not essential you can set up ics without a router the downside being both machines would have to be running to use the internet asone would act as the gateway a router would allow them to connect independantly of each other
Once you have your two network cards and your crossover cable, use the network setup wizard on your xp machine - theres a setup option if you go into My Network Places. This will create a disk to setup your other machine.
Both machines will only have to be on if you want to use the internet connection on the machine that doesn't have the modem attached to it. Obviously if you want to use the internet on the machine with the modem attached you don't have to have the other one on. Unless you do get a router then it doesn't matter!
you could wirelessly connect your two pc's for a small price using to ?40 usb wireless adaptors setup in ad-hoc mode. this will also allow you surf the net although i've heard that it can be a little slow at times.
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