Thursday, June 2, 2011

Configuring Windows XP as a Network Bridge

Windows XP allows to install and use multiple network adapters, which can be all Ethernet,
but can also be different media, like a mixture of Ethernet and USB Network adapters.

Since each segment of network cables requires for the TCP/IP protocol its own subnet, it would
be required to configure the system with multiple network cards as a "Router" :

using for example the subnet: 192.168.1.x for the Ethernet LAN and 192.168.2.x for the USB LAN
( more information on Routing ).

Although there is an undocumented possibility to configure Windows XP as an IP-Router,
there are some inconveniences in using routers in small networks :
- except for the system acting as a router, you will not see in the "Network Neighborhood"
the systems on "the other side" of the router ( that requires the use on non-Microsoft "Bridging Protocols" )

Windows XP offers another, much better possibility :
- to create a "Network Bridge" :

On the system with multiple
network adapters :
In the properties of
"My Network Places",
right-click on a network connection
to display the context menu :
"Bridge Connections"
You will get the warning :
"To create a Network Bridge,
you must select at least two
network connections that are not
being used by Internet Connection
Sharing or the Internet Connection
You need to select multiple
Network connections :
- select with a single click the
first network connection
- hold down the Ctrl-key and
select with a single click the second
(or more) network connections
- right-click and selects now from
the pop-up/Context menu to
"Bridge Connections"
You will get for a while a message:
"please wait while Windows
bridges the connections".
Windows will create the
"Network Bridge", which for a few
seconds will be shown with
"Network Cable unplugged"
Then, your "Network Connections"
will show a new section :
- Network Bridge
If you are looking at the Properties
of any of the network adapters of
the Network Bridge, you will see
that there is nothing to configure
anymore :
all configuration is now done for
the Network Bridge :
Properties of the "Network Bridge":

Section Adapters:
- the list of network adapters,
which are part of the bridge

You need/can configure the
Network Bridge like any
other (non-bridged) network

for example:
you should check/ configure the
properties of the TCP/IP protocol:
- if you are on a home-network,
I suggest to define manually the
IP-address (to avoid delays in
the availability of the network at
bootup caused by Auto-IP

Using the "Network Bridge", it is now possible to use for all system on both the Ethernet
and the USB cable segment the same TCP/IP subnet (in this example : 192.168.1.x ) :

using a single subnet makes the use of "My Network Places" a lot easier than in a
configuration with a Router :
All systems on the network
are now accessible in
"My Network Places"
of the Windows XP system
and in the "Network
Neighborhood" of
Windows95/98 systems.

Another possible configuration for office use :

You can use using a USB-network to connect your notebook in the office to an PC
connected to the office network and configured as "Network Bridge", allowing you
to connect to the local office server but also to remote locations via a WAN.
Since a Network Bridge is handled like
any other network adapter, you can
configure a "Network Bridge" to
"obtain an IP address automatically"
from a DHCP-server on the office
network :
- Check the status of the Network Bridge
(make a right-click and select "Status")
to check, which IP-address got assigned
by the DHCP-server.
You can also configure the USB-network
adapter on the notebook (to be connected
via the Network Bridge to the office network)
to "Obtain an IP address automatically":
make sure that the PC acting as Network
Bridge is running, when connecting your
notebook, it will allow your notebook to
get an IP-address assigned from the

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