Reader Donnie Messenger wrote to ask about a networking problem:
I have set up a home network using a Netgear router. I have one Dell Computer using Vista connected to the router via an Ethernet cable and another Dell computer using XP connected via a wireless USB plug.
When I try to connect from the computer with the wireless card, the other computer does not show up in Windows explorer at all, however, when I right click the My Network Places and do a search for this other computer, it sometimes is located where I can cut and paste files from one computer to the other, but at other times when I do the search it can not find the other computer.
I have verified in my wireless connections that I am connected to the correct router and not someone else’s by mistake. On the unit with Vista, I can also see the other computer with XP but when I try to connect to it, it doesn’t make the connection.
I have already made the change on the XP computer to reflect the SSID needed to communicate with the Vista system.
Is there any reason you can think of as to why the two computers are able to occasionally connect with each other, but not show up anywhere in Windows explorer network connections.
Also is there any software utility program that could help manage the network connections.
It sounds like Donnie has already taken this step from Microsoft:
Since it’s working some of the time, it appears that he must have set both the XP and Vista computers to the same Workgroup name — their default workgroup names are different MSHome (XP) and Workgroup (Vista).
Welcome to the wonderful world of networking, especially wireless networking, the Microsoft way.
By the way, sometimes it’s the simple things — has the other computer gone to sleep or hibernated from inactivity? Although many computers these days have Wake-on-LAN capability, it’s not usually turned on (in the BIOS) by default. If it was, they’d never sleep as the Windows way of name resolution on workgroups is to send out periodic >who’s listening> queries, which would wake up the sleeping computers.
It is sad to know that there are problems between XP and Vista on networking, although not surprising — it seems like Microsoft isn’t ever going to make two versions of Windows fully-compatible for networking.
Sometimes it helps to set up networking all over again, as the smallest slip or omission can wreak havoc with the networking. Check out this page from Microsoft for steps to set up XP and Vista network file and printer sharing: