So you’ve made the change. Dial-up internet access was just not fast enough for you anymore. Today’s computers, combined with portable MP3 players and media players are simply not going to perform as promised running on a 56K modem. The problem comes along when your office computer, your kid’s laptop, and your partner’s PC need the flexibility of those old phone lines without the expense of individual modems and cable hookups. The solution? A basic home network.
Time was, you had to have at least a network certification to configure one of these set-ups. Today, using Windows XP, or a similar operating system, all you need are some basic instructions, and the hardware. The wizards that are built in to your system will do the rest. You can actually share files between computers, and print to a central printer simply by following some basic instructions.
- First, let’s get an equipment list. Assuming you have your broadband connection up and running, we will need the following materials.
- A network interface card, or NIC, usually Ethernet 10/100MPS
- A router, either wired or wireless
- If your network is wireless, network adapter cards for each computer
- If your network is wired, NIC cards for each computer
- CAT5 wire with RF jacks for wired systems
In the interest of simplicity, and because you have a choice, I recommend a wireless system. The costs are basically the same, and it’s a lot easier to maneuver with a wireless system. The days of drilling into walls and cramming your PC into corners to fit the connection are gone.
So, let’s get to work.
Your main PC will act as your server. It is the server on which all the settings for the other PCs are stored. You will install a NIC into the computer by following the instructions on the package. Once it has been installed, you will attach your primary cable to the modem as if you are connecting one computer to the internet.
However, instead of connecting directly, you will connect to the INPUT jack of your router, according to the instructions. The output line will then connect to your PC. Now, the main connection has been made. Open your Network connection wizard, after installing the wireless network adapter cards into each of the PCs on the network. Your connections will configure automatically, and you will be prompted to name each connection.
What is actually happening is that your ISP (internet Service Provider) is seeing only your router as a connection. Your router is given an IP address, which will usually start with 192. This is similar to a phone number, or address, on the LAN (Large Area Network). Your router will then assign internal IPs to each computer. For example, let’s say that my computer’s router is given the address 192.01.23.123.
Inside the router, or inside our home network, the router gives me internal IPs like 126.96.36.199 through 188.8.131.52. I will assign each computer its own address, which will be addressed within the network. So, if an e-mail is addressed to me at the IP ending with 101, it will not go to the computer with the address ending in 102. The router will direct the traffic according to the address. Other devices, such as a printer or a media server will also be given an address. That is what the wireless adapter does. It attaches the computer to the network, and answers to the address the router will assign to it.
This is a basic overview of home networking. There are advanced features, of course, such as port control, and file-sharing, but this is enough to get your home network up and running.
Files stored on the main computer, or server, can be made available to the other computers, or clients, simply by selecting share folder’ in your folder properties.
Again, for a business, you may want to set up a system that is a bit more sophisticated, but for home usage, you can simply share or not share, according to need, and set restrictions and allowances as you see fit. For more information on file sharing, or to learn how to set up a network for business use, I would suggest a course on basic networking.
Now that you have your network set up, you will enjoy the flexibility of shared internet connection, as well as shared resources.