Direct cable connection: How to link two machines

Question: I recently purchased a used laptop computer; an AST 810 NC with a 340 Mb hard drive and 12 Mb of RAM. The computer only has a floppy drive, and therein lies the problem. Most software now comes on CD. I do have a PC at home with an internal quad-speed CD drive. Is there anyway I can load software on to the laptop’s hard drive from the PC’s internal CD drive, without incurring the expense of network cards, or am I doomed to purchase a very expensive portable CD drive? –K.V.K.

Answer: There is a solution, but it has some limitations. Windows 95 has a utility called Direct Cable Connection that will allow you to share one drive between two machines.

To run DCC, both systems should be running Windows 95.You’ll then need to connect the two with either a parallel or serial cable. (For the uninitiated, a parallel cable plugs into your printer ports. A serial cable plugs into your COM ports, where you would typically plug in a modem. You can buy either from your local computer supply store. They cost around $10.)

You can find this DCC utility by clicking Start > Programs > Accessories, and then Direct Cable Connection. A Windows 95 wizard will step you through the rest of the process.

If you can’t find DCC, you’ll need to install it:

  1. In the Control Panel, go to Add New Software and then click the Windows Setup tab and double-click Communications.
  2. Check the DCC entry.
  3. Click OK. When it’s through installing, it will take up about half a meg of hard drive space.

DCC basically sets up a network over the cable and enables you to install CD-ROM software on the laptop,” explained Mathew Fiszer, a senior support technician at CompuSmart in West Edmonton. “The only drawback is that any software packages that require the CD to be in the CD-ROM drive after the install will not run.” That rules out encyclopedia CDs and some game CDs that repeatedly access the CD drive for information.

One caveat on this method is that (if you use) the parallel port connection, don’t expect any great transfer rates,” said Christopher Salvador, a systems architect at Vicom Multimedia in Edmonton. “It will be slow, but functional and cheap!