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How to Setup DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) on a Windows Server

DHCP gives hosts on a network all of the IP information they need to communicate. IP Address, Subnet Mast, Gateway Address, DNS servers and WINS server addresses. For ease of administration DHCP is a great feature for small businesses to help setup their computer network quickly and easily without a lot of hassle. If you are using a Windows server for a file server, domain server, application server, or for pretty much any other reason you can add DHCP functionality for no cost.

First lets quickly go over how DHCP works because it is very simple in the flow and functionality of it. First we configure the server and we create a "pool" of IP addresses, normally this will be something like 192.168.1.100 to 192.168.1.200 depending on how many computers you are going to potentially have connect. As you can see with the IP addresses we specified we can have 100 computers connect using DHCP. Then we specify on the server what the subnet mask, gateway, and DNS addresses are going to be.

Now when a client computer connects to your network via wire or wireless his computer will send out a "packet" basically saying "hey are there any DHCP servers out there to give me an address?" and obviously the server will respond back with a packet "yes, here you can use 192.168.1.105" and now the client computer has a working IP address and can communicate on the network. The DHCP server keeps track of what IP addresses it hands out based on the clients MAC address.

Now that we have an understanding of how DHCP works lets talk about configuring it on a Windows server. First thing is to make sure that the DHCP feature is installed and you can check this by seeing it Windows will allow you to configure DHCP, if not then you don`t have it installed.

To install DHCP simply goto "Control Panel" then "Add Remove Programs" and on the left side select "Add/Remove Windows Components". Scroll down until you see "Networking Services" highlight it and click the details button. Then scroll down until you see "Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)" and check the box to the left and click "OK" then click "Next" and DHCP will be installed on your server. One thing to remember is if DHCP is not installed on your server already you will need the Windows Server CDs to install DHCP.

Now that we have DHCP installed on our server we can configure it by simply using the console. So click "Start" then "Run" and type "MMC" in the text box and click "OK" and a Console window will appear. Click "File" "Add/Remove Snap-in" or simply press CTRL+M and then click "Add..." and a list of all the services you can configure will show up and you want to select."DHCP" and click "Add". Once you do that you can back out by clicking "Close" and then "OK" and you should now see a DHCP menu on the left side of the console.

Double click on DHCP on the left side and choose your server. Now we need to create what is called a scope since you can actually run multiple scopes on a single DHCP server. Right click on your server under DHCP on the left hand side and choose new scope. You will be prompted with a "New Scope Wizard" to walk you through everything. Choose a name for your DHCP scope and then click next and choose your range of IP addresses you want to use and define you subnet mask. Default subnet mask is usually 24 in length or 255.255.255.0.

Next you can choose addresses to exclude, this is a good idea if you are going to have some equipment with static addresses set within your IP range. Next you will want to select how long you want your lease to be and the default is 8 days. If you are going to have a few computers that will always be connected then 8 days is probably fine. If you are setting up like a wireless hot spot where a lot of different clients will be connecting you probably want to make the lease about 8 hours instead of 8 days. Click next and then click next again and you scope has now been created and your clients can get an address via DHCP.


Mike Walton has been in the technology field for over 8 years and has 6+ years in hospitality technolgy. Mike has experience with Microsoft Windows Server 2000, 2003, Windows 98, XP, and Vista, Networking, Cisco Equipment, PCI DSS, and many more.

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