Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

It's possible to network two computers with just a cable, but there are a few tricks involved to get things working properly.

Can I network two computers with just a cable?


BUT ... it's easy to get it wrong unless you know a couple of tricks. But once it's working, it's a very quick and handy way to transfer files and share an internet connection among just two machines.

There are two simple tricks:

First: a regular network cable will not work. You need what's called a "reversing" or "cross-over" network cable. The problem is that a regular cable will connect the transmitter of computer A to the transmitter of computer B, and the receiver to the receiver. What you want is the "reverse" - you want the transmitter of one computer connected to the receiver of another. (Hubs, routers, and the like know to listen to the transmitter, and send to the receiver - so "normal" cables work just great when you're connecting to those.)

Second: you may need to install an additional network protocol. If all you're doing is connecting two computers, you may need to install either the IPX or NetBEUI protocols. It's more complicated than is necessary to get into here, but these protocols allow computers to identify themselves, rather than relying on some other device to assign them an address. In this case things that rely on TCP/IP will not work. However, if you use Internet Connection Sharing on one of the computers to share a connection, then TCP/IP, and all the tools that rely on it, will work and no additional protocols will be required.

Article C2018 - June 11, 2004 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

June 15, 2004 7:52 AM

Is it possible for a Mac and PC to be able to share and transfer files via a network?

June 15, 2004 8:18 AM

Sure. I'm not particular Mac-knowledgable, but I do know it's possible and, in fact, common.
This site looks promising:

michael horowitz
June 23, 2004 9:14 PM

The answer assumes an Ethernet LAN and that both computers have NIC cards. This is not alays the case. It is also possible to network two computers using a serial cable, a parallel cable or a USB cable without any NIC cards at all. The connection can be either done with the DCC feature of Windows or third party software.

Vallipuram Sarveswaran
July 5, 2004 5:50 AM

Can you please explain how to install network protocol to connect two desktops (both win 2000) with cross over cable.
thanks in advance

July 5, 2004 10:00 AM

Just install the netbeui protocol drivers and it should just work. More here:

Abraham Owolabi
July 6, 2004 3:09 AM

Pls kindly help in networking 20-30 pcs located in an hotel within two building of a space distance of 63mtrs. cable work is done and and pcs are set.. i am using a switch at the medium . pls help comprehensively. thanks

July 6, 2004 8:52 AM

Not sure what help you're asking for?

August 21, 2004 9:23 AM

I've tried the link you showed for NetBui. It explains how to make it work with XP not 2000 is there one that will show me how to connect two computers to each other using W2000? thanks

August 21, 2004 9:33 AM

The technique should still work. The netbui protocol comes with Windows 2000, so you don't need the download.

August 27, 2004 12:24 AM

I have two PC's, one new one with XP and the other an old Hot Wheels computer that doesn't have an NIC. I was wondering if there was a way to to share a cable internet connection with the one card.

P.S. Must be as cheap as possible.

August 27, 2004 11:21 AM

Maybe. You might look at LapLink from Travelling Software ... they used to be able to connect two computers over printer or serial ports, and maybe you could share the internet connection that way. I'm really not sure, but it's worth a look.

November 14, 2004 2:36 PM

How about a quick link to a "how to hook up a PC and a Mac in a home network in the easiest/cheapest possible way for someone with no networking experience" article?

November 30, 2004 10:32 PM

Hey Leo,
I was just wondering how a reversing cable looks like or if it is possible for me to make it at home. I have the cables, the jacks and the crimping tool.

December 3, 2004 9:33 AM

Externally it looks like any other network cable, but it's wired differently. This site has a good overview, and discusses "crossover" cables (which is the same as a reversing cable, or what some folks call a null-modem network cable):

Dobromir FILIP
December 14, 2004 11:15 AM

I have a cable high speed internet through Motorola SB 5100. I would like to connect two computers together to the internet at the same time(network). Could you please briefly explain me, how can i do it. I have never been dealing with that. Thank for your help.

December 14, 2004 11:18 AM

This article might be what you're looking for:

February 11, 2005 12:07 AM

I am trying to connect to XP machines with just a Cat6 crossover cable. I installed Netbui as you suggested, but the connection still doesn't work. My local connection status window tells me that the problem is that the network did not assign a network address to the computer. Any suggestions?

February 11, 2005 9:03 AM

Make sure that netbeui is installed on both machines. Yes, the TCP/IP protocol will not work (hence the error about no IP address), but that's why we install netbeui - if available, Windows will use that instead to share files and printers and populate network neighborhood.

March 7, 2005 9:27 PM

what protocol shuold I use to connect two computers?

March 7, 2005 9:32 PM

The article mentions the protocols you may need.

April 2, 2005 6:49 AM

How can i connect two computers without a hub or a switch.Can i connect it just with the network data cable??
DO i have to configure something in XP??

April 7, 2005 11:19 AM

Same sort of question, but can you do with with two computers with normal wireless cards without an access point?

April 7, 2005 11:30 AM

I've never done it, but supposedly that's what the "ad hoc" wireless network configuration is about. Same caveats regarding protocols would apply, but setting up an adhoc wireless network could work.

May 9, 2005 3:10 PM

I'm trying to connect my laptop to my desktop so i can transfer all files to the pc. My laptop is old but it does have an internet adopter. So i can just use a crossover cable to transfer the files??


May 11, 2005 5:03 PM

Probably. Just follow the steps in the article.

May 19, 2005 11:40 AM

Hello, similar sort of problemi have just boughta new computer with XP home on it. I have a DG814 netgear router. I have put my ethernet into my new computer and it says

your network didn't assign an address for this computer

Any help would be good

May 19, 2005 7:27 PM

Many possibilities: the router is not configured to provide DHCP, *or* the computer is connected to the wrong port on the router, *or* the cables are bad, *or* the PC's are not configured to automatically request an IP addresses. Probably a few possibilities I missed. Can you provide more specific information on how things are configured?

July 29, 2005 6:23 PM

I have had the same problem with you guys. I use RoadRunner and a router to connect three computers. The way to fix this is by calling your provider and tell them to "reset" or "reboot" your account. I've learned that after my network failed 3 times and it all turned out to be a problem with the provider.

james fitzmaurice
September 19, 2005 6:05 AM

i need to to connect four laptops to a switch do i use straight cable rg45 or x flow

i have been told i would need to connect a straight flow cable between my dell server and switch? am a bit new to servers having been let down have decided to do it all myself any help much appreciated


September 19, 2005 9:29 AM

The only time you need a crossover cable is when you are connecting to like devices ... say a computer directly to another computer. When you connect a computer to a switch (or hub, or router, or modem, or the wall) you'd use a normal straight cable.

September 29, 2005 3:27 PM

hi, since my cd rom on xp is not working, Can i connect my old pc win 98 to xp and use its cd rom to install prog on xp. thanks

September 30, 2005 10:53 PM

Yes. You can share out the CD and then connect to it over your network.

Doug Willard
October 3, 2005 2:44 PM

I think I have a cross over cable. My network is still only tranmitting on both computers, and not receiving. Should I try netbeui?

October 3, 2005 2:57 PM

Yes. If all you have is a cable, chances are TCP/IP will not work by itself.

October 11, 2005 12:04 PM

Thanks, Leo!
This indeed saved my work hours and nerves. Now I'll just walk to the store to get the appropriate cable. Another thing is, though, how to get the IPX or NetBEUI protocol if needed.

I have a three-year-old PC and a brand new Acer laptop, both running Win XP home. Let's hope for the best...

October 11, 2005 5:26 PM

Good question! I made a new article out of it:

October 20, 2005 1:19 AM

How to make the "reversing" network cable?

October 20, 2005 1:26 AM

In what cases will I need to install an additional network protocol?
Why will TCP/IP, and all the tools that rely on it, work and no additional procotols required if I use Internet Connection Sharing on one of the computers to share a connection?

December 24, 2005 8:28 AM

I have a pc with win xp pro sp1 that is connected to internet trought a wireless connection. And I also have a Pc with linux suse 10 on it. I can connect the two computers using a reversed cable, but can i also share the internet connection?

Leo A. Notenboom
December 24, 2005 9:17 AM

You should be able to use "Internet Connection Sharing" on the Win XP box to do exactly that.

David Sheldon
January 2, 2006 2:56 AM

Dear Leo

I have a Dell Inspiron 5100 Laptop and a HP Pavilion N3250 heres my Problem The dell's cd-dvd drive Broke and no way to get files off the laptop
and it is the one with High speed internet Connection ( I am typeing this on it) But on the HP 3250 The dvd drive works and also has A-drive
on it also. But it dont have Highspeed connecter
JuST Dialup connecter PLEASE Help me CONNECT the two TOGATHER both have USB Though Both have WinXP
Dell has XP-Home and HP-has XP-Pro

January 8, 2006 3:57 AM

i have successfully networked 2 computers with a single cable.. my problem however is to setup the internet connection sharing so that my other computer can access the internet... please help

January 11, 2006 4:50 PM

Hi, I just got optimum on line and was told i could have my other computer using the same optimum modem on the upstairs computer. I dont know what to go buy and how to do it Leo, can you please help me it simple terms what i need to buy and how to do it. thanks :)

Leo A. Notenboom
January 11, 2006 7:22 PM

I think you want this article:

January 14, 2006 5:43 PM

Hi Leo & All!
I have successfuly networked my Win98 box, to my WinXP Home Box. The problem is that I cannot use the interned on the Win98 Box. I have a wireless card on my XP machine, with internet that works, and I can transfer files and such, but no internet on the Win98. I tried checking the share internet box for my ethernet card on XP, but I still cannot get it on the Win98 machine. Any ideas on how to get this working?

George Kao
January 18, 2006 10:42 PM

Thanks Leo -- your article was at the top when I googled "networking 2 computers cable". You prompted my search for a "reversing" network cable, but I could find next to nothing on that product or term. Well, searching Wikipedia on "reversing" network cable, I came upon "crossover cable" which I believe is what you are referring to? If so, I would suggest that you amend your article to include "crossover cable", a much more widely used term than "reversing" networking cable. Thanks again. George

January 18, 2006 10:49 PM

Thank you! I've added it.

March 2, 2006 10:10 AM


I am going to try to network my Dad's old desktop (Win95) and newer laptop (XP home). Do you think the crossover cable will be enough to get it done? The problem is that files need to be taken off of the desktop and the USB's are not working and it does not have a CD burner.


March 12, 2006 12:06 PM

I am using a crossover cable so i can connection 2 pc together so we can share files and an internet connection but we are having problams the guest pc will not connection to the net could u please help us (we are on aol silver)

May 2, 2006 6:13 AM

I have 2 computers, one on xp and the other is win98, I have got a crossover cable and run the connection wizard so that the computer can see eachother but i cannot go on the internet with the windows xp machine on share files, can anyone help me in this matter??

June 27, 2006 11:55 AM

hi all can anyone email me on how to connect my pc to a laptop(its old )and i need to connect it cos it does not have an OS installed so i need to transfer the files for running the setup files. the laptop does not have either a cd rom or usb port.

August 8, 2006 8:14 PM

i cant get my crossover cable to work (from xp to me) once i do get it to work how do i share files

August 30, 2006 12:53 PM

Hi ,
I guess I have the same problem as many others. I have two laptops ( each running XP ) . Connected them both using cross-over cable. Assigned the IP's ( and with mask of; used TCP/IP. But they dont seem to ping each other !!. Tried changing cable too.. Thought it wud b simple; but seems a bottleneck for my plans.. Can you help please..

August 30, 2006 1:18 PM

:-) ... I got the answer myself... Disable the windows firewall .. it worked !! I can connect both now.. or to do it better ; turn windows firewall on with filesharing on ..

October 12, 2006 7:31 AM

Hey, i have 2 computer connected on LAN and they're both connected on ADSL connection by a HUB. The problem is that only the admin pc that has the adsl modem connected to it can connect to adsl whereas the other networking pc cannot connect to the adsl by itself, it's always the admin pc that can connect the adsl. I would like to know how to make it possible for the networking pc that's only connected by a LAN cable connect to the adsl without the admin pc always connecting for the other pc to get connection without the use of a router? Hope u can help.. thx

November 5, 2006 3:51 AM

I would like to know how to add another PC to my network. When I attempt to locate this information I get everything but. CAn you help a novice.

November 7, 2006 2:28 PM

Hi. J have to PC`s and two Ethernet cards. When j made connection with crossover cable on network status j have sent packets on both computers but have no received. Can u help pls. Sorry for bad english

Leo Notenboom
November 8, 2006 9:19 AM

Did you follow the instructions in the article involving installing additional network protocols?

MIke C
November 24, 2006 6:34 PM

I'm trying to connect my wifes work laptop to our home pc and allow it to connenct to the internet through the pc. I have an onboard NIC and a pci card, which is the one I am trying to connect to my wifes my laptop (onboard also). My onboard is conected to my cable modem. How do I go about setting this up?

December 26, 2006 6:37 PM

I have a desktop computer and a laptop i want to connect them both to a router how do i do that??

January 24, 2007 1:43 PM

As I understand Ethernet, back in the days before switches, there were not two separate send and receive lines, there was just one wire that any number of nodes shared using CSMA/CD. So it would seem that two PC's could network just using a regular straight-through cable. Does this mean that modern NIC's do not support this mode anymore?

Leo Notenboom
January 24, 2007 4:58 PM

I believe that ethernet, as a physical medium, has always had separate send and receive. There are certainly other networking hardware that combine both onto a single media - coax cable, for example. Perhaps you're thinking of one of those?

January 27, 2007 7:37 AM

Check out
under "Half-duplex versus Full-duplex"

February 9, 2007 1:35 PM

I am trying to network my two desktops, I know i need a crossover cable but i dont know how to wire it corrrectly. i am building my own cable. Thank you for your assistance

Leo Notenboom
February 9, 2007 7:05 PM

Hash: SHA1

This site has wiring diagrams:

Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


March 25, 2007 10:14 PM

i have two computers, a laptop and a desktop and the desktop is connected to the internet through USB. The desktop is connected to the laptop via a ethernet cable and the desktop has the Internet Sharing Connection turned on but my laptop still doesnt have internet connection... it says that it has limited or no connectivity.
pls help

Mughal Aqeel
May 2, 2007 8:05 AM

hello sir,
i have a problem to connecting two computers i have successful to share the file and printer sharing without IP'S but i could not share the internet connection sharing. it work but not properly some time open the web site some time not i want to know what the problem and how i can solve this problem sir please send me complete method to connecting two computer with cross over cable LAN. i have two lan card in both computer and one cross over cable. i will thankful to you if you send me detail about that. with illustration, pictures and totally guid. full protocol. thanks my email address is [email address removed] ok bye god bless you in your mission.

May 29, 2007 9:17 AM

Dear Sir,
I had a question regarding networking between two computers. I am using a software which has live data transfer capability with an option to change the sample rate for data transfer. Now when try to access this data (Live data transfer)using a code in C++ the rate at which the remote computer receives is always 5hz. Can u please suggest any method to overcome this shortcoming. Thanks in advance.

Randy Lewis
June 29, 2007 12:21 PM

Connecting two comps. Desktop - win98 & Laptop XP home edition. Have Connected with printer cable now how do I get them to talk.

June 30, 2007 2:08 AM


Leo A. Notenboom
June 30, 2007 12:42 PM

Hash: SHA1

Randy: I'm not aware of any approach that will work with a normal printer cable.

LapLink used to be able to use printer connections with a special cable to do
this. You might look at them.


Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


July 4, 2007 11:36 PM

dear sir i have two desk tops conected to the internet through a router and my main computer does not have the same download speed as the second one My question is if i network the two computers togeather am i able two limit the bandwith of one of the computers when it comes to downloading? thank you very much

Terry Hollett
July 7, 2007 6:09 AM

For the ones who commented about playing games over a network try:

Nick Gimbrone
July 8, 2007 7:34 PM

Actually, if the two network cards are Gbit cards, then you do NOT use a cross-over cable, you use standard/normal cables to connect them directly... the Gbit card protocols deal with this just fine.

July 30, 2007 12:41 AM

What is the set up to network two computer with just a LAN cable or Wireless LAN to enable transfer files from laptop to laptop (no internet conection) ?

August 1, 2007 2:35 AM

I am buying a new computer and all I want to do is transfer everything from old computer to new. what do I need and how is it done??
Thank You

rosalyn crawley
August 26, 2007 7:52 PM

hi i am having a problem sharing my computers connection with another was working fine before but now there not connecting. im using a crossover not sure whats wrong because it says the other computer is connected but when i try to get any web pages up it says to check internet connection. both computers are windows xp

October 14, 2007 7:06 AM

I need to connect my Windows XP with my Vista computers and I saw on QVC yesterday(when they were selling Dell Computers) that there is a software that comes with a USB (yes, USB) cable that has a yellow filter on it that is bundled with a software that will allow that with USB, which is what I really want. Have you heard what is the name of this software? Where can I buy it? I have searched and I cannot find it. I can kick myself for not calling QVC when it was on and getting the name, but today no one there knows.

October 14, 2007 7:34 AM

I kept surfing and found the answer.
and I found the software/cable. How easy is that? I had been searching for a solid hour when I first posted here, but I kept digging. This is my solution. I'll let you know how it works after I get it. The caple is at
because I dug that up, too.

November 18, 2007 11:55 PM

I have network connected between two computers and one computer shows the other while opening My Network. But its asking password for opening other computer, which is not set in both. I dont know hoe to remove password. Any help in this regard will be very useful.

November 28, 2007 6:49 AM

i don't have internet but want to link 2 computers for gaming like flight sim x, i have done it on laptop with laptop but i want to link with my home desktop with ethernet cable so both computers can play fsx in a LAN connection but no internet just between the two, like i said, i have done it with 2 laptops, i just can't get my home pc now to link with my laptop with a ethernet cable. My laptop is a HP Paviliun and my desktop is Emachines. Can you help me with a solution and explain how to do the process on how to make it work, thank you for your help.

January 4, 2008 7:04 AM

Hi Leo, I have problem sharing Internet connection with one of my desktop B. I have two desktops A and B, of which A is connected to DSL internet cable through a Wi-fi router. The B computer(in a different room) is assisted by a wireless Network adapter card and the signal strength is excellent, but I get a message "Limited or no connectivity because the network did not assign a network address to your computer" in the status. But I am able to share internet on my friend's laptop. Please help me. I checked all the things possible, like connecting router to B and adapter to A, same message repeats. Thanks.

January 4, 2008 9:10 AM

can i find IPX or NetBEUI protocols in my OS CD???where should i install this on my vista machine or on my xp machine..

thnks :D

March 6, 2008 11:15 AM

Hi Leo, I want to make a connection between a laptop and computer then I want to send stream of audio between them (not like a data but audio signals)

Shakeel Ahmed & Asadullah
March 18, 2008 1:36 AM

we want to network our all office computers now please suggest us that which topology we should use.

code freak
March 29, 2008 7:01 AM

I found this article and it worked pretty well for me

doniv amrev
May 2, 2008 2:00 AM

Well you can also See this article on

May 2, 2008 2:04 AM

thanks for sharing Such a great...........Details of Making LAN COnnection........

I need them and get them

can you please which hub i can buy and which one would be better I m US based.

June 12, 2008 5:35 PM


Your comment about needing a crossover cable is old-school.

The network card in any machine newer than five years or so will automatically detect the cable type and crossover if necessary. So you can throw away that old crossover cable and only carry the one patch cable from now on.

July 21, 2008 5:42 AM

i want to know how make the "gatway"in networking for internet sharing like workgroup & domain

July 25, 2008 11:47 AM

how do i install the IPX/SPX?
when i go to the local connections and to protocols it isnt listed in the install section and i dunt have it already either
plz help

August 16, 2008 8:38 AM

please tell me how to create a network with a cable but without internet (that is, i don't care about internet, i only want to share files between computers and play multiplayer games)

June 3, 2009 2:43 AM

Please tell me the steps in networking laptop(Vista) and pc(XP) via cross over cable.

Mahyar Amiri
November 20, 2009 10:41 PM

I have laptop i wanna share and start network connection between my laptop and Desktop, but i dont know how to do that??!!! please let me know

January 6, 2010 6:12 AM

how to sharing internet only two computer.(all rady i network but net is not sharing

February 11, 2010 11:45 PM

a friend hooked up my 2 pc, went through the wizard and they are both able to access the net individually but when both are on at the same time they are really slow and have a lot of trouble turning pages. something is configured wrong how do I start out to remedy the problem.

Malcolm Bale
March 16, 2010 7:58 AM

Can I use a connecting cable to access files on the hard drive of an unbootable computer?

Nope, the computer would have to be working/running. Easier is to remove the drive and either put it into an external USB enclosure, or install it as the second drive in a working computer.

March 23, 2010 3:43 AM

How do i figure out ip address

stephen chikosaula
March 23, 2011 3:44 AM

hi i have managed to connect the 2 pcs using a direct network cable but is saying local network only, how do i make them share the internet? the laptop uses win xp sp2 and the other dsktop is using vista os. please help

It depends on which machine it connected to the internet, and how. Look into what's called "Internet Connection Sharing", as that's what'll have to be enabled on that machine.

September 4, 2011 12:52 AM

straight through cable will work, plz try

shraddha pingale
November 24, 2011 9:13 PM

I have 2 desktops with win xp OS.I want to network thenm to share and transfer files.I have internet connection in one computer.My ISP's cable is directly connected to my one desktop thru a cable.ISP has not given any router or modem.its jst one cable connected on d back of CPU.i have one ip address alloted from ISP whch can work for one pc only.tat ip addr is registed with my ISP . i m unable to access net on both desktop.....I have linksys router.HOW CAN I SHARE FILES BETWEEN 2 DESKTOPS AND ONE LAPTOP IN A WIRED MANNER. WHAT ARE THE EXACT STEPS?CAN YOU PLEASE HELP..THANKYOU

You need a router. More here: How should I set up my home network?

Morpheus Exegis
January 4, 2012 9:37 AM

@malcome - guessing you are a windows user go to start menu run cmd when the command prompt appears type in ipconfig. now you you are looking at all your ip configuration. google if you need more help.

@ Shraddha - you will need at least another network card in your internet pc and then you can cross over that one to your first pc. use windows feature of "Internet connection Sharing" to share the internet Google for more info and the exact steps.

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