BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 1999

  

 

BOOT CAMP 069

INSTALLING A SECOND PARALLEL PORT

All PCs have a parallel port, and very useful it is too. On the vast majority of computers this 25-pin socket is used by the printer, however in recent years a growing number of other devices have appeared that also require access to a PC's parallel port. These include scanners, high capacity disc drives (Zip, Jaz etc.), video capture modules and PC-to-PC connections like DCC -- the topic of last week's Boot Camp. Normally connecting one extra device to the parallel port is not a problem, peripherals like scanners and disc drives have 'through ports' that allow the printer to remain connected, but if you want to add on any more parallel port devices, the single socket on your PC simply cannot cope.

The computer industry has started to address the problem and virtually all new PCs now have USB sockets, which can support more than 100 devices connected in a 'daisy chain'. However, it's a relatively new standard and USB peripherals like printers and scanners are still a bit thin on the ground and usually cost a little more than their parallel port cousins.  The simple short-term solution to parallel port overcrowding is to fit a second one. Most recent Windows PCs can support up to four parallel ports, (designated LPT1 to LPT4), its not difficult, it doesn't take long and it doesn't cost much, so let's do it!

Step 1 is to make sure your PC can be fitted with an additional port (or ports), the first thing you'll need is a spare ISA expansion slot on the computer's motherboard. Many recent PCs only have two or three ISA slots to begin with so there's a chance you may not have an enpty one if your machine has an internal modem, video and sound cards already fitted, the only way to find out is to remove the lid. Make sure it is switched off at the socket but you might want to leave the plug in, as this will ensure the metal case remains earthed. Since we're going to be fiddling around inside the machine it is a good idea to hold or touch the metal case every time you venture inside as this will dissipate any static charges that may build up on your body or clothes. The ISA slots are the longest ones on the board and usually coloured black, with a notch or gap in the middle, if you see a vacant one you're ready to proceed. Put the lid back on and make sure everything is still working.

Step 2; obtain your parallel expansion card. They come in several varieties with single, double or triple ports; single and double cards generally cost less than £20 or so and can be obtained from most PC suppliers and mail order specialists advertising in computer magazines. You can peruse the instructions that come with the card but only for amusement, they're often written in a Pidgin English that makes the average VCR manuals look a model of clarity.

In order for the card to work it must be recognised by the PC and given an identity so Step 3 is to check your machine's resources. Right-click on My Computer, select Properties and the Device Manager tab. Make sure the computer icon at the top of the tree is highlighted and double-click. This will open the Computer Properties window, showing the interrupt requests (IRQs) used by the components in your PC. The existing parallel port (LPT1) will normally be assigned to 07, look for one or as many spare IRQs as your new card needs, on most machines several IRQs between 09 and 15 are usually free.

Now for Step 4. Have a look at your parallel card, you will see several rows of 'jumpers'. They small plug-in contacts, one row (or two or three, depending on the type of card) will be marked IRQ, with numbers next to the pins, move the jumper (or jumpers) to coincide with the free IRQs on your PC. Switch off the PC, remove the lid again -- not forgetting to earth yourself by touching the case -- and fit the card into the expansion slot. Replace the lid and switch the PC back on. Follow the boot-up sequence on the screen and watch for any error messages.

Step 5, most Windows 95/98 PCs will automatically detect the new card and start the New Hardware Wizard, if not go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Add New Hardware and follow the instructions. When asked allow Windows to search for the new hardware. Windows should find the new card and automatically assign it the necessary identity (LPT 2 etc) and resources. You can check that everything is okay by going back to Computer Properties in Device Manager as outlined in Step Three.

If all has gone according to plan the new port(s) will be up and running, ready to use, if not here's a few things to check. Change the Parallel Port setting in the PC's BIOS to 'Auto' (refer to the manual for instructions). If you get an error message saying there is a conflict in the I/O range you will have to change the I/O jumper setting on the card, try one at a time. If the card isn't recognised by Windows ensure that it has been properly seated in the expansion socket, don't leave the card loose, use the retaining screw to keep it in place.

Next week -- Newsgroups on the Internet

 

JARGON FILTER

DCC

Direct Cable Connection, a Windows 95/98 utility for connecting two PCs together so they can exchange files

IRQ

Interrupt Request, a signal from a device connected to a PC motherboard -- such as an expansion card -- asking the central processor to send receive or process data

ISA

Industry Standard Architecture, type of expansion card socket common to all IBM PC computers, used for sound and video adaptors, PC TV tuners, etc.

USB

Universal Serial Bus, industry standard connection system for peripherals (modems, joysticks printers etc) that does away with confusing technicalities and allows 'hot swaps', allowing connection and disconnection with the PC switched on.

 

TOP TIP

If you play a lot of games on your PC or you routinely use DOS software it can be quite inconvenient to have to wait for Windows to load before you can get into the DOS mode. There's a simple way of bypassing Windows so that the PC boots straight to the DOS C: prompt. Open Windows Explorer and click on the C: drive, in the right hand window scroll down until you find a file called Msdos.sys, right click on it and select Properties, make sure the 'Read Only' attribute is unchecked and click OK.  Double-click the Msdos.sys icon and if prompted open with Notepad. Look for the line BootGUI=1, change it to read BootGUI=0 and save the file. The next time you switch on the PC it will boot to the C: prompt, to start Windows simply type 'win'.

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