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I doubt this is much you can do to make it more reliable, generally, if its the same operating system and you’re using static (fixed) IP for the Host you should be OK. It might be better to used static IP for the clients as well (if this is possible)

Making sure both client and host are running the same service packs for Windows XP is also recommended.

We have a similar setup on a small network, and the host is running Windows 98SE and the client Windows 2000. We rarely have any issues with connecting, if there is a problem usually is it resolved by restarting the Host and then restarting the clients (allowing enough time for the Host to first reboot and wait for connections from clients)