The variety of options for home networking can make buying decisions difficult. Before you decide what hardware to get, you should decide what type of network technology (the way computers in a network connect to or communicate with one another) to use. This article describes and compares the most common network technologies and lists hardware requirements for each.
The most common types of network technology are wireless, Ethernet, Ethernet over Power (home electrical lines) and HPNA (home phone line). When choosing a network technology, consider the location of your computers, desired speed of your network, and how much you want to spend. The sections below compare these three technologies.
Once you know what type of network you want and have the necessary hardware, there are four possible steps to take (two of these are not always required):
1. Install any necessary hardware.
2. Set up an Internet connection (optional).
3. Connect the computers.
4. Run the Set Up a Wireless Router or Access Point wizard (wireless only).
Each of these steps is described in detail further down.
Start by setting up one computer. Once you set up the network and you are sure that the first computer is working correctly, you can add additional computers or devices.
Install the hardware
Install network adapters in any computers that need them. (Follow the installation instructions in the information that came with each adapter.)
Set up or verify an Internet connection (optional)
You don’t need an Internet connection to set up a network, although most people want to use their network to share an Internet connection. To set up an Internet connection, you need a cable or DSL modem and an account with an Internet service provider (ISP). Then open the Connect to the Internet wizard and follow the instructions. For more information, see What do I need to connect to the Internet?
If you already have an Internet connection, you just need to verify that the connection is working. To do that, open your web browser and go to a website that you don’t usually visit. (If you go to a website that you visit often, some of its webpages might be stored on your computer and will display correctly even if your connection is faulty.) If the website opens and you don’t get any error messages, your connection is working.
To share an Internet connection
You can also share one Internet connection among two or more network computers. To do that, you can either use an intermediary device or set up Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). Your ISP might charge a fee for multiple Internet connections. Ask your ISP for information about this.
Use an intermediary device. You can use a router or a combined router and modem (also called an Internet gateway) to share an Internet connection. If you use a router, connect it to both the modem and the computer with the Internet connection, and then verify your Internet connection again. The information that came with the router should include connection instructions. If you use a combined router and modem, plug it into any computer. Check the information that came with the device for more detailed connection instructions.
Note: The router and modem must be turned on to use the Internet connection from any of the computers on your network.
Set up ICS. If you want to share an Internet connection and you don’t want to buy any more equipment, you can set up ICS on the computer that is connected to the modem. That computer will also need two network adapters: one to connect to the modem and one to connect to the other computer. ICS is not included with Windows Vista Starter.
Connect the computers
There are several ways to connect computers—the configuration depends on the type of network adapters, modem, and Internet connection that you have. It also depends on whether or not you want to share an Internet connection among all the computers on the network.
Run the Set Up a Wireless Router or Access Point wizard
If your network is wireless, run the Set up a Wireless Router or Access Point wizard on the computer attached to the router.
•Open Set Up a Wireless Router or Access Point by clicking the Start button , clicking Control Panel, clicking Network and Internet, and then clicking Network and Sharing Center. In the left pane, click Set up a connection or network, and then click Set up a wireless router or access point.
The wizard will walk you through the process of adding other computers and devices to the network.
Enable sharing on your network
If you want to share files and printers on your network, make sure your network location type is set to Private and that network discovery, file sharing, and printer sharing are turned on.