By setting up a network between multiple computers, files, printers and internet connections can be shared. See more laptop pictures. Getty Images
If you have multiple computers in your home, networking them is a great idea! There are several big advantages to setting up an in-home network:
- If one of the computers has a printer attached, then the other computer can print to it over the network.
- If one of the computers has certain files on it, someone on the other computer can access those files over the network rather than having to copy them onto a disk or memory stick.
- If you like playing multi-user computer games that have network capabilities built in, then two people can play these games together over the network.
- If you connect to the Internet with one of the computers, the other computer can use that same connection over the network. So one computer can connect to the Internet with a modem and the other computer will route its Internet traffic through that single connection.
Networking PCs has gotten easier and a lot less expensive, but it is still a little bit of a challenge. How Home Networking Works discusses the whole thing in detail, but see the next page to see some quick answers.
Home Network Setup Options
Buying home network hardware, like this hub, is one option for setting up a home network.
One way to do it is to buy and install network cards in both machines if you computers don’t already have built-in cards. You can go to an electronics store and get an inexpensive network card for $20 to $30 these days. You have to open the computer to plug the card in, and then install the driver software. You also have to purchase two network cables ($10 to $20 each) and a small hub ($30 to $40) to physically connect the two machines together. Once you get it all together, the two machines should be able to talk to each other.
This approach has two advantages:
- The network will be very fast — up to 100 Mbps, and at least 10 Mbps.
- It only costs about $100.
It has two disadvantages:
- You have to open the case and install a card if your computer doesn’t come with a built-in card, which intimidates some people.
- You have to run thick network cables around the house. If the computers are in the same room that’s okay, but if they are on different floors it can be messy.
You can solve that second disadvantage by purchasing radio modems instead. They cost more but are very easy to connect to one another.
Another path you can follow is something like the Intel AnyPoint Network. Instead of using special network cables, you use your home’s telephone wiring to connect computers together (this causes no interference when using the phone for normal calls — your phone and the network share the same wire). In addition, you can buy a version of the Intel system that uses a USB port, so installation is extremely easy. You can also purchase cards, which are faster.
The big advantage of the Intel system is the use of phone wiring. Simply plug all the computers in your house into phone jacks and they can talk to each other. You also don’t need to buy a hub. The disadvantages include:
- Higher prices (for the USB version)
- Slower speeds (for the USB version)
However, installation takes just a few minutes.
Besides phone-line networking, you can also use power-line networking and wireless networking to connect your computers. Read How Home Networking Works to learn about the different approaches.
Once you install the physical network, the Windows operating system makes connecting your computers simple. You can use the Network Neighborhood feature to share files and printers. The Intel system comes with software to share an Internet connection, or you can use the version built into Windows 98 and later.
Check out the links on the next page for more home networking information.
Frequently Answered Questions
How do I network two computers together?
There are many ways to network two computers together. One way is to connect them using an Ethernet cable. Another way is to use a wireless router.
What are the 4 main types of computer networks?
The four main types of computer networks are: Local Area Network (LAN), PAN(Personal Area Network), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN), and Wide Area Network (WAN).
What’s the meaning of network computer?
A network computer is a computer that connects to a server in order to access applications and data. Network computers typically do not have a hard drive or other internal storage devices, and they rely on the server for all processing and storage.
Lots More Information
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- How Home Networking Works
- How Ethernet Works
- How Power-line Networking Works
- How Phone-line Networking Works
- How Wireless Networking Works
- Home Networking Quiz
- 5 Tips for Improving Your Wireless Connection
More Great Links
- EA Support: Setting Up and Troubleshooting a Network
- Intel AnyPoint Network