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In the early days when we were on dialup, in order to share the internet connection we ran a program called Wingate on the PC that acted as a gateway, and on all the clients. Wingate had a file cache that you could set the size of, and we could also add URLs to an exception list to ensure you got always got fresh copies from websites that required it. The big advantage of the cache (apart from faster page loads) was that updates for all the PC's on the network weren't downloaded multiple times.

Now we run Windows XP internet connection sharing and it doesn't seem to have this. Is there a way of bolting a file cache onto a Windows ICS gateway?

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Wingate is still around and has a free 3 user version. wingate.com –  Brian Jul 31 '13 at 11:19
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No. Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) uses Network Address Translation (NAT) technology without an intelligent Application Layer Gateway (ALG) for HTTP. WinGate, as I recall, allowed access as an Internet Gateway Device employing NAT and / or as a proxy server for HTTP. I don't recall if it had ALG support for HTTP.

NAT without an HTTP ALG wouldn't be able to do what you're asking for here -- it doesn't inspect the data that flows through it except at a very, very low level -- so low that it doesn't have any notion of what files are, nevermind caching. But that doesn't preclude you from running a proxy server to allow for caching on the same machine that's running ICS.

In more detail: NAT (as performed by ICS, without an ALG) tracks connections between your LAN and the rest of the Internet. A proxy server (as performed by one of the functions of WinGate, or as performed by a NAT with an HTTP ALG) tracks HTTP requests. Connections have no notion of "cacheability" while HTTP requests and responses do. If you want such behavior, you can use a NAT with an appropriate HTTP ALG, or install a proxy server with caching capability on the same host as ICS and use the proxy server for HTTP traffic.

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