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Two monitors displaying the Windows NT 4.0 desktop
Segment 4: Windows NT 4.0 on a Laptop using Remote Access Service

Originally encoded on April 10th, 2016 and published the following day

Watch video: Windows NT 4.0 on a Laptop using Remote Access Service

Hardware Profiles and APM

Windows NT 4.0 on a laptop suspending to RAM

A feature that often worked very well with dockable Windows 95 laptops is also present in Windows NT 4.0. However, Windows NT still appears to be too dumb to know if the laptop is docked or not, so you basically always have to tell the operating system if it is or not at every boot. As goes with many other features critical to laptops, Windows NT also does not natively support hot undocking or suspension. This point has been brought up before, but later in Windows NT's mainstream life, a number of laptop manufacturers did provide their own implementations of APM for Windows NT.

What really allowed vendors to support APM on laptops running Windows NT was Service Pack 4, released on October 19th, 1998. [1] While installing Service Pack 4 normally doesn't add any real power management support since it still uses Microsoft's "pure" HAL, it is the first to include Softex's modified version of it. In Segment 2 it was only used to allow powering off any conventional system automatically after shutdown, but it's meant for much more than that.

While hibernation is out of the question, the Softex HAL very much allows suspending Windows NT to RAM from within the operating system on laptops which explicitly support it. In theory, I suppose you could also suspend Windows NT by assigning a suspend hotkey or changing the ATX power switch's function in the BIOS setup utility. Hard disk spindown definitely works if it is enabled, so I don't see why this couldn't either; it's just that Windows NT has no native interface for power management apart from very basic UPS control, and you have to somehow tell the BIOS to trigger a suspension directly.

Laptop running Windows NT 4.0 with a PCMCIA network card plugged in

Windows NT 4.0 has had support for PCMCIA cards from the start, so installing a network card connected to that interface shouldn't be too much trouble... if there's a driver for it handy. Otherwise, you could try the following instead...

Remote Access

Much the same way dial-up customers connected to the Internet by entering a username and password for their ISP, Windows NT users can remotely log on to a server and access its shared resources through a telephone line. This basically meant some users could work from home, or perhaps somewhere else. Did the local Booger King ever allow customers to unplug the landline telephone and hook their laptop into the phone jack? Considering how obscene some landline phone bills tend to be, I hold my doubts, but it is a pretty cool concept nonetheless. I suppose it's less than ideal if you're gonna be moving a cord around that probably has lead on it as you're eating that Royal with Big Cheese... so comes public Wi-Fi.

Windows 95 also had a dial-up server program of its own in the Microsoft Plus expansion, but it was incredibly crude compared to Windows NT RAS. Windows NT RAS permits accessing the internet from the server which the client connects to, so as long as TCP/IP is the protocol being used. This client can be either Windows NT or Windows 95; it's the server that makes all the difference.

List of modems in Windows NT 4.0

Of course, if you do not have any such setup where you can create your own internal phone network for testing (yes, that is a thing), you can just use an RS-232 null modem. They're cheap, common, and as straightforward as can be. That is what I opted to use for this demonstration of RAS. Most desktops from this time have two serial ports, so trying this out with more than two computers should be easy.

For the user to be able to log in remotely in the first place, they need to be granted the dialin permission beforehand. Both the client and server must also have a protocol installed which can be agreed on; generally, I just use NetBEUI and TCP/IP. Even without an actual modem, one can still connect from Windows 95 to Windows NT using the Direct Cable Connection program. It may be possible for Windows NT to share a full-blown internet connection with Windows 95 through a null modem using that program as well, I don't know for sure. All I can say is that while it'll definitely be slow if it works, reaching Razorback should fare much better than most other websites.

It seems Windows NT has trouble joining a domain remotely unless a newer service pack is installed on the client, but it can at least connect to the server otherwise. Either way, I wouldn't rely on RAS for getting the stuff you need loaded over the network because of how slow it is. At most, it should be an intermediary means of getting an actual LAN driver installed, and even then, if you have a floppy disk or CD-ROM handy or you have a way to plug the laptop's hard drive into another computer to drop the drivers in, you should opt for that instead. Moreover, HyperTerminal exists as a more convenient option for sending the required network driver over a null modem, anyway.


1 Microsoft Releases Service Pack 4.0 for Windows NT Workstation 4.0 And Windows NT Server 4.0