Linking computers to create a network greatly expands their capacity and can even save you money. Networking two or more computers allows you to:
* Share a single Internet connection: Windows XP has a feature called Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). Using ICS, one computer, called the ICS host, shares its Internet connection with the rest of the computers on the network. This can save you money on fees to an Internet service provider (ISP).
* Share a printer, scanner, and other hardware: This can save you the cost of buying peripheral devices for each computer.
* Share files and folders: This makes it easier to share information and collaborate with other people on the network.
* Play multi-computer games: By networking and sharing an Internet connection at home, family members can play games on separate computers with each other or on the Internet.
Windows XP makes setting up a small network easy enough to accomplish without hiring a professional. First you must link your computers together by installing appropriate hardware in each and by joining the computers with wires or by means of wireless technology. This article explains the process from start to finish. Youll learn how to choose the right network technology, the right hardware components to obtain, and how to install and connect them properly. A final section explains how to protect your network from outside hackers by creating a secure barrier called a firewall.
You'll need to base your network on one or more of the network technologies, or types, described below. In every case, however, you'll need these basics:
* One computer equipped with Windows XP and Internet access. This computer will serve as the network's central unit, or Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) host. It should be your fastest, most capable machine.
* One or more additional computers running Windows XP, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows 98 Second Edition, or Windows 98. These computers are called clients and will connect to the ICS host.
* An individual network adapter for each computer.
You can include Windows 95, Windows 2000, Macintosh or UNIX/Linux computers on your network. However, these computers may require additional software to allow you to share folders or a printer. Consult the documentation that came with those computers.
While there are several different network types, this article explains the three most popular types for small networks:
* Ethernet: The current standard technology and the one used by most businesses; links computers via special cable and a device called a hub.
* HPNA (home phoneline network adapter): Links computers via existing household telephone wiring.
* Wireless: Links computers without wiring, by using radio signals.
The following table lists other properties, advantages and disadvantages of each network type:
Ethernet HPNA Wireless
Hardware needed in addition to network adapter Ethernet RJ-45 cables and a network hub. Telephone cables and phone jacks May need an access point, a piece of hardware that acts as a central transmitter of radio signals between computers. Using an access point allows networking between any two computers on the system and expands the area radio signals are sent.
Advantages Currently the fastest, most reliable, least costly network technology. Most DSL and cable modems use Ethernet connections. Easy installation; computers simply plug into ordinary phone jacks. Mobile; you can move your laptop or desktop computer from room to room while remaining connected to the network.
Disadvantages Requires cables linking computers or Ethernet wiring (similar to phone wiring) installed in walls. Requires a phone jack near each computer. All networked computers must be within a specified distance to communicate with each other. Currently, wireless networks lack some of the capability of networks using physical connections. The cost of an access point is an additional expense to setting up the system.
All computers on a network require a hardware device called a network adapter. The easiest and fastest network adapters to install are external; that is, they connect to a computer via the USB port on the outside of the machine.
Internal network adapters must be installed inside the computer, requiring you to open or remove the computer housing. It is recommended that a qualified technician install an internal network adapter.
To help determine which network technology best suits your needs answer these questions:
* How many computers do you have?
* Where are they locatedare they in the same room or different rooms?
* Are any of your computers laptops?
* Do any of your computers have network adapters installed? If so, what are their types (Ethernet, HPNA, or wireless)?
Apply your answers to the following examples of network layouts and configurations. These suggest how to use the different hardware choices available and can guide you in deciding which hardware you need to buy.
Computers In the Same Room
You have all of your computers in the same room. In this example, the most cost-effective network technology is Ethernet. If none of the computers has an Ethernet network adapter, purchase:
* One USB Ethernet network adapter for each computer.
* One Ethernet network hub with enough ports for connecting each computer.
* RJ-45 network cables for each computer.
Ethernet network with computers in the same room
Another solution is to buy wireless network adapters for each computer. An added advantage of using wireless adapters, besides eliminating the need for physical wires, is that you can easily add other wireless-equipped computerssuch as laptopslater.
It is common in either setup to connect the ICS host computer to the Internet via an external DSL or cable modem attached to an Ethernet network adapter. Should you do this, you must purchase a second Ethernet or wireless network adapter for the host computer. The second adapter is necessary so the computer can communicate with the other computers on the network.
Computers In Different Rooms
In this network example, youve recently purchased your new Windows XP computer and set it up in your office. You have moved your older computer into another room. The new computerwhich is the ICS hosthas an Ethernet network adapter attached to an external DSL or cable modem.
If there are phone jacks located near each computer, purchase:
* One external USB HPNA network adapter for each computer.
Home phoneline network using an external DSL or cable modem
Home phoneline network adapter (HPNA) kits are available that make it easy to network two computers together. You simply plug the network adapter into the USB port on the computer and into the phone jack. The computers are then networked together.
As in the previous setup example, another solution is to purchase wireless network adapters for both computers. Simply plug an adapter into the USB port on each, and the two computers can communicate using radio signals.
Computers In the Same and Different Rooms
In this example, you have a couple of computers in the same room, computers in other rooms, and a laptop. One of the two computers located in the same room is running Windows XP and has an external DSL or cable modem attached to an Ethernet network adapter. This computer is the ICS host. The other computer in this room also has an Ethernet network adapter. For these two computers, purchase:
* One Ethernet network adapter for the ICS host computer (in addition to the Ethernet adapter this computer already contains).
* One Ethernet network hub.
* RJ-45 network cables to connect each computer to the hub.
Mixed network environment using an external DSL or cable modem
For the computers in other rooms that do not have network adapters, purchase:
* External USB HPNA network adapters for each computer.
* One HPNA network adapter for the ICS host computer.
Purchasing HPNA adapters assumes the computers are located near telephone jacks. If they are not, or as an alternative, purchase:
* Wireless network adapters for each computer, including the ICS host.
Finally, for the laptoplets assume it contains a wireless network adapterpurchase:
* One wireless network adapter for the ICS host computer, unless it already contains one.
Notice that in this example the ICS host computer must contain four separate network adapters! A simpler solution for such a complex network setup would be to install wireless network adapters on all computers.
Sketch Your Own Setup
The locations of your own network componentscomputers, printer, and so forthand the distances between them probably will influence your choice of network type and wiring installation.
To better visualize your needs, you might want to sketch the floor plan of your home or office showing the location of each device you intend to connect. Indicate the locations of electrical and telephone outlets, and obstacles to wiring such as walls and areas where exposed network cable might either be dangerous or unsightly. Then join the devices by sketching in the paths of the various cables required to connect them. If your Windows XP computer is going to share its Internet connection, note that in the sketch, too.
When youve made up your mind about the type of network thats best for you, make a list of all the components you will need. It may help to start by listing all the equipment you have already; that way you can more easily spot what is missing. Heres an example of how such a list might look for a home network:
Computer Type of network adapter installed Type of Internet connection Other devices connected
Primary computer (ICS host) Ethernet DSL Color Printer
Secondary computer None Internal 56k modem Digital camera
Laptop None None None
Third computer Ethernet Internal 28.8k modem Printer
Afterward, compare your list to the items required for the network youve chosen:
Network type Network adapters needed Hub type Cables
Ethernet One for each computerall must operate at the same speed One that supports the number of computers in your network RJ-45 network cables for each computer in your network
Home phoneline network adapter (HPNA) One for each computer None Telephone cables to run from each computer to a phone jack
Wireless One for each computer None None
When youve obtained everything youll need to build your network, arrange the parts in their proper locations. Next, if you are using Ethernet or HPNA components, link the computers by running cable between them (Ethernet) or connecting each computer to the telephone wiring via a phone jack (HPNA), or by simply installing the wireless network adapter.
Run Windows XP Network Setup Wizard
The final step is to run Windows XP Network Setup Wizard. Youll need to do this first on the ICS host computer, then on each of the client computers. The wizard guides you through the following steps:
* Configuring your network adapters.
* Configuring all of your computers to share one Internet connection.
* Naming each computer.
* Automatically sharing the Shared Files folder with the computers on the network.
* Automatically sharing printers that are connected to computers on the network.
* Installing a firewall.
* Installing network bridging components.
* Installing Internet Connection Sharing Discovery and Control components.
To run Network Setup Wizard on the Windows XP ICS host computer
1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
2. Click Network and Internet Connections, and then click Set up or change your home or small office network.
Follow the instructions that appear on the screen. Designate this computer (the host) as the one sharing its Internet connection. After running the wizard on your ICS host computer, run it on the client computers by performing the following steps:
To run Network Setup Wizard on the clients
1. Insert the Windows XP CD-ROM.
2. On the menu that appears, click Perform Additional Tasks.
3. On the next menu that appears, click Setup home or small office networking.
If you do not own a Windows XP CD-ROM, you can copy Network Setup Wizard onto a floppy disk while running the wizard on the ICS host computer. Then use the floppy disk to run the wizard on the client computers. The floppy disk is created when you run Network Setup Wizard.
If you ran Network Setup Wizard and did not create a floppy disk, youll need to run the wizard again to create the floppy disk. While running the wizard, make sure you use the same settings as when you ran the wizard the first time.
To run Network Setup Wizard from a floppy disk
1. Insert the network setup disk into the computer you want to network.
2. Double-click My Computer.
3. Double-click 3½ Floppy (A
4. Double-click netsetup.exe.
The wizard tests to make sure everything on your network is functioning correctly
When you create a network connected to the Internet, you increase the vulnerability of your computers to unauthorized access, including viruses. To protect your network, you need to create a type of barrier called a firewall. Windows XP comes with a firewall that you create when setting up a small network.
How Does a Firewall Work?
Like an actual firewall built to prevent fire from spreading between adjoining buildings, computer firewalls prevent the spread of unauthorized communication between an individual computer or group of networked computers and the Internet. One of the most effective ways to protect a small networkand the least expensiveis to create a firewall on the ICS host computer, and to make sure that computer is the only one on the network with a direct connection to the Internet.
Ethernet network with firewall
Other Network Possibilities
Another way to protect a small network is to use a hardware device called a residential gateway, or router.
A residential gateway contains a firewall and replaces an ICS host computer as the central Internet connection. Because it contains no files, folders or other data, and cannot be used to manipulate computers to which it is linked, a residential gateway offers a greater degree of protection than an ICS host computer. Should a hacker manage to bypass the firewall, the only access gained is to the device, which is in effect empty. A disadvantage of a residential gateway is the extra cost it adds to putting together a network.
You can create a small network having neither an ICS host computer nor a residential gateway, but at a high cost to securityand convenience. With such a setup, Internet access can be obtained by linking each computer directly to the Internet service provider via the computer's own modem, or else all computers on the network can be linked to an Ethernet hub, which functions as a central Internet connection.
Computer connected directly to Internet
Neither of these methods provides firewall protection; and while Internet Connection Firewall can be enabled on networked computers running Windows XP, doing so prevents those computers from sharing files and devices such as printers.
*NOTE* dont read it all, skim through it ^_^