Sharing an Internet connection

Software — options

It’s important to understand that there are two basic technologies behind all sharing software: network address translation (NAT) and proxy. NAT is newer and more popular; it works like a post office that receives your letters and hands them to you. Proxy is more like a post office that receives your letters, reads them, and tells you what’s in them. It’s less popular than NAT because it’s hard to configure, and the reading process slows down communications.


If you've set up your network for the OneNIC option, you already know you have to use Sygate Home Network. However, Sygate is also an excellent choice for regular two-NIC setups. It’s secure, simple to install, and uses really fast NAT-based technology. I know this because I tested Sygate years ago for my first Internet sharing setup. Since then, the software has only improved by adding features like content filtering and application-based access control. Visit Sygate’s product info page to download a 30-day trial or purchase the software.

More adventurous and/or penniless users will want to try Internet Connection Sharing (ICS), the sharing software that’s included in Windows 98SE, Me, 2000, and XP. It can be difficult to set up and has few features, but it’s also NAT-based, and it gets the job done. Moreover, there are countless ICS websites that offer tools and tips to help you along the way, including Microsoft’s own support site (see articles for Win 98/Me, 2000, XP).

Other good commerical options include Vicomsoft’s InterGate (one of the few programs available for Mac OS) and Deerfield’s WinGate. Both of these use NAT technology, though WinGate has a heritage in proxy technology that shows up in a few places. You might also consider NAT32, which is fairly technical but very robust and affordable.

If you’re short on cash and can’t use ICS, check out the free AnalogX Proxy. As far as proxy programs go, It’s a great choice. Because of its proxy nature, however, it requires you to reconfigure every Internet program on every client computer. This isn’t as hard as it sounds—in fact, AnalogX gives you instructions—but it’s definitely tedious.

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