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Create and Troubleshoot a Direct Connection Between Two PCs

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/15/2009

It's easy to create a direct connection using a crossover cable, but what can you do when it doesn't work?

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    The very simplest network you can create consists of two PCs with a crossover cable between them. With PCs connected in this way, you can pass files back and forth easily. Most people who connect two PCs with a crossover cable are doing it to connect their laptops to their desktop PCs in a wired networking environment. This makes it easy to move files and other data onto the laptop in preparation for a trip and to move files back to the desktop PC when you return home. It also creates an easy to use sync environment.

    To learn how to physically connect the PCs refer to this article: Connect Two PCs with an Ethernet Crossover Cable.

    If the Ethernet Crossover Connection Doesn’t Work you'll have to do a bit of troubleshooting:

    · Is the cable really a crossover cable? Did you buy it in a wrapper that said “Crossover Cable" or did someone hand it to you and say, “This is a crossover cable"? If you’re not techie enough to determine by inspection what kind of cable it is, get some expert advice, or buy a clearly marked crossover cable.

    · Are both ends of the cable plugged into Ethernet ports? It’s possible on some PCs to plug an Ethernet cable into the telephone modem jack, and that won’t work. Pull the cable out of both ports and look to see how many bright copper wires can be seen in the jack. Eight wires is an Ethernet jack. Fewer than eight wires (four or most commonly two) and it’s a phone modem jack.

    · Are you running Windows 95 on either PC? Windows 95 does not support APIPA. For best results, use Windows 2000 or XP. (Even Windows 98 isn’t an ace in the Ethernet department.)

    · Are both Ethernet ports enabled?

    · Is the TCP/IP protocol enabled?

    If you can’t make it work, you still have other options. One is using a USB port bridge cable to connect the two PCs. The other, if both PCs are running Windows XP or Windows Vista, is to connect them with a FireWire cable.