Windows XP is configured to help you take care of networking. It uses the TCP/IP protocol for networking in workgroups, or what you might call small office or home networks that do not use a dedicated server.
The problem is that automatic IP addressing can be slow. When your computer boots, it has to query the network to see what IP addresses are already in use and then assign itself one. If you want to speed up the boot time a bit, consider manually assigning IP addresses to all computers on the network. This way, the network computers do not have to worry about locating an automatic IP address. Because one is manually configured, the operating system doesn’t have to spend time solving this problem.
This isn’t a networking book, however, so I won’t delve into the implications of using a manual IP address, but if you are using a computer that functions as a host computer to the Internet (using Internet Connection Sharing [ICS]), you can get into connectivity problems if you change the configuration of the IP address. However, you can still work around this problem by starting with the ICS host computer.
Select Start/Connect To/Show All Connections. Right-click your network adapter card and click Properties. On the General tab, select TCP/IP in the list of services and click the Properties button.
In the TCP/IP properties, you can see if you use an automatic or manual IP address. In the example in Figure 4-5, I have configured a manual IP address of 188.8.131.52 and a default subnet mask. The other computers on my office network each use a different IP address in the same class, such as 184.108.40.206, 220.127.116.11, 18.104.22.168, and so on. This way, each computer has a permanent IP address, which helps increase boot time. Note that if you change the IP addresses of your computers, they must all use the same subnet mask. A default subject mask of 255.255.255.0 will keep you in good shape.
Make sure you understand the implications of changing IP addresses on your network. If you have no networking experience at all, you may be wiser to leave the automatic IP addressing as is and try to gain some speed using the additional suggestions in this chapter.