gone into the whole IP address range issue, let's set up your network for optimal performance over TCP/IP. Go into the properties section of the Internet Protocol and put in your chosen IP address (either 192.168.0.x or 125.125.125.x where x is between 1 and 254) and your subnet mask to 255.255.255.0. You probably don’t need to set up a DNS server because you are working with static IP addresses. Then go ahead and click on the advanced button. Assuming you are on a basic network with no special requirements (DHCP, etc), you shouldn’t need any gateways, DNS servers, or WINS addresses. Disable LMHOSTS lookup in the WINS section and disable NetBIOS over TCP/IP. Under Options you are going to want to have IPSEC disabled (under IP Security) and also disable TCP/IP filtering unless you are using a firewall or proxy server (and, unlike what some ‘people’ might think, they are two very different things).
Sharing Folders and File Caching
Sharing folders is done much in the manner that it is done in Win9x. Just go into My Computer, right click on the drive icon and go into its properties. You can set up sharing using the Sharing tab (how…ironic!). There is something of note that you should take a look at though – file caching.
It is unlikely that you are going to want or need to have access to your files ‘offline’ (or for that matter, want anyone else to have access to them). There are four possible settings for this – disabled, manual caching for documents, automatic caching for documents, and automatic caching for programs. I recommend setting it to disabled as the other three settings require quite a bit of system overhead on your system and the other systems on your network.
Afraid that someone could access your network from over the Internet and want to make sure that everything you are doing possible is being done? The first thing to do would be to check out your security using ShieldsUp! I discovered this site several months ago and I’ve found it to be a pretty reliable source for security information – it even includes a port and shield scanner to see if you are particularly vulnerable to any forms of attacks. It also includes information about a really cool new FREE software firewall, ZoneAlarm 2.0. Apparently it is the best free firewall available and it can stealth all of the ports on your system so that you are virtually invulnerable to hacker attacks.
Hub / Switch / Crossover Cable
A hub is the standard way you set up a multi-computer network. It allows connections between any two computers at one time and is a convenient way of connecting 3 or more PC’s. A switch is sort of like a hub, except that it is faster for two reasons – most have onboard cache to save the most requested information and it allows all the computers to talk to each other at once. Switches are also more expensive than hubs. A crossover cable is simply a cable with the transmit and receive cables swapped so that you can transfer data between two network cards without a hub. Crossover cables, unless you’ve got a nice switch with a significantly sized cache that serves up data on demand, are faster than any other form of network connection, and hubs are by far the slowest (and hubs are no slackers).
After my Win9x LAN tweak guide, I had several requests on how to make a crossover cable (also known as type 568B). Assuming that you have the proper tools and materials, switch the color configuration from (read left to right) white green, green, white-orange, blue, white-blue, orange, white-brown, brown (standard 568A type configuration) to white-orange, orange, white-green, blue, white-blue, green, white-brown, brown (568B type crossover cable configuration). Pretty easy if you already know how to make a regular networking cable.
Other Stuff to Consider
There are a few things that you should consider when setting up larger networks. One of those would be DHCP, which automatically designates an IP to a computer like a DNS server. DHCP, particularly if you are running a LAN party, can be very useful. A proxy server such as Wingate can also be helpful if you’ve got a large home network and want to share your Internet connection. Another thing to consider for sharing your Internet connection over your network is NETS (known as ICS in Win9x/2k). It is much easier to set up then a proxy server but it has no speed-boosting caching options like a proxy does.
I hope that this guide has been of some help. Since Win2k is primarily a networking operating system and was designed as such, you should find these tweaks particularly helpful for Win2k – some of them are even helpful when you are setting up your Internet connection (because they are treated the same as a dial-up connection under Win2k). As always, if you have comments or questions, feel free to drop me a line – but please, no flames about the IP range issue.
Want to return to the normal guide? Click here!
All Content Copyright ©Dan Kennedy; 1999