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I've been rummaging through my garage, and I found my old 486 lying around. It has a 66 MHz of processing power and a 14.4 kilobaud modem.

I'm looking for a way to share the internet connection on my laptop to the 486 through its modem. The 486 is current OS independent, however I will most likely install a small linux distro on it (suggestions welcome -- it only has 8 mb of ram). I also probably have my Windows 95 CDs lying around, but I'd prefer something slightly more modern. The laptop is running Windows XP.

What is the best approach to getting my 486 online? What software do you recommend?


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do you want to use it for anything serious, or just as a gateway ? Who is supposed to route the packets? your laptop or the 486 ? – Stefano Borini Aug 21 '09 at 2:46
I'm looking for it to go Internet -> Laptop -> 486. Naw it's not for anything serious, just for the fun of getting my 486 online. – Joey Robert Aug 21 '09 at 2:50
It's a pity, but computer like this eats more power than it costs by itself. – Alex Bolotov Sep 1 '09 at 21:33

Your old 486 probably has some ISA slots, so the easiest thing to do is buy an ISA ethernet card to put in it. You can get them on eBay: Look here

As far as the OS, yes try Damn Small Linux or Puppy Linux but it will be tight with 8mb. Try getting the OS running before you buy a network card... :)

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This article might be perfect for you. It uses tomsrtbt and runs off a 486DX/50. Boots off a single floppy.

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Modems generally can't connect to each other without a dial tone. Perhaps you can configure the computer to ignore it, but then how are you going to handle the fact that the other end won't ring? Modems are built for POTS. Unless you can get your laptop's modem to fake the phone system, not happening.

Serial cables for connecting computers together are called Null Modem cables. You might be able to dig up dusty old howtos, but most serial connections these days are serial consoles, not SLIP (serial line internet protocol).

I wonder if you could use SLIP...

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...because 486's ALWAYS had at least 1 serial port; pull the modem and it'll free up. The other would be used for the mouse if your 486 didn't have PS/2 ports. – Broam Mar 5 '10 at 14:29

If the modem is a telephone modem, and you have the ethernet free in your laptop, you can set up an internal ethernet network, using the laptop as a NAT gateway. If you are using the laptop eth to get on the internet via a cable modem, then you don't have many chances to connect the 486 to the laptop. You cannot:

  • use WiFi, as finding a wifi card for a 486 will be very hard if not impossible
  • use serial connection, as I guess the laptop does not have a serial port

So the only things you can do is to plug a USB/eth adapter in the laptop, and use it to create a local network with the 486. On win, I have no idea how to setup things. On Linux, you will have to play with iptables on the laptop, for NAT/masquerading. On the 486, you will have to setup the ethernet connection and say the laptop's internal ip is your gateway.

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USB-Serial adapters might fix the issue, but then again...they're meant for peripherals, not networking. – Broam Mar 5 '10 at 14:33

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