Internet Connection Sharing

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Internet Connection Sharing
A component of Microsoft Windows
Other names ICS
Included with Windows 98 Second Edition
Windows ME
Windows 2000
Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7
Windows 8
Windows 10
Related components
Windows Firewall
Windows Security Center

Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) is the use of a device with Internet access such as 3G cellular service, broadband via Ethernet, or other Internet gateway as an access point for other devices. It was implemented by Microsoft as a feature of its Windows operating system (as of Windows 98 Second Edition and later) for sharing a single Internet connection on one computer between other computers on the same local area network. It makes use of DHCP and network address translation (NAT).

ICS offers configuration for other standard services and some configuration of NAT.


ICS routes TCP/IP packets from a small LAN to the Internet. ICS maps individual IP addresses of local computers to unused port numbers in the TCP/IP stack. Due to the nature of the NAT, IP addresses on the local computer are not visible on the Internet. All packets leaving or entering the LAN are sent from or to the IP address of the external adapter on the ICS host computer.

Typically, ICS is used when there are several network interface cards installed on the host computer. In this case, ICS makes an internet connection available on one network interface to be accessible to another network. A connection to internet is shared by enabling ICS in Network Connections on the network interface with the internet connection. In special cases, only one network interface card is required and other connections may be logical. For example, the host may connect to Internet using a modem/router configured in the bridge mode and share the PPPoE connection with ICS.

Starting with Windows XP, there are some improvements to ICS. Internet Connection Sharing is integrated with UPnP, allowing remote discovery and control of the ICS host. It also has a Quality of Service Packet Scheduler component.[1] When an ICS client is on a relatively fast network and the ICS host is connected to the internet through a slow link, Windows may incorrectly calculate the optimal TCP receive window size based on the speed of the link between the client and the ICS host, potentially affecting traffic from the sender adversely. The ICS QoS component sets the TCP receive window size to the same as it would be if the receiver were directly connected to the slow link.

Internet Connection Sharing also includes a local DNS resolver in Windows XP to provide name resolution for all network clients on the home network, including non-Windows-based network devices. ICS is also location-aware, that is, when connected to a domain, the computer can have a Group Policy to restrict the use of ICS but when at home, ICS can be enabled.


While ICS makes use of DHCP, there is no way to review DHCP leases using ICS.[citation needed] The service is also not customizable in terms of which addresses are used for the internal subnet, and contains no provisions for bandwidth limiting or other features. ICS also was initially designed to connect only to Windows OS computers: computers on other operating systems were required different steps to be able to utilize ICS.[2] On Windows XP, the server normally gets the IP address (changeable from the registry or via the IP settings) and provides NAT services to the entire 192.168.0.x subnet, even if the address on the client was set manually, not by the DHCP server. Since Windows 7 the subnet 192.168.137.x has been used by default.

Besides making sure that the firewall settings are correct, for Windows XP hosts with more than one Ethernet interface card and a wireless WAN connection, bridging the Ethernet interface cards may help eliminating some ICS problems.[citation needed]

Other methods[edit]

With the advent of home and personal networking in the mid-to-late 2000s, routers, Wi-Fi access points, and other serial communication options have replaced widespread use of Internet Connection Sharing. These alternatives to using Internet Connection Sharing can use either dial-up networking (most focus on the computer with a phone modem to act as a gateway server to the others sharing the connection) or other connection methods.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Windows XP Quality of Service (QoS) enhancements and behavior
  2. ^ "Doing it Backwards - Internet Connection Sharing Between Linux and Windows". Epinions. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 

External links[edit]