Learn everything you need to set up a home network.
This guide explains everything you need to know to network two or more computers in a simple wired and/or wireless home network.
Before we begin
When a network is working it’s a beautiful thing. When a network is not working it’s one of the most aggravating things you’ll come across when dealing with computers. If things don’t work out the first time when setting up your home network don’t give up. It’s well worth the trouble.
In this guide I’m assuming you have a wired or wireless router to use in networking the computers together. I’m also assuming the computers you are networking together have the appropriate device to tie into the router like a NIC or wireless card. In this guide I’ll be using strictly Windows XP computers.
What is a Router?
A router is a device that ties computers connected to it together. If a broadband internet modem is connected to the router all the computers connected to the router will share the broadband internet connection.
There are two types of routers most people use for their home networks. There are wired routers that tie computers together with CAT 5 cable and wired routers with wireless capabilities that are capable of having wired and wireless computers connected to it. Wireless routers are good if you have a laptop or two you want to connect to your home network wirelessly but it’s a little more complicated to setup, a little slower, and less secure than a wired network. Having the freedom to connect to your network from your laptop anywhere in your home usually outweighs the downside of a wireless network.
Setup Your Router
When you purchased your router it came with a CD. If you haven’t done so already you need to place that CD in one of your computers and follow the directions EXACTLY to setup your router. If your router is not setup properly your network will not work.
Give Your Computer a Name
The first thing you want to do is give your computer a name so that you can easily access it through the network by a name rather than an IP address. An IP address is a number that represents the physical address of your computer. Think of the IP address as the street address of your computer. An example of an IP address would be 192.168.1.248. Browsing a computer by name is much easier than trying to remember each computers IP address.
To give your computer a name right-click My Computer, click Properties, click on the Computer Name tab, and click on the Change button towards the bottom.
Type the name you are giving to that computer under Computer Name in the window shown above. When you are finished, click OK. You will have to restart your computer after naming it for the changes to take affect.
Configure Your Network Connection
I’m going to show you how to configure your network card on your computer. Setting up a wireless connection is a little different and is explained later in this guide.
Your router is setup as a DHCP server. A DHCP server gives out IP addresses and other settings to computers on its network that ask for them. This makes networking very easy. The router does all the work.
Most computers are set up to connect to a router right out of the box. For those of you who need help setting up your network connection to use a DHCP server I’ll show you how to set it up below.
Open the Control Panel and double-click Network Connections. Double-click the Local Area Connection. If you have more than one, open the Local Area Connection that is connected to your router. Click the Properties button. Double-click Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). Make sure Obtain IP address automatically and Obtain DNS server address automatically are selected. An example is shown below.
When the settings are the same as the image above, click OK.
At this point you should be able to plug your computers network card (NIC) into your router and have internet access if you have a broadband internet connection hooked up to your router.
Connecting to a Router via Wireless Connection
Connecting to a router from a laptop wirelessly is easy for the most part. Sometimes it can be a pain. I like to use the wireless network connection wizard that comes with Windows XP. Many times you can’t use the wizard that comes with Windows XP because the software of the wireless device on your laptop will not let you. You can always stop that software from running so that you can use the wireless wizard that comes with Windows XP.
To use the wireless wizard double-click the icon next to your clock that looks like the one shown below.
The wizard will open up to a window similar to the one below.
Don’t be surprised if you pickup on your wireless network and a few of your neighbors too. Select your network and press the connect button. That’s it!
If you’re going to use a wireless network you might want to check out my guide called Secure Your Wireless Network.
A home network is much more capable of just giving broadband internet access to all the computers on the network. In this section I’m going to show you how to share a folder on one of the computers that can be accessed through the network by all the other computers on your network.
In this example I’m going to share a folder that is located on a computer with a very large hard drive. In this shared folder you can save movies, music, and anything else you want that can be accessed by all the other computers on your network. This is a great way to have access to music, movies, and so on from any computer in your house through your home network.
Please Note: If you have a firewall turned on the computer you are sharing the folder on it might stop anyone who is trying to access the shared folder in their tracks. Turn the firewall off or configure it to let computers on your network through.
The first thing you need to do to make sharing files easier is turn off simple file sharing. Who would have thought you had to turn off simple file sharing to make it easy to share files?
Open My Computer, click Tools (at the top) and click Folder Options. Click the View tab. You should be on the window shown below.
Scroll to the bottom of the advanced settings list and uncheck Use Simple File Sharing. Click OK.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way we can share a folder. In this example I created a folder in my C drive and named it music. To share a folder right-click the folder you want to share and click sharing and security. You should see a window similar to the one below.
Select share this folder. The share name is automatically entered for you. You can change the share name to what ever you want. The share name is the name of the shared folder you see when you browse to that computer it’s shared on from another computer. Next click the permissions button.
I’m going to assume that the information in this shared folder is not “top secret” and in the very remote case that someone would get in that folder that shouldn’t be there it wouldn’t be the end of the world as we know it.
Check off full control like the screen shot above so that anyone who browses to that folder can see, delete, and add stuff to it. Click OK. Click OK in the previous window.
Now that folder is ready to be accessed by anyone. You can create folders inside that shared folder if you like.
Browsing to a Shared Folder
I’m going to browse to the shared folder (music) I just created on my computer named BrentTrahan.
Click start, then click run. Type \\yourcomputername then press enter or click OK.
You should see the shared folder like the screen shot below.
If you like you can type the full path to the shared folder in the run box like so: \\brenttrahan\music. Using this example will bring you directly to the folder.
You can place a shortcut to a shared folder by browsing to the computer, right-clicking the shared folder and select send to desktop as shortcut or dragging the folder to your desktop or any other location you want the shortcut to be.
Still need help? Ask your computer question now.