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  • Disconnected (air-gapped) controller PCs


    Based on the forums I peruse it appears a lot of CNC'ers choose to keep their controller PC disconnected (air-gapped) from the internet or even their home/business network.

    Why do you choose to air-gap your controller PC from the internet or even other computers on your home network? Is this a security concern? Do the automated Windows updates cause issues with WinCNC and other software needed for CNC operations?

    I'm curious about the rationale behind the decision as I consider my options to air gap or not. I'm leaning towards adding it to my network for the sake of convenience - like saving and sharing project files - but I have to perform my due diligence.
    ---

    Scott
    2020 Stinger II SR-44
    Vectric VCarve Pro 10.5
    Bricsys BricsCAD V21 Mechanical
  • #2

    I don't choose to do that. My CNC control machine is on my network for my convenience, both for updating software and for moving files from my office in the house to my shop via OneDrive. I have zero concerns about this after 38 years in the IT and telecom industry in technical capacities. Windows will not update automatically with the factory setup (which eliminates sudden surprise updates) and I can choose when to update that as well as update Aspire which is generally an online process at this point. (yes you can do it manually, but that's a pain, IMHO) I'm not worries about viruses, etc., because I don't access email on that machine and it's well protected anyway. The CNC control machine is the only Windows box on my network...

    That said, I'm not a production shop that's running non-stop. I may or may not be more restrictive in that setting.
    ---
    Jim Becker

    SR-44 (2018), 1.7kw spindle, Performance Premium, USB, Keypad, T-Slot table (y-axis configuration), WinCNC, VCarve Pro upgraded to Aspire

    Non CNC stuff...

    SCM/Minimax
    Festool "a good collection"
    Stubby - lathe
    Oneida Cyclone
    more...

    Retired from full time work in the telecom industry 9/2017
    Occasional commission work for others, but mostly for me...furniture/tack trunks/signage/guitars
    Located Bucks County PA

    Comment

    • #3

      One of the biggest concerns is focus. If WinCNC doesn't have the focus then the escape key or the spacebar won't work in case of the need for an immediate stop. There is also concerns that a secondary running program will hog the processor and cause WinCNC to miss or skip steps. Windows update for example.

      That said, my computer in the shop is always on the internet and I haven't had a problem (yet).
      Last edited by SteveNelson46; 06-18-2020, 12:56 PM.
      Steve
      __________________
      Camaster Stinger 1 with Recoil (2019)
      FTC
      1hp Spindle
      Laser crosshair
      Wireless Pendant
      Aspire 10.5

      Comment

      • #4

        My Machine PC is online direct and running basicall 24/7 as i rarely shut it off. this one has been since 2012

        I do have the power set to never shut off and it does not recieve updates. it has WINcnc Aspire and Moziak as the only programs other than Google Chrome

        it has all Solid state drives
        James McGrew
        CAMaster ATC 508
        The principle of Measure twice cut once has not been replaced by a CNC

        www.mcgrewwoodwork.com

        https://www.facebook.com/pg/Mcgrew-W...=page_internal

        Camera 1 ATC Closeup !
        https://video.nest.com/live/esNTrZ

        fixed 4-27-2020

        Comment

        • #5

          My machine is wired on my network. I save design files on my server so I can work on them from either the workshop or my PC. Tap file have to be on my WinCNC’s C drive for them to be able to be loaded. I let windows update automatically, and I’ve even updated WinCNC manually once. Never had issues because of Win updates.
          Gary
          2018 Stinger II SR-44, 1.7kW Spindle, Performance Premium, Recoil, Gantry Lift, Cyclone
          Fusion 360
          Aspire

          Comment

          • #6

            Originally posted by SteveNelson46 View Post
            One of the biggest concerns is focus. If WinCNC doesn't have the focus then the escape key or the spacebar won't work in case of the need for an immediate stop.
            This is a really good point about window focus that I run into sometimes when I'm making an adjustment to a file while another one is running and a tool change pops up.

            I keep my backup Macbook Pro into the shop so I could do other things without using the Windows box and it also has the advantage of my being able to sit at the bench with it rather than stand which is required for my CNC controller keyboard/rodent/screen.
            ---
            Jim Becker

            SR-44 (2018), 1.7kw spindle, Performance Premium, USB, Keypad, T-Slot table (y-axis configuration), WinCNC, VCarve Pro upgraded to Aspire

            Non CNC stuff...

            SCM/Minimax
            Festool "a good collection"
            Stubby - lathe
            Oneida Cyclone
            more...

            Retired from full time work in the telecom industry 9/2017
            Occasional commission work for others, but mostly for me...furniture/tack trunks/signage/guitars
            Located Bucks County PA

            Comment

            • #7

              Thanks for the replies. I'm glad I didn't get a bunch of replies with "keep it off the network at all cost" and end up using USB sticks (modern sneaker-net) for file transfers.
              ---

              Scott
              2020 Stinger II SR-44
              Vectric VCarve Pro 10.5
              Bricsys BricsCAD V21 Mechanical

              Comment

              • #8

                I take my laptop to the shop. It runs quite a bit faster than the cnc pc, plus it has all my stuff on it.

                My camaster pc is easily upgradable though. Decent board, common socket, room for gpu. Might need a bigger power supply to do these things.
                Jpscustomshop@gmail.com

                Industrial electrician by day, Cabinet and furniture maker by evening and weekend. Cnc newb.

                June 2017 Stinger 3 SR48
                3kw spindle, FTC, Laser, Recoil, Hurricane
                V Carve, Mozaik

                Comment

                • #9

                  I did upgrade the memory on the Camaster supplied computer from 4GB to 8GB. It's a little snappier when WinCNC and Aspire are both running, although both ran fine with just 4GB. Neither is memory intensive, per se, but having more breathing room isn't horrible nor is it expensive. But again, I prefer using another computer for general browsing, accounting, etc., when the machine is running.
                  ---
                  Jim Becker

                  SR-44 (2018), 1.7kw spindle, Performance Premium, USB, Keypad, T-Slot table (y-axis configuration), WinCNC, VCarve Pro upgraded to Aspire

                  Non CNC stuff...

                  SCM/Minimax
                  Festool "a good collection"
                  Stubby - lathe
                  Oneida Cyclone
                  more...

                  Retired from full time work in the telecom industry 9/2017
                  Occasional commission work for others, but mostly for me...furniture/tack trunks/signage/guitars
                  Located Bucks County PA

                  Comment

                  • #10

                    8 gigs ram dual computer screens online

                    8 gigs ram dual computer screens online
                    Attached Files
                    James McGrew
                    CAMaster ATC 508
                    The principle of Measure twice cut once has not been replaced by a CNC

                    www.mcgrewwoodwork.com

                    https://www.facebook.com/pg/Mcgrew-W...=page_internal

                    Camera 1 ATC Closeup !
                    https://video.nest.com/live/esNTrZ

                    fixed 4-27-2020

                    Comment

                    • #11

                      You need at least one dissenting point.....

                      I wrote this in 2006 and stand by it today in 2020. My PC delivered with the machine still boots in 30 seconds flat (I just measured it). No upgrades to anything.

                      From 2006 post:
                      I have seen this question come up before and have intentionally not responded because I did not want to get a bunch a flak.
                      So I think I may regret this...

                      What I'm going to say is not something I read somewhere else. I have been implementing control PC's (and PLC's) for 25 years on high speed production machinery.
                      Every single performance issue I have ever seen is because (in this order):
                      1) The PC was hooked to the Internet or an Intranet. "Things" such as patches, anti virus updates, viruses, cookies.... you name it, slowly load up the controller/ drive so that it is no longer high performance. Anyone that has bought a new PC and then noticed a slowdown a year or 2 later has experienced this.
                      2) Other software was loaded on the machine and run at the same time the control software was run. Processor now has to do double duty and performance suffers.

                      The PC that ships with your machine will run the machine flawlessly. The wincnc board in the PC is doing most of the work anyway. If you upgraded the PC and then just ran wincnc, you would not see any improvement.

                      I would consider that instead of upgrading the PC and trying to surf/ multitask, take the "upgrade" $ and put it toward a $600 notebook so you can design anywhere you go. That's what I do.

                      My machine is 3+ years old, never hooked to anything else other than usb memory to transfer tap files, no extra software installed, no anti-virus and it boots in 15 seconds and wincnc pops right up and runs as fast as it did on day 1.
                      John Stanley Stinger II 3'x4', FTC, Laser, 1.7 Kw HSD w/ AB 523 SVC drive, V Carve Pro 8, WinCNC

                      Comment

                      • #12

                        John, two years in and my WinCNC machine from Camaster boots in about 15-20 seconds to the Windows login screen. There's been no cluttering to-date with normal updating (manual, not automatic) that I've experienced. But to your point, the only third party applications on it are WinCNC and Aspire as well as Chrome which is my preferred browser. No email, no third party AV, etc. Transfering files via USB would require a very long walk in my case...and require using a special dongle to adapt USB-C to the older USB that is on the Windows box. OneDrive solved that problem for me.

                        I think the bottom line is to take great care with the WinCNC machine, whether that's having it disconnected or connected. It's good to have choices!
                        ---
                        Jim Becker

                        SR-44 (2018), 1.7kw spindle, Performance Premium, USB, Keypad, T-Slot table (y-axis configuration), WinCNC, VCarve Pro upgraded to Aspire

                        Non CNC stuff...

                        SCM/Minimax
                        Festool "a good collection"
                        Stubby - lathe
                        Oneida Cyclone
                        more...

                        Retired from full time work in the telecom industry 9/2017
                        Occasional commission work for others, but mostly for me...furniture/tack trunks/signage/guitars
                        Located Bucks County PA

                        Comment

                        • #13

                          Fwiw

                          My Stinger PC is 24/7 and online for years. I upgraded the memory, removed the CD player and replaced with hard drive for backups. I have a USB external if I need one which I seldom do. I upgraded Windows 7 to 10. I use Norton 360 and Malwarebytes for security. I use Windows Outlook and Aspire 10 along with WinCNC of course. I cloned the original drive the day I turned on the computer so I have a new hard drive ready to go just in case.

                          I do not use a home network. I sneakernet if needed. All my machines are hard wired as are all my other devices except for my Wife's smart phone and a small tablet I keep near my TV chair for searches. I back up my back ups for safety to separate hard drives. Every six months I clone my C: drive to a flash drive on all machines. I have had minor issues and for the few major ones but I just recover back a few hours or a day. I do not use the cloud. It takes some time to be safe but it is worth it IMHO.
                          Last edited by keithrhyde; 06-19-2020, 12:52 PM. Reason: add use
                          Keith Hyde, Winchester, VA
                          2016 Stinger 1, 1.7KW HF Spindle HSD
                          Performance Package Pro, Vac, lathe, Aspire 10
                          Former Marine and retired Seabee Master Chief.
                          Furniture is my hobby not my vocation.
                          hyde.consulting@comcast.net

                          Comment

                          • #14

                            I upgraded my machine to 8GB as well. The only app I’ve installed was gvim for editing.
                            Gary
                            2018 Stinger II SR-44, 1.7kW Spindle, Performance Premium, Recoil, Gantry Lift, Cyclone
                            Fusion 360
                            Aspire

                            Comment

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