Resurrected Entertainment

Microsoft LAN Manager

July 25, 2007

After I had finished assembling my RetroBox, I was forced to to make a decision on what operating system to use. I chose to go with Windows 98 because I needed to be able to access my network. I also wanted to be able to boot into a DOS shell, but I didn’t want to dual-boot the machine. By writing a few options into the CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files, the user is presented with a small set of choices which may drop them into the shell. When I need to access files on my network or if I want to print something, I choose an option which boots me into Windows. My RetroBox is not a terribly fast beast, and it takes a while to boot and log-in.

To help alleviate this problem, I installed Microsoft LAN Manager in my DOS environment. Now I can access my network files and print through the network with ease. The process was a little frustrating and your experience may vary. I am providing this information, just in case you’re considering tossing the whole project and moving to Tibet to become a monk (if you’re already a monk living in Tibet, then you may be considering moving to Canada to become a Mountie).

The very first step would be to obtain a network card. For compatibility reasons, a popular 10/100 Mb card would be optimal. I have compiled a list of network card drivers which are bundled with Microsoft LAN Manager (which I will now be calling LAN Man to save some typing). Even if your network card is not on the list (mine wasn’t), you may still be able to obtain a driver from the company’s web site. My card is a D-Link “DFE-538TX Rev. D” and the earliest driver posted on the website was for Windows 98. After decompressing the file, however, I found a driver specifically for LAN Man which saved me from having to create a custom NIF file. I will explain how LAN Man uses these files a little later.

Once the physical card is installed, unpack your installation and run SETUP.EXE to get started. For many people, the setup process should be pain-free. My setup was not so problem free, however. I suppose it was due to the fact that I was running the Windows 98 shell, and not a pure MS-DOS, PC-DOS, or FreeDOS installation. I believe the root of the problem stemmed from the fact that the Windows 98 shell doesn’t like the ‘$’ wildcard. If you take a look at the SETUP.INF file, you’ll notice a number of files ending in the dollar sign. Within the file, a program like NetBEUI would be referenced like this:


Under MS-DOS, this would match the file NETBEUI.EX_. Under the Windows 98 shell, it does not seem to match it at all, so the installer complains that it cannot find the file. What I did to correct this problem was to simply change the wildcard to the ‘_’ character and presto! The installer was able to see the file and continue with the installation.

Because my card was not on the list of available drivers, I needed to add it to the list myself, which meant making an entry in the SETUP.INF file so it could find the driver files (<DRIVER NAME>.DOS and PROTOCOL.INI) and the Network Information File (NIF). After making an additional entry in the SETUP.INF file and copying the files to the right locations (under DRIVERS\ETHERNET), the setup program correctly enumerated the card name and I was able to select it from the installation menu.

After these changes, the install carried on happily, but complained at the very end that it could not find the “NETWKSTA.” file. There is no “NETWKSTA” file; it’s just a directory. This is the eight-character directory shorthand for Network Work Station. I don’t know why it was complaining, but it’s an important program and needs to be installed so you can use network resources like shared files and printers. This is also easily corrected after completing the installation. Just copy the file:


Don’t copy it from the CD-ROM, because that file is compressed and won’t run. That file will end in an underscore, so it won’t match the name I listed above.

During the network setup portion of the installer, if you choose to use DHCP then you don’t need to specify an IP address or sub-net mask. For log-in credentials, just supply a user name without a password if you don’t have an MS LAN Manager or Windows NT authentication service setup. When it asks you for a domain name and you don’t know what that means, just enter in a dummy name or leave it blank (I didn’t try leaving it blank, the installer may refuse to continue). One item to keep in mind: a Windows domain is not the same thing as a work-group, but I used my work-group name anyway since I knew it wouldn’t matter. Eventually, if I choose to setup a domain, I will change the domain name at that time.

After moving the commands inserted into my CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files around to suit my own taste, I rebooted the machine and ran the NET.EXE program. Using this software, I could enter the UNC path to one of my machines:


Go to the view menu and select “View available network resources”. It will present you with a dialog which will allow you to assign a shared folder to a local resource like a drive letter. I was able to read and write (provided the permissions are set appropriately on the share) to the folder using the new drive letter (F: in this case).

Please note: you won’t be able to mount a printer or a shared folder if the share name is greater than eight characters! It will simply complain that it cannot find the network resource.

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