I want to network two computers using a serial cable

They are both running Windows 98.

Yes, I know I can do this much faster and more efficiently with actual network cables, but I want to do this using a serial cable.

I have read on a few sites that it can be done, but they do not go in to detail.

Can anyone help me?


You need a special serial cable called a “Null Modem Cable” to do it. Most computer stores have them. A regular serial cable won’t work. Once you have that, follow the instructions on this page for Windows 9x computers.

As long as you are buying a special cable, serial is the worst (slowest one) to use. There is also a special USB cable that you can buy that is many times faster if both computers have an open USB port. I just bought one last week.

>> I want to network two computers using a serial cable

Believe me, you don’t. I used to do it in the past and it worked but it was slow and it was a PITA. It is not a peer to peer situation but a master-slave and you have to reverse the roles to transfer the other way. It is a real PITA and awfully slow.

For a few dollars more you can get a USB network cable which plugs into the USB ports and is way faster, way easier. I have one to connect my laptop to my desktop and it works fine. I have seen them in the $20 - $25 range.

W98 has excellent information on how to do this in the manual. Or click Start:H then find networking.

I did this via Win software called Direct Cable Connection (DCC). It can make use of a serial port, but connection via two parallel ports is faster (takes a special cable, which seems to be readily available).

Setting this up in Win95 was unbelievably complicated - I’ve never run into anything worse. Under Win98 it was much better - merely “rather bad”. You have to get into Computer and Workgroup names, file sharing, having the right networking components, etc. Should be easier than it is.

One drawback is that one device is the Host (= passive) and the other is the Guest (= active) (Hope I remembered that right.)

Given how cheap Ethernet cards are these days, I’d say forget about DCC. Get Ethernet adapters for the computers you want to connect and you’ll have a system that is easier to install (though not necessarily dead easy) and works faster & better.

Second the USB cable. If you don’t want to fiddle about with a network connection for a temporary link between a couple computers, the USB cable is cheap, easy and fast enough to be tolerable. Since it’s USB, you might also have a hub in the base of your monitor, making it that much more convenient. I haven’t wanted to bother getting an ethernet hub for my one machine at home, which is plugged into the DSL modem. The USB cable has allowed me to occasionally transfer stuff between that machine and the laptop I take to and from work - put the laptop on the desk, plug the USB cable into it and the monitor base, fire up “pclink” on both ends, and transfer. It’s a useful thing to have around.

Don’t do it. It’s nothing but pain, grief and tears. Sure, there are lots of sources that promise they can tell you how to do it, but the more you try, the more frustrated you’ll get. I’ve been into that particular hell, and I’m never going back. My goal (which may not be yours of course) was simply to transfer data. In the end I retained my sanity (what was left of it) by simplying buying an external Zip drive. From Comp A to Zip Drive, from Zip Drive to Comp B. That’s the only thing that kept me out of the asylum.

For a fuller account, see my website (www.ian-rowland.com), go to The Vault and look at “Urban nightmares #5: trying to use DCC to transfer computer data”. If that doesn’t put you off, nothing will.

In the course of my own attempts to get this to work, I spoke to several very experienced computer tech people, and they all confided in me that actually, although this lashing together of PCs is theoretically straightforward, getting it to work in practice is an entirely different nightmare. In Win 98 it’s supposed to be very simple indeed, but then the Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable.

You have been warned.

I have done serial linking. This was standard on laptop backups back in the DOS days. (called laplink). You can do it, as suggested above, with a null modem cable from Radio Shack and Hyperterminal, which is part of Windows. All of the versions of Windows, I think.

connect the cable, fire up laplink, pop a beer and be ready for a lot of pain while trying to get the &#^@ thing to work.

You’re nuts to want to do it. But it can be done.

It occurs to me you used the word ‘network’ on this question. Serial linking isn’t like networking. Serial links are really stupid, compared to a network.

It may be that what you want to happen (some sort of networking) isn’t possible, after all.

You can copy files across a serial cable. That is, you can send data and catch data. But it’s not much of a network.

For a temporary direct connection without needing to open the machines up and install anything, USB should be your first choice (if both computers can support it), standard serial a distant third. No matter what, you’ll have to buy a cable and none of the choices are going to be very expensive.

But then, Beastal hasn’t told us what this link is for. For simple transfers of short files, there really isn’t much difference which scheme is involved. Deathmatch-type game playing might work reasonably well with standard serial (though only older games are likely to support it).

But anything heavy duty will definitely require something better than serial, unless you like leaving your computers on for two or three days at a time while you copy one hard drive to another through your measly serial cable.

You can get good network cards for $5-$10 each. I’m pretty confident that after all is said and done- cables, etc. that this would probably be the cheapest choice.

I don’t know much about USB connections, but I have a feeling that it would be more expensive.

If all you want is do temporary data transfers, get a copy of Laplink. It has all the cables and software you need to complete the job. I recommend a parallel connection.

But really, it is probably cheaper in the long run to rig up a network connection.

I have seen “package deals” of two ethernet cards, a small hub, and cables for $29 - all you need to set up a true home network between two PCs. And, they were 100 MBit with full duplex mode available too! :eek:

I love technology.

Hi guys,

Basically I want to use it so that I can surf the Internet on two computers at once, one of them is connected to the Internet via a 56k modem.

We also use it for playing some network games, and we have had no problems thus far using a serial cable for this.

It appears as though we (me and the guy I am trying to do this with) are going to invest in a USB cable, which poses a new question:

What software is required to connect the computers via a USB?

Drivers and a simple transfer program should come with the cable. The one I picked up at Fry’s had something called “PC-Linq” that came with it. It displays a “local” and “remote” file explorer window and allows you to drag files between the two.

But it sounds like you really might be better off setting up a network, if you intend to hook the computers together on a regular basis. I wouldn’t use a USB cable to do anything except transfer a bunch of stuff between machines and unhook it. Your OP sounded more like a file transfer type question, which is why everybody went there.

For what you want I would go with network cards and forget USB. Network cards will give you better speed and US might give you some configuration problems for the sharing internet connectuion part. USB is ok for casual transferring files but in your case I’d go with network cards.

You can’t just hook two PCs together with a USB cable. You need to have a special piece of equipment. USB 1.1 and 2.0 has a master the PC and a slave (mouse, keyboard, printer or what ever). Hooking two masters together will not work. There might be some thing you can buy that has two usb connections and looks like a slave to both PCs but I have not seen it. USB on the go is supposed to be more flexible about masters and slaves but I have not seen any products out with that yet.

Go with two network cards.

We all agree that it sound like the OP should network, but the device we are talking about is a fairly common thing. Follow sailor’s link above. It isn’t just a straight cable, but the needed hardware you allude to is just packaged in a little plastic block in the middle of the cable. These things are also typically marketed as a “USB File Transfer Cable” or some such thing, and come with the cable, driver software, and a file transfer program.

You are correct yabob. I should have followed Sailor’s link. It looks like that will work for about the same cost as a network setup.