This section of this website provides detailed information on all of the aspects of wired and wireless networking, using the networking capabilities of Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7. The article consists of three long pages (much better than 20+ short pages), which have been made easy to scroll down in order to see what information is provided. Page 1, this page, deals with wired peer-to-peer networks, but additional interesting information is interspersed in blue-coloured tables on network home servers, network domains, drive mapping, the Domain Name System (DNS) and network-attached storage (NAS) devices. Page 2 is devoted to wireless networking and the wireless-networking standards (802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n), including Bluetooth, with additional interesting information provided in blue-coloured tables. Note that there is a new Wi-Fi standard - 802.11ac - which uses the 5GHz band for a theoretical data throughput of 1 gigabit per second (128MB per second) that has not been ratified yet but 802.11ac routers and wireless adapters are already available. Page 3 is devoted to wireless routers and other types of networks, such as Virtual Private Networking (VPN) and Powerline Networking, which uses the electricity mains cabling and connection points within a home or building instead of network cables to create a wired network. Networking and Internet Problems are dealt with in a separate section of this website, consisting of three long pages of solved problems.
Click here! to visit the page on this site devoted to networking and Internet problems and their solutions.
Click here! to go to information on this site on what you need to consider when upgrading to using a wireless router.
Networking two or more computers should not be confused with the Dial-Up Networking that is used to make a dial-up modem (not a broadband modem) connect to the Internet or send faxes, etc. For this, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me (collectively called Windows 9x in this article), Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 systems use a software Dial-Up Adapter that is installed under Network adapters in the Device Manager. If you install a hardware network interface card (NIC) or USB wireless network adapter that enables the computer to connect to a real wired or wireless network, it will also be listed there as a device.
You can enable a setting under Networks (Windows 9x) or Network Connections (Windows XP) in the Control Panel that places an icon for the Dial-Up Adapter (Windows 9x) or the 1394 Net Adapter/1394 Connection (Windows XP/SP3) in the System Tray/Notification Area. If you hold the mouse over the icon, the connection details appear. If you right-click on the icon, you are presented with several options, which depend on the version of Windows being used.
Setting up a temporary ‘ad hoc’ network -
If you want to transfer files wirelessly, say, between two mobile computers, setting up a temporary ad hoc network is the fastest way to do so.
If you want to build a network with the client computers running several versions of windows the following article is worth reading.
Networking home computers running different versions of Windows -
If you can find your way around the networking settings in Windows Vista, you should be able to do the same in Windows 7, however, there are some new features in Windows 7. The Network and Sharing Center and the Internet Options from Windows Vista are still there. The Network and Sharing Center has been improved, but the HomeGroup, which makes sharing files (pictures, music, videos, documents) and printers (only between computers running Win7) easier, is a new feature.
Sharing files between Windows Vista and Windows 7 -
In Windows XP, the networking settings are accessed via Network Connections in the Control Panel.
In Windows Vista, you can access a window that provides access to the Network and Sharing Center and an option called Add a wireless device from the Start (button) => Network. You can also access it under Network and Internet in the Control Panel the gives you access to all of the Windows networking and Internet options.
Introducing Vista's Network Center -
"If you've been working with Windows for a long time, you probably remember the Network Neighborhood from Windows 95. The Network Neighborhood eventually evolved into My Network Places. Vista changes the name once again. The new name is simply Network. The Network option is available directly from Vista's Start menu..." -
How to find your Wireless Network Name and Password with Windows 7 [Applies to Windows Vista] -
File and Printer Sharing in Windows Vista -
"Microsoft Windows Vista has made some important changes to the way that file and printer sharing works. This article describes the changes and provides step-by-step instructions for sharing files and printers and connecting to shared files and printers from a computer running Windows Vista for a small-office or home office network that does not use the Active Directory® domain service..." -
5 Tips to Troubleshoot Windows Vista Networking Issues -
Windows Vista in a Nutshell: Networking -
Windows Peer-to-Peer Networking -
Choosing a network location [Windows 7] - The locations are broken down into Home network, Work Network, Public network, and Domain network. -
Network Location Types in Windows Vista -
Networking and Access Technologies -
How to find your Wireless Network Name and Password with Windows 7 -
If, say, on your travels you happen to be in a hotel room that only provides a wired Ethernet connection to the web and you don't have a portable Wi-Fi router but you do have a laptop and an iPad or another tablet computer, you can make the laptop into a wireless hotspot that allows the Wi-Fi-equipped smartphone or tablet to connect to it and through it to the web.
To do that enter the word network in the Search programs and files box and click the link that is presented called Network and Sharing Center, which can also be found in the Control Panel. Next, click on the Change adapter settings link in the top left corner of the window and click on Properties in the window that comes up. If the laptop has a wireless adapter, which most do, the dialog box that comes up has a Sharing tab. Open it and enable Allow other network users to connect through this computer's Internet connection and click OK. Now go back into the Network and Sharing Center and under Change your network settings click on Set up a new connection or network. In the dialog box that comes up scroll down to and click on Set up a wireless ad hoc network, only available on a computer with a wireless adapter, followed by Next. An ad hoc network is a temporary network. To skip the explanation screen, click on Next again. Enter a network name (the SSID) in the top box, which can be anything you like, select the type of encryption security (WPA2 is best) in the drop-down box and enter a network encryption key, which can also be any combination of letters, numbers and any other keyboard characters (the password). Any other wirelessly-equipped computer, smartphone, etc., joining the network will have to choose the named network and enter the encryption key, so make a note of them. Enable the Save this network setting if you want to keep the network's settings otherwise it will disappear after the last computer has logged off. Clicking Next creates the ad hoc network. The final screen provides the network name and encryption key.
HomeGroups is a new way of setting up sharing resources, such as files and printers in a home network. Note that HomeGroups only works between Windows 7 desktop and laptop computers, so don't try using it if you have computers running earlier versions of Windows (XP, Vista), then right click with the mouse on the Local Area Network icon and click Properties in the menu that comes up. A laptop that has a wireless network adapter will have a Sharing tab. Open it, enable Allow other network users to connect through this computer's Internet connection and click OK.
Click here! to open a page on this website containing information on how to set up and use HomeGroups.
File sharing essentials [Win7] -
Windows 7: Understanding Network Administration and Configuration -
"At first glance there aren't too many differences between configuring Windows 7 networking and configuring Windows Vista networking. However, there are important differences once you start using Windows 7. Let us find them out." -
Windows 7 HomeGroup -
Permanently stored within every network interface card (NIC) or wireless network adapter is a unique 48-bit binary number called the MAC (Media Access Control) Address. And it is by this MAC address that each NIC or adapter card is identified within a local area network (LAN). Indeed, it was because each NIC's MAC address uniquely identifies it in the log files of Internet servers that the writer of the infamous "I love you" virus was traced and brought to justice.
To find out what the MAC address is for a network card or adapter in Windows 98 or Windows Me, enter winipcfg in the Start => Run box. The MAC address is listed as the Adapter Address in the window that presents itself.
In Windows XP, enter cmd in the Start => Run box and then enter ipconfig /all at the command prompt.
In Windows Vista, enter cmd in the Start => Start Search box to bring up the command prompt and then enter ipconfig /all in it.
In Windows 7, enter cmd in the Start => Search programs and files box to bring up the command prompt and then enter ipconfig /all in it.
The MAC address is listed as its Physical Address. You may need to know the MAC address in order to set up a wireless network that shares an Internet connection.
See this page of the Build Your Own PC article for information on Windows Dial-Up Networking, and how to install and configure a 33.6K or 56K dial-up modem.
Networking two or more home computers is nowhere nearly as difficult as it used to be before the advent of Windows 95 in 1995 - even if it is a wireless network. In fact, it is now a relatively simple procedure to set up a peer-to-peer (wired or wireless) home network. Wireless is the easiest to set up because no wiring is involved.
The alternative is to create a server-based network that uses one computer as the server, the resources of which are used to serve client computers. The client computers do not have to have any software other than the client network operating system installed on them. They take everything they need to use from the server over the network. But you do not need a server-based network to play network games, or use Microsoft's Internet Connection Sharing. This is just as well, because server and client networking requires the use of the expensive Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP Pro, the very much cheaper open-source Linux, and other server-client operating systems.
The easiest way to add storage capacity to a network is to make use of a network attached storage (NAS) device, which are inexpensive, but which have disadvantages compared to using a small network server. A home server works like a NAS, but it allows you to add storage features as they are required and run tasks, such as running a CCTV system. As is the case with a NAS, a home server can back up your data.
A home server can transform a home network by providing access to all of its files, music, and movies from any computer on the network. Most home servers can be configured to work without a keyboard, mouse, or monitor. If you need to change the server's configuration, you can use the Windows Remote Desktop Connection software that is supported by Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate and Windows Server operating systems. Windows XP Professional, for example, is not a dedicated server operating system, but it can be used to operate a server perfectly well.
Note that Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows 7 Home Premium versions cannot be used to back up to a NAS device, because those versions of Windows can't be used to back up to a network share. You can only use Vista Business and Ultimate and Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate versions. However, you can use free third-party software. Here are two programs I found:
Freebyte Backup - http://www.freebyte.com/fbbackup/
Microsoft SyncToy 2.1 -
Note that you can set up a NAS device that has two hard disk drives of identical capacity to run a RAID 1 backup system, which mirrors the contents of the main drive to the support drive so that if the main drive fails, the support drive takes over until the failed drive is replaced. If you use RAID 1 and the capacity of the NAS device is 2TB (2024GB) split between two drives, the usable capacity is less than 1TB, because only one drive is used for storage and some drive space is used for indexing and formatting information. The usable capacity of a formatted drive is always less than its total capacity.
The following articles provide an introduction to servers.
Servers under the stairs -
Windows Home Server -
"Windows Home Server is a new way to help your family simplify how you keep and share photos, videos and music — all in one central place. For families with multiple PCs, now it's easy to protect, connect, and organize the way you keep and share your family's most important memories..." - Microsoft
Windows Home Server Help & How-to -
Review: Windows Home Server is a powerful networking tool -
"For once, Microsoft hasn't 'dumbed down' a software package, says Preston Gralla" -
The Server Primer, Part 1 -
"Servers and server hardware are topics that many publications do not want to write about. The main reasons are technical complexities - there are many aspects that go beyond consumer hardware - and a limited readership. Only administrators and decision makers, along with a handful enthusiasts, really care about professional class hardware. However, server hardware is closer to desktop hardware than you think, and the additional knowledge certainly can't hurt..." -
The Server Primer, Part 2 -
My Own Server Part 1: DIY 1U Rack Servers -
"Whether for Web hosting or general-purpose office applications, 19" servers dominate the enterprise landscape. We take a 1U server from MSI as an example and offer a step-by-step account of what it takes to build a complete system." -
The Windows 9x versions of Windows (95/98/Me), Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 provide you with all of the software required to set up a peer-to-peer (P2P) network of 2 to 10 computers that allows file, printer, and Internet access sharing between all of the computers connected to the network.
The following page on Microsoft's site provides the latest information on peer-to-peer networking in Windows:
Windows Peer-to-Peer Networking -
The myriad of cables that are in use are often very confusing to the home computer user. The following link provides a slide show of the cables and information on what each cable is used for that should dispel most of the confusion.
A World of Cables, Unknotted [Slideshow of all the cables used with a computer] -
"You can spend weeks researching which TV or Blu-ray player to buy, and then you would still have to deal with the conundrum of the cables. Other format wars get resolved fairly quickly and definitively (Blu-ray over HD-DVD, VHS over Beta), but cable formats last, it would seem, forever." -
Here is another similar page that goes through every possible type of connector:
Pictorial guide to PC sockets and cables -
Windows 98/Me/XP Home Edition only support peer-to-peer networking. If you want to set up a network domain, you must use Windows XP Professional Edition, or the versions of Windows Vista that support connecting to network domains, namely Windows Vista Business, Vista Ultimate, and Vista Enterprise. Vista Basic and Vista Home Premium do not support network domains.
Using Windows XP Professional on a Network Domain -
"First, what's the difference between a workgroup and a domain—based network? A workgroup is two or more computers networked together. A workgroup is often called a peer—to—peer network because the computers are all peers to one another. No one machine is in charge, and security and other settings have to be made on each individual computer. In a domain, on the other hand, the networked computers have a definite hierarchy in that computers are either servers or clients. Domains have a unified security policy set on the domain controllers (servers) and users on client machines are authenticated by a server when logging on. The usual rule of thumb is that workgroups are manageable up to about ten computers; after that a domain is recommended... However, there are valid reasons for setting up a domain—based home network instead of a workgroup..." - Microsoft
Drive mapping: "Drive mapping is the way by which Microsoft Windows and OS/2 associate a local drive letter ("A" through "Z") with a shared storage area to another computer over a network. After a drive has been mapped, a software application on a client's computer can read and write files from the shared storage area by accessing that drive, just as if that drive represented a local physical hard disk drive." - That applies to both hard-disk, SSD and CD/DVD/Blu-ray optical drives.
Mapping a network drive [Windows XP] -
Create a shortcut to(map) a network drive [Windows Vista] -
Bear in mind that Vista's strict security policies can hinder drive mapping. If you run into trouble doing so in Vista, this Technet article may help you solve your difficulty. -
You can purchase third-party alternatives, but Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) is the free software that was introduced with Windows 98 Second Edition, so, unless your make use of third-party software, you will have to have that version of Windows (or a more recent version) running on the computer with the modem that is connected to the Internet so that it can use its ICS software to share an Internet connection with the other Windows 9x computers on the network.
All of the computers running Windows 9x must be individually configured as ICS clients. However, with Windows XP, you can use the Network Setup Wizard to enable ICS on a single computer (running Windows XP), which has an option to create a Network Setup Disk that can then be used to enable it on the other Windows XP computers on the network.
The best solution to sharing an Internet connection over a network is to use a separate hardware router, often known as a "gateway", that links the computers together and connects to a broadband ADSL or cable modem, which, in turn, is constantly connected to the Internet Service Provider... There is more information on routers later on in this article.
Here is what Microsoft says about ICS in the Windows 98 SE Help files.
"Windows 98 now provides users the ability to share one Internet connection with multiple computers on your home network. One computer, the Connection Sharing computer, communicates with the Internet. Requests from other computers on your home network are routed to the Internet through the Connection Sharing computer. You can also configure Internet Connection Sharing to allow users on the Internet to reach Web, e-mail, and game servers that are on your home network."
Instructions on how to set up and use ICS are also provided in the Help files. It is a relatively straightforward process.
I will provide the basic information about home networking here, but, since there are numerous sites that provide excellent illustrated tutorials on how to install and configure a home network or Local Area Network (LAN), I will provide the links to some of those site at the end of this article instead of attempting to provide that kind of information myself.
By the way, a Wide Area Network (WAN) is the kind of network that libraries, the Government, the banks, and other businesses use to link their computers over a wide area, such as over the whole country, or internationally. The Internet itself is a giant WAN that spans the world.
Adam Webster e-mailed this description of a WAN.
"A WAN is what you would use to connect different LANs (i.e. sites) together. This is generally via a router or a bridge which is connected to another router or bridge via some sort of serial connection. This could be some sort of leased line such as a Kilostream, Megastream, ISDN or DSL line or via a wireless connection such as microwave, an infrared laser or via a Satellite link. Nowadays BT [British Telecom] can provide you with a connection called Optical Ethernet which is essentially one long Ethernet cable between your sites."
Domain Name System (DNS) is one of the most important technologies to understand in Internet networking. At its most basic level, Internet DNS servers translate website addresses such as http://www.pcbuyerbeware.co.uk into IP addresses such as 22.214.171.124. Although computers can work with numeric identifiers such as IP addresses extremely easily, people usually have as much trouble remembering them as remembering multiple telephone numbers. This essential name-resolution service is one of the central technologies that have enabled the Internet's rapid growth by allowing people to locate sites by remembering names instead of a string of numbers.
Hack DNS for lightning-fast Web browsing -
"Here are no-cost ways to fine-tune DNS for faster browsing..."
Using a central file server on a network makes sharing files and making backups much easier than having a peer-to-peer network. You can set up one of the PCs in, say, a wireless router-based network to act as the file server. However, that PC must be switched on all the time in order to be able to serve any of the workstations on the network. A superior alternative is to make use of a network-attached storage (NAS) device, which is smaller and uses less power than a PC. Moreover, many network storage devices can also act as media streamers (most NAS devices have a media streamer built into them), printer servers and FTP servers, and using one makes creating backups a relatively simple matter compared to backing up the files on a peer-to-peer network. Remote access is provided by most NAS devices, making it possible to access files from anywhere via a web connection.
Note that you can set up a NAS device that has two hard disk drives of identical capacity to run a RAID 1 backup system, which mirrors the contents of the main drive to the support drive so that if the main drive fails, the support drive takes over until the failed drive is replaced. If you use RAID 1 and the capacity of the NAS device is 2TB (2024GB) split between two drives, the usable capacity is less than 1TB, because only one drive is used for storage and some drive space is used for indexing and formatting information. The usable capacity of a formatted drive is always less than its total capacity.
Most network storage devices support Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) protocol, which allows devices to connect to the PCs on a network with little or no configuration. Versions of Windows from Windows Me (Millennium Edition from 2000) to Windows Vista and Windows 7 support UPnP. Network storage devices that don't support UPnP rely on their own software device drivers, setup utilities, or web interfaces for installation and configuration, and may require a PC connected to them to be using a specific version of Windows. If a network storage device supports UPnP, additional software shouldn't be required, you should just have to enable it. Windows 95 and Windows 98 don't support UPnP, but if the network storage device is configured from a PC that does support UPnP, you will be able to access it from PCs running those older versions of Windows by making use of Windows File Sharing.
In Windows Explorer, you can make a network storage device easier to access by using the Tools => Map Network Drive to assign the device a drive letter of its own.
Network attached storage (NAS) devices are small file servers that are designed to be left running continuously in order to allow the computers on a network to share documents or media files (music, photos, videos, etc). Some NAS devices allow the network to share a printer via them, or download files from the web overnight. They are much quieter and less power-hungry than PCs. Without the use of a file server, both PCs would have to be switched on in order for the user of one PC on a network to share files with another PC on the network. Therefore, using a NAS device saves power and reduces office noise. Some NAS devices include backup software that automates making backups, and some support RAID 1, which stores all of the data on two hard disk drives, so that if one drive fails, the data can be recovered from the other drive. If you need to access your files away from home, a NAS device with an FTP server can allow you to do that from a remote location on the web. Moreover, if a NAS device has a Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) server, you can stream music, photos, and videos to a network media player so that you can access those files from another room in the house.
January 4, 2012. - If you have an old PC that still works perfectly well and you have a network, you can put it to good use by turning it into a network attached storage (NAS) device that can serve files to the network - free of charge. FreeNAS from freenas.org is an excellent network storage operating system that can convert any computer into a fully-featured NAS device that can also provide remote access via a web browser. The website provides all the information you need. The UPnP and iTunes servers have been disabled, but, apparently, will soon be made available as third-party plug-ins.
FreeNAS has to be installed on its own boot drive instead of the PC's primary hard disk drive. Booting it from a USB flash drive (minimum capacity, 2GB) with the operating system installed on it is a good option. You then just have to download the correct ISO file for the type of processor that the computer runs - the 32-bit or 64-bit version for a 32-bit or 64-bit processor - and burn it to a recordable CD or DVD using the image-burning option provided by disc-burning software. A good free burner can be obtained from www.cdburnerxp.se. All Intel and AMD processors dating back to 2005 are 64-bit devices. Then you install FreeNAS to the USB flash drive with the BIOS set to boot from it. Remember that if the CD/DVD is not set by default t be the first boot device, you have to set it as such in the BIOS in order to make the system boot from a CD/DVD.
Promise's NS4600: Intel's Tolapai Enables Better Network Performance : Promise Updates Its NAS Platform -
"Promise has revamped its NS4300N network storage device. Among the changes, its new NS4600 comes with a new engine--namely, Intel's new x86-based EP80579 (code named Tolapai). Read on for a feature comparison and a thorough benchmark evaluation." -
Network Storage: Three NAS Units Rounded Up : NAS Devices for Every User Scenario -
"Network storage is great for centralizing data on a home or small business network. The real question is: do you build your own NAS or buy one..." -
NAS In Your Home: Vox's BlackBox : Introduction -
"Network storage devices have the advantage of not only providing data for several users, but also acting as a central storage repository. In a business setting, it's easier to deploy and manage NAS versus trying to save the important data on every user's desktop. And NAS boxes are doubly attractive since they generally suck down less power than a full-sized file server." -
Co-World's ShareDisk Gigabit Pro - A NAS with DAS performance? -
"According to a recent poll conducted by Fleischman-Hillard and German website Speicherguide.de, direct-attached storage systems (DAS) and RAID-based storage solutions are still the mainstays of medium-sized businesses. However, NAS solutions (Network Attached Storage) offer the easiest path to adding storage to your existing infrastructure in many cases..." -
Digital Living II: NAS-Storage Devices with Integrated Multimedia Servers -
"Forget about your old DVD player in the living room — that's yesterday's news. In the age of broadband Internet, multimedia servers with support for a variety of modern audio and video formats are gaining ever more importance. THG presents some alternative ways to setting up your digital household..." -
FreeNAS: cheap-and-cheerful network storage -
"Network attached storage, or NAS, devices are essentially external hard-drives connected to a network to allow many computers to share the same files. These devices are becoming a popular way to maintain access to files across an office network, allowing the same user to work at different machines on the same files. As some of these devices become more affordable they also become more attractive for use with home networks, but cheaper solutions exist for those with an old PC and a little time to spare..." - http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...review-29628.html
Expert Reviews: Network attached storage reviews -
Example - Promise SmartStor NS4600 review -
"The SmartStor NS4600 is a good value, fast and well-equipped RAID-capable NAS." Given a five-star rating. -
As you can see from looking at any of the diagnostic charts made available from the following link, there are no photo-illustrations or explanations of basic computer functions. The intended audience is the hobbyist or technician who already has some experience of repairing computers.
If you can understand a particular flowchart, it would be a good idea to print them just in case you can't boot your computer and you need the information.
Network Troubleshooting: http://www.fonerbooks.com/network.htm
The Broadbandreports.com site provides an excellent, free, connection-tweaking tool called DrTCP. Using it, their online tweak tester, and the information in their online forums, you can adjust the internal Windows settings to fit an ADSL connection optimally. After a computer is set to receive data with exactly the same settings that a particular ADSL Internet Service Provider (ISP) is using to send it, the connection speed should see a marked improvement if it wasn't optimally set up in the first place. -
The impressive tools called TCP/IP Analyzer and TCP/IP Optimizer are available free from http://www.speedguide.net/.
10 great free downloads for your network -
"Got a small network, home network, medium-size network -- even an enterprise network -- and want to get the most out of it? Then I've got good news for you: 10 free pieces of software that can make your network easier to use, troubleshoot and maintain. These freebies will help everyone from networking pros to networking newbies and everyone in between." -
To begin, I'll provide information on wired networking, because I think you'll develop a better understanding of what is involved in networking if you understand the older technology, which you can then apply in coming to an understanding of wireless networking.
That said, if you want to network two or more desktop and/or laptop computers in your home or office, it would be the best choice to use wireless equipment instead of old-fashioned wired equipment. Why? - Because the slowest wireless connection speed using 802.11b Wi-Fi equipment is 15 to 20 times faster than a reasonably fast broadband ADSL or cable connection, and wireless technology has advanced to the point where it is now reliable and it's a relatively simple matter to set the equipment up. Moreover, you can move the computers from room to room without having to lay cables and then relay them if you want to move the computers. If you move house, you wouldn't have to remove the cables, just the equipment.
The only users who would opt for wired equipment instead of wireless equipment are those who want to play the latest multi-player games across a network, or those who require the much faster data-transfer speeds or level of security that wired networks provide. The latest wired networks are still considerably faster and are far more secure than wireless networks.
To create a standard wired computer network requires having a hardware network interface card (an NIC, also known as an Ethernet adapter) installed on each of the computers that are linked by the correct kind of network cables. The hardware interface is currently provided by either PCI or PCI Express (PCI-E) network interface cards (NICs) (The ISA standard is no longer in use.). See the image of an PCI Ethernet NIC below, which fits in a free PCI slot on the desktop PC's motherboard.
Below is an image of D-Link Xtreme N PCI Express Desktop Adapter DWA-556 wireless network interface card with three antennas that uses the latest 802.11n wireless network standard and the smallest x1 PCI Express slot on a desktop PC motherboard that supports the PCI Express standard. Cabled PCI Express x1 Ethernet network cards are also available.
Note that the 802.11ac wireless standard that uses the 5GHz band to transfer data up to a theoretical speed of 1 gigabit per second (128MB per second) is under development, yet to be ratified, but 802.11ac routers and wireless adapters are already available (e.g., the Buffalo WZR-D1800H and Buffalo wireless adapters).
These NICs, like all other interface cards, whether wired (cabled) Ethernet or wireless network cards, come with their software drivers that allows the operating system (e.g., Windows 9x or Windows XP) to use them. Windows 9x, Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 provides the networking software that runs a Windows home network.
If you want to wire a laptop computer to to an Ethernet (wired) network, you would use a wired PCMCIA card that connects to the laptop and the network's hub, switch, or router. There is more information on hubs, switches, and routers further down in this article.
Wireless PCI NICs that come with their software drivers are also available, but, as with USB Ethernet network adapters, should only be used where wired PCI NICs are impractical, because the antennas are short and can cause connection problems with desktop computers located in corners and under desks, etc.
A wireless PCMCIA network card is used to connect a laptop computer to a wireless network, or to a wired network that has a computer on it which has a wireless network adapter installed on it. See the image of one below.
A wireless network can use a Wireless Access Point (WAP), which is a wireless hub or switch - or the computers can communicate directly with one another via the PCI, USB, or PCMCIA card (for laptops) installed in each computer. Such an arrangement is called a peer-to-peer Ad Hoc network setup, the ranges of which are less than those available by using a WAP. Wireless Access Point (WAP) networks are often called infrastructure networks.
Note that there are security issues with an Ad Hoc network that are suitably but never entirely overcome when the security options available with Access Points and routers are enabled or implemented. For more information on security, read this Q&A on this site: How can a wireless network be made secure?
As well as allowing wireless networking connections between computers, a typical wireless Wireless Access Point (WAP) is a device that has several ports on it for wired Ethernet network connections, thereby making it a simple matter to link wired and wireless networks, which work very well together, and make linking laptop computers with wireless adapters to a wired network simplicity itself. A WAP can also incorporate a router and, if so will have a port for an ADSL modem so that a broadband Internet connection can be shared between the computers on the network without having to use third-party software, or the Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) software that is part of Windows. A WAP can also act as a print server and provide a port for a dedicated network printer, which can then be connected to it and then be accessed from any of the workstations without having to do so via another computer on the network.
In Ad Hoc mode, each of the networked computers has a PCI wireless adapter (installed in a PCI slot on the motherboard) or a USB wireless adapter installed, and they communicate with each other without having to do so via a wireless Access Point. This kind of setup can suffer from speed and reliability problems when traffic grows with the addition of networked computers, but it's an excellent way to network two computers wirelessly.
The image below is of a PCI wireless NIC made by Netgear. The antenna can clearly be seen. They can be used to create a wireless Ethernet network, or connect a wired Ethernet network to a wireless Ethernet network via a WAP - a wireless hub/switch/router that is usually connected to the mains supply.
It's obviously much easier fitting a wireless USB adapter than a wireless PCI adapter, because all you do is plug it into a USB port instead of having to open up the case and insert the card in a PCI slot. Moreover, a USB network adapter can be positioned quite far behind or in front of the computer by using an extension lead, but the antennas of most PCI adapter card's, being attached to the card, can only be positioned at the back of the computer's case, so it will be more prone to bad reception. If the computer is positioned near the end of its wireless range, the type of adapter will be an important consideration.
Note that most PCI wireless network adapter cards come with a mounted aerial that can be attached to an extension cable so that a user has more choice where to position it for the best reception. With the necessary know-how it's also possible to make an extension yourself.
There is more information about Wireless Access Points (WAPs) further down this page. The upright device in the image below of a wireless desktop network kit is the WAP. The black object to its right is its power supply adapter.
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Wireless peripheral devices such as mice and keyboards are powered by batteries, which can be expensive to replace, or a nuisance to recharge. Wireless Access Points are usually connected to the mains supply via a power unit. However, many WAPs can now be cable-powered, which allows the WAP to be powered via a standard network cable, and some WAPs can draw power from a USB cable that is attached to a USB port on the motherboard or elsewhere in the computer, such as from the monitor or keyboard if they have USB ports.
If you want to combine a wireless and a wired network, it's necessary to make use of a WAP. All WAPs have at least one wired Ethernet port that connects it to a wired network, and many WAPs have four or more Ethernet ports.
Note that it is possible to buy a wireless router that combines a router (that allows a network to share a broadband Internet connection), an Ethernet switch (that allows several computers to be networked via its Ethernet ports), a WAP (that allows computers to be networked wirelessly), and a DSL modem, in a single box. And some wireless routers also have a VoIP phone adapter.
Click here! to go to information on routers on Page 3 of this article. Use your browser's Back button to return to this point on this page.
Since most new motherboards are coming out without ISA slots, if you choose to set up a standard Ethernet network, it would be best to avoid the older, slower technology used in ISA NICs, and use the faster PCI cards.
But if you are networking computers that all have motherboards with ISA slots, and speed is not an issue, you can use ISA NICs, which tend to be cheaper than PCI NICs.
Both ISA and PCI "combo" cards will allow the use of coaxial cables - also called 10Base2 cables - that uses BNC connectors, which is old technology, or UTP cables (Category 5) for a 10BaseT network that uses RJ-45 connectors. - RJ-45 connectors are also used for ordinary telephone connections.
Below is an image of a BNC connector (old technology) that has to be terminated at both ends of the network by attaching a terminator to each BNC connector on the end computers. This stops the signal from going astray. The computers in the middle of the network will already have each of their two connection points on their BNC connectors fitted with cables connected to other computers on the network.
The example shown in the image on the left below has a removable terminator piece attached to its left-hand connection point, leaving the right-hand one open to receive the coaxial cable from another computer. The remaining connection point (in the immediate foreground) is attached to the BNC port on the NIC, the face-plate of which appears through a slot a the back of the network computer's case.
Note that if you are connecting only two computers using this old technology, you cannot connect them with just a network cable, you have to use two T-pieces with terminators connected to the open ends of the T-piece on each computer.
You will be able to connect up to 10 computers together in this way if you are going to use Windows 95/98/Me/XP to provide the networking software.
Adam Webster e-mailed me a correction to a comment I have deleted which incorrectly stated that if one computer in a 10Base2 serial network fails, they all fail. I had read that misinformation on several occasions. Here is his correction.
"With 10Base2 (or Thinwire Ethernet as it formerly used to be called) if one PC is turned off then all that happens is that you can not connect to that one PC, all the others are fine and can communicate between themselves normally. It is only if the cable between the PCs becomes broken that the network fails. Incidentally the greatest distance you can have between the terminations on either end of this daisy chained cable is 185m. The 2 in 10Base2 is derived from the fact that this is close to 200m. You probably know the original Thickwire Ethernet Cable (usually yellow) is known as 10Base500 because it could have a maximum segment length of 500m."
ISA NICs can only transfer data at a maximum of 10 megabits per second (Mb/s). But the combo PCI NIC, shown below, can transfer data at 10Mb/s using BNC connectors, or up to 100 megabits per sec using 10-Base-T cabling. So, if you see this description of an NIC - 10/100 Mb/s - it is a combo card.
Because the old ISA technology is now ten to a hundred times slower, depending on whether 100Mbit/s or 1000Mbit/s cards are used, you should use the alternative technology that uses 10BaseT (Category 5) cabling and RJ-45 connectors. If only because if one computer on the network is shut down, or fails, the rest of the network remains operational.
Both types of cables can be purchased pre-packed, or can be custom-made by any good computer shop. Below is an image of a packet containing a length of Category 5 (Cat5) cable that has RJ-45 connectors on each end.
Below is an image of a PCI combo card - also known as an Ethernet card - made by Linksys that fits in a PCI slot on the motherboard. The BNC port (for the old technology using T-pieces) is the one that sticks out. The T-piece shown above connects to it. The port for an RJ-45 jack (10BaseT technology) appears under it.
Note that as long as you use the same standard to connect computers, it is not necessary to use NICs made by the same manufacturer, you can mix and match NICs made by different manufacturers. Obviously, if possible, it would be the best policy to use card's made by the same manufacturer - to avoid compatibility issues that should not but might exist.
To connect more than two computers using the more modern 10BaseT cabling requires the use of a hub.
Instead of connecting the computers in series, as is the case when using coaxial cabling, T-pieces, and terminators, they are connected to the hub. However, you can purchase a special crossover cable that allows two computers to be connected together directly (a hub is not required). The wiring of the crossover cable makes the output wire from one computer the input wire on the other computer, because the network would not function if the output from one computer arrived at the output port on the other computer.
Below is an image of an 8-port hub made by Linksys. Up to eight computers can be connected to it.
If you want to install them at a distance that exceeds the maximum length of cable for a connection (usually 100 metres), you will have to make use of an additional repeater hub that magnifies the signal.
To give you an idea of how inexpensive creating a home network is, if you want to network three computers using PCI Ethernet cards, you can buy good quality ones for about £15/$25 each. Three cables of about 10 metres will cost no more than £30/$50, or £10/$15 each. Remember that any good computer shop will be able to make them to the length you require, or you can purchase the cables pre-packed. And a 4- or 5-port hub of good quality should not cost more than £60/$100. So the whole cost to network two computers would be about £110/$180, and networking three computers would cost about £135/$225.
The above costs were current at the time of writing this part of this article. If you purchase a wired or wireless network kit, you can save even more.
And the cost could be even cheaper if you bought the parts via an Internet auction site such as eBay. - Just make sure that you check the seller's feedback on the auction site before you place your bids.
Note that unless you are fully aware of the hardware limitations purchasing a hub that works only at one speed - 10Mb/s or 100Mb/s - should be avoided.
A hub that only works a 10Mb/s is slow, can only be used with the outdated BNC technology, and as such will have to be replaced if you want to upgrade to a 100Mb/s network. And since some network devices, such as a printer, may only be equipped with 10Mb/s adapters, you should only purchase a double speed (10/100 Mb/s) hub.
You only need to purchase a passive hub designed for simple home networks. The signal propagated through a passive hub is not monitored or modified. An incoming signal produced by one of the computers is sent to all of the other computers on the network.
Network Topologies - provides illustrated articles on the different kinds of network: http://www.firewall.cx/networking-topics/general-networking/...
A PCI Gigabit Ethernet standard is available that can, in theory, transfer data at 1000Mbits/s, using a bandwidth of 100MHz - ten times the speed of a 100Base-T Ethernet network - across the same Category 5 (Cat5) cables as the latter standard.
For new network installations, the recommendation is to use Cat5e cable, even though Cat5 and Cat5e cabling both have the required 100MHz (1000Hz) bandwidth, because Cat5e cable is manufactured so that the additional parameters that are important for high frequency data transfer using gigabit Ethernet are better controlled.
Any recommendation to use Cat6 for a gigabit Ethernet installation should be turned down out of hand! Cat6 was added to the TIA-568 standard in June 2002, and has a 200MHz bandwidth. It is much more expensive than Cat5e cabling, so you should only consider it for use on a 10 gigabit Ethernet network.
Note that in order to use Gigabit networking (1000Mbits/s), all of the computers on the network, and any routers and switches must also support it. A network will use the type of networking that all of its devices support, so if just one device in a Gigabit network supports only 10/100Mbit/s (10/100 Megabit networking), then that is the standard that the whole network will use.
That said, you should also know that tests show that some 10/100Mbit/s devices can outperform Gigabit devices.
Category 5 cable - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_5_cable
How to Make a Category 5 /5e Patch Cable -
Category 6 cable - "Cat 6 - Category - 6, (ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B.2-1) is a cable standard for Gigabit Ethernet and other network protocols that is backward compatible with the Category 5/5e and Category 3 cable standards..." -
How to Make a Category 6 Patch Cable -
Just in case someone tries to sell you expensive equipment you don't need, I will list the other types of hub.
Repeating hubs, already mentioned, are added to one or more connections to double the maximum length of cable, which is usually 100m, doubled to 200m.
Switching hubs, also known as switches, forward packets of information to the Ethernet Frames destination MAC address, which is briefly described at the beginning of the article.
Conventional hubs of the kind required for a home network rebroadcast every packet of information to every port on the network. Switching hubs give better performance because they forward each packet of information only to the required port. There is no limit to the number of switches that can be employed on a single network, so they are ideal for large networks relaying large amounts of traffic.
Intelligent hubs, or manageable hubs, have an inbuilt management capability. As well as rebroadcasting the packets of information to all of the ports on the network, they monitor the operation of the ports. This enables administrators to pinpoint problems very easily. Intelligent hubs are thus suited to large networks that require monitoring and quick and accurate diagnosis of problems.
Stackable hubs are designed to be stacked on on top of another. The network interprets them as a single hub. No more than four other types of hub can be used on a single network, but there is no limit to the number of stackable hubs. This is ideal for large networks that require quick expansion.
Installing an NIC card in each of the computers in the network and configuring its TCP/IP settings
You install a network interface card (NIC) in the same way as you would install an other kind of adapter card - by inserting it in an ISA slot on the motherboard if it is an ISA card, or in a PCI slot if it is a PCI card, which all new network cards are now, because the ISA standard is redundant but can be used if the motherboards on the computers the motherboards of which have ISA slots. You can't use a mixture of ISA and PCI NICs. When you reboot the system, Windows installs the drivers for the NIC card or asks for the driver CD to be inserted in the CD drive. The driver installation instructions that came with the card would tell you how to navigate to the correct location on the CD. You can also obtain the latest driver file from the NIC's manufacturer's site. If it was installed properly, the card appears as an adapter under Network adapters in the Device Manager.
The TCP/IP software that is used for networking two or more computers is already present in Windows 95/98/Me/XP. All you have to do is install it if it isn't already installed under Network in the Control Panel, and then add the two configuration settings on each of the computers.
Open Network in the Control Panel. If the TCP/IP software is installed it will appear under the Configuration tab. If it isn't there, you have to click the Add button, click on Protocol, and choose TCP/IP. On each of the computers in the network, you have to highlight the TCP/IP entry, click on the Properties button, open the IP Address tab, enable the Specify and IP address setting, and enter the values for the IP address and the Subnet Mask (usually always 255.255.255.0). You can make use of a range of IP addresses that have been set aside for used in a private network. Each of the networked computers is given its own IP address chosen from a one of those ranges - e.g. - 192.168.1.3; 192.168.1.4; 192.168.1.5, etc., for three computers on the network. You would only enter a setting under the Gateway tab if you want to link two separate networks.
If there are many computers in a network (over ten) , peer-to-peer networking cannot be used, and a workgroup network in which the computers are networked via hubs and/or switches, is clumsy to administer, because each computer has to have security updates and application upgrades installed on it individually, whereas in a network domain, all of the updates can be applied from the computer running the server software. Therefore, the best solution for a large business network is to set up a network domain.
Linux can be used as the operating system, or Microsoft's Active Directory can be set up with, say, Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional or Windows 2000 Server as the operating system.
Windows XP Home edition cannot participate as a member of a domain unless it has been especially modified to do so, because Microsoft didn't include the capacity to do so in order to make Windows XP Professional the only version of XP that can join a domain. But a Windows 9x (95, 98, and ME) system can participate as a member of a network domain.
It's a common complaint for someone whose laptop computer could access a network domain with Windows 98 installed, only to find that this is no longer possible having upgraded the computer to Windows XP Home.
With Active Directory as the domain structure, it's possible to add as many computers as you like to the domain and manage them all at the same time easily so that they're all running the latest security updates.
A domain makes it possible to control the individual computers that are connected to the primary domain controller (PDC). Those people with valid user accounts and logon passwords can access any of the domain's computers according to the permissions set for them by the system administrator.
It's possible to set up DNS and DHCP servers. With a very large network, a DNS server is required within the network to translate workstation names into IP addresses, but if it's not necessary to assign the same IP addresses to the computers in the network a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server can be set up to assign IP addresses to the workstations from a pool of them - automatically. This is especially useful when users with laptop computers need to logon to the network.
It's also possible to create file and printer servers that take over the file and printer sharing on the network.
How To Install and Configure a File and Print Server in Windows Server 2003 -
Internet connections use the TCP/IP protocol that can be used on any computer platform, so you can easily network PCs and Apple Macs and share an ADSL connection.
However, PCs and Macs use different protocols for file and printer sharing. Windows uses NetBIOS and Macs use AppleTalk. But there are software products that allow a Mac to join a Windows network and share files.
The product called Dave from Thursby Software at http://www.thursby.com is just one example of such software.
The problem is that there are no Windows printer drivers that can run on a Mac other than PostScript drivers, which both platforms have. Dave allows you to print from a Mac to a PostScript printer on a Windows network.
To print to printers connected to Windows that are not PostScript-compatible, you can try using a s earch engine to find PostScript emulation software, such as the free program called Ghostscript.
Solving real problems with the Network Diagnostic Tool -
"Most network administrators are familiar with freely available network diagnostic tools such as Wireshark and TCPdump. However, many may not realize that the Internet2 consortium has produced several advanced open-source tools that, while designed to monitor and troubleshoot performance issues on high-performance research networks, can be great additions to any networker's bag of tricks." - http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9002626/...
DNSstuff.com - "This site has many DNS and networking tools for network administrators, domain owners, users of DNS hosting services, etc. There is no cost for using this site." - http://www.dnsstuff.com/.
Sysinternals free TCPView allows the user to identify and locate which applications have open ports on a system. - Sysinternals was an independent organisation but it is now owned by Microsoft.
Visit http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/default.mspx for the great free utilities.
AirSnare - from http://home.comcast.net/~jay.deboer/airsnare/ - is a free (donations welcome) tool that works on wired and wireless networks monitoring MAC addresses - unique addresses assigned to every network device on a Local Area Network (LAN) that are accessed when a new network device tries to log on to a network. The tool provides notification when it detects a new MAC address tapping into the LAN it is installed on. It can even inform on what the users are doing via the LAN and allows them to be notified that their activities are under observation.
The following two programs that complement one another are excellent, but the logs they generate would probably not be comprehensible to a networking novice, but would serve an experienced network administrator very well. The user interfaces are also somewhat too complicated. That said, there is nothing to stop a novice from trying them.
GFI LANguard Network Security Scanner (N.S.S.) - http://www.gfi.com/network-security-vulnerability-scanner/
GFI LANguard Security Event Log Monitor (S.E.L.M.) 5 -
The first thing you should do in a Victorian house is perform a site survey, which just involves walking around the house with a laptop equipped with a wireless network adapter that is running a free program called NetStumbler from http://www.netstumbler.com/. It shows you how strong a Wi-Fi signal is at any given position, and therefore enables you to locate dead spots. It can also tell you if there are any other wireless networks in the vicinity.
Wi-Fi networks can operate on any one of thirteen channels. If possible, neighbouring networks should use different channels in order to minimise interference between them. If NetStumbler locates any neighbouring networks it should tell you which channels they're using. Then, all you have to do is visit the applicable neighbours to negotiate which channels you and they should use in order to avoid interference.
The best channels to use are 1, 6, and 11, because they have the least overlap with neighbouring channels.
The above information comes from the Q&A on this site called: Why can't my wireless network work all over my house? on the Network Problems pages on this site.
View the section called Networking How-to articles and problems in the Microsoft Knowledge Base on the first Networking Problems page on this site.
There is not much point in using a switch instead of a hub on a small home network, but on a large network, the use of a switch is necessary to avoid the performance limitations of a hub.
"Without a switch installed, a large network can get bogged down quickly as traffic rises. Traffic jams happen because data is forced to wander the entire network in search of its destination.
"A switch corrects traffic jam problems by ensuring that data goes straight from its origin to its proper destination, with no wandering in-between. Switches remember the address of every node on the network, and anticipate where data needs to go. Nodes connected to a switch can expect an immediate 40%-60% increase in performance. This EtherFast Dual-Speed 10/100 16-Port Switch is the ideal centerpiece for any high-performance network. A switch can also connect networks of different speeds together. A 100Mbps network, for example, could be connected to a slower 10Mbps network by inserting a switch between the two networks. In this way, switches are good for migrating to faster network speeds without having to discard older legacy network hardware.
"IS MY NETWORK A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR A SWITCH? If you do more than simple file and printer sharing, you should definitely consider a switch. Switch prices have fallen drastically since fall of 1998, and many are priced only slightly higher than regular hubs -- and since most hubs can't offer the performance benefits of switching, buying a switch is a smart move for any network, even if you have only a few users. In short, if your network needs maximum bandwidth and speedy performance, buy switches instead of hubs." - From a Linksys FAQ page called, What is a Switch?
How LAN Switches Work - http://computer.howstuffworks.com/lan-switch.htm
USB adapter network cards can also be used that employ USB cables. They will fit in a PCI slot. The only difference between a standard PCI NIC and a USB one is the connection port. The former is fitted with an RJ-45 port, and the USB NIC is fitted with a USB port. USB NICs are not faster or more expensive than Ethernet PCI NICs. In fact, for some reason, USB adapter cards are about half as fast as standard PCI Ethernet cards.
Note that you should find out if the adapter supports USB 1.1 or USB 2.0, because USB 1.1 devices are very slow compared to USB 2.0 devices. You should obviously also be running a version of Windows or other operating system that supports USB 1.1 or USB 2.0 in order to be able to use it.
USB 1.1 can transfer data at 12Mbit/s maximum, but USB 2.0 can transfer data at 480Mbit/s, so if you only have USB 1.1 ports on the motherboard, you should only use 802.11b USB adapters - or purchase a PCI USB 2.0 adapter card to use 802.11g USB adapters.
Click here! to read the section on the next page on wireless networking to find out more about the 802.11 wireless standards. Use your browser's Back button to backtrack.
The Belkin USB 10/100 Ethernet Adapter shown below connects to a USB port and then to another computer with a crossover Ethernet cable, or normal Ethernet cable to an Ethernet hub.
It is also possible to build a wireless USB network that takes signals from a wireless USB hub or switch, known as a Wireless Access Point (WAP), via special USB adapters, such as the following two devices. -
The two wireless USB adapters shown above are plugged into a USB port on the computer, from which they draw their power. They can access the network directly via one another (or via other wireless adapters) or via Wireless Access Point or wireless router. - Note that many WAP's have inbuilt routers. And to avoid compatibility problems, it's advisable to use network devices made by the same company.
Moreover, it is now also possible to buy a special USB cable that networks two computers per cable. You don't need anything else, just this cable, an image of which is shown below. You will, of course have to install the software that comes with it in order to make the cable function in the same way as two network cards and a cable. The software installs a virtual network adapter for it under Network adapters in the Windows Device Manager. You can network as many computers as you like in this way.
Always use only a special USB networking cable to link two computers.
The following thread I found on a computer forum provides the reason:
"Never connect two PCs with a standard A-A USB cable! USB carries +5V and you can permanently damage one or both PCs! You need a specific USB device for this." -
"The A / A cable or "extension" - would it actually fit between two computers?"
"An "extension" cable is male A to female A. Double-male A cables are rare, but people seem to find them. They are absolutely deadly."
Personally, for a wired network, I would advise the use of Ethernet NICs. They have an excellent and lengthy track record, while USB devices, having to make use of the Windows USB Controller, tend to cause more problems. Ethernet cards just make use of the PCI bus and the Windows networking software.
This page contains good information on USB networking, and on how to use a USB cable to transfer files, or a master image of an entire system to another computer:
FireWire network cards and cable networking solutions similar to those offered by USB are now available.
"FireWire networking takes advantage of a spec called "IP over 1394". This spec Standardizes how to transfer IP packets across a FireWire (IEEE 1394) interface - translated: FireWire networking! By simply running an inexpensive FireWire cable between two computers with modern operating systems and FireWire ports, you get a 400Mbps network connection! (IETF RFC 2734).
"The Catch - FireWire networking support is very limited in all but the latest operating systems. It is fully supported under Windows XP Home and Pro. Windows ME also has 'some' FireWire networking support but don't count on it being reliable. Also remember, native FireWire networking is only for TCP/IP, not NetBEUI, IPX or any other protocol.
"Unibrain: These guys make an 'enhanced' FireWire networking program that brings FireWire networking to Windows 98 and Me reliably. It also brings reliable FireWire networking to Mac OS 9 and OS X. The unique thing about Unibrain's software is that it does more than IP - it does almost all protocols." - From the "FireWire Networking Guide".
There is a limitation on the length of a single cable of 15 feet - and 237 feet if repeaters are used between 15' cables.
FireWire network (NIC) cards are available for both IEEE 1394a and IEEE 1394b (FireWire 800), but, although the data transfer rates of a FireWire 800 card are faster than an Ethernet 100Mbit/s card, it is not an ideal networking solution for the following reasons.
FireWire networks run under the latest Linux distributions and on the Apple Macintosh OS X without any known problems, but with Windows, only the IPv4 over 1394 protocol is supported, which only allows for data transfer using TCP/IP. The IP address required for network operation is unlikely to be available automatically via DHCP for FireWire, since no servers are currently designed to be able to do this. This is not much of a problem, since assigning IP addresses manually on a small home network is not difficult.
However, note well that FireWire networking can pose major security risks. Look under Security on http://www.practicallynetworked.com/ for more information.
Visit the USB & FireWire page of this site for more information on FireWire.
As you know, networks make it easy to move information from one computer to another, especially very large files that don't fit on a floppy or a Zip disk. They also allow the sharing of hardware, such as printers, and can connect to web servers or the Internet.
A network in your house can make it easy to share Internet access, whether the connection uses a phone line, cable modem, or DSL modem. Usually, one computer is attached to the modem while the other computers on the network communicate with it via software such as Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) that is built into Windows 98 SE /Me /XP. You will have to purchase third-party software to make this work on earlier versions of Windows. In any case, plenty of third-party alternative software is available.
Whatever software you use, the computer connected to the modem must be switched on, otherwise, the other computers in your home won't be able to access the Internet. In the case of cable and DSL connections, it will have to be permanently switched on and connected to the modem.
The best solution for a cable or DSL connection that is always connected to the service is a hardware router, because it provides built-in protection from computer hackers. Hackers are far more likely to be able to home in on a permanent IP address that is constantly connected than they are for a dial-up connection that uses dynamic IP addressing, which changes the IP address every time the service is dialled into. The free Windows ICS software does not provide any kind of hacker protection.
But if you want to use a software solution that does provide protection from hackers, probably the best one is WinProxy, which starts at £40/$60 for connecting three computers. This application comes with a number of extra features, including site filtering and antivirus software.
Note that if you have your computers networked via a router, you do not need to use ICS or any other Internet sharing software, because the router automatically shares an Internet connection with all of the computers on the network by using Network Address Translation (NAT).
How Network Address Translation (NAT) Works -
Many home users share an Internet connection wirelessly between two or more desktop and laptop PCs. The sharing is done over a wireless network (which could also be a mixture of a wired and a wireless network). If that is the case, you should inverstigate what Windows SteadyState has to offer.
"Windows SteadyState, successor to the Shared Computer Toolkit, is designed to make life easier for people who set up and maintain shared computers."
"Parents can use Windows SteadyState to help control and enhance their children's computer experience. They can customize the computer to be safer and easier to use. Internet access can be carefully controlled. Different levels of restriction can be applied for different children. In cases where a single machine is used by children and parents, the parents' configurations, programs, and files can be completely isolated from access by the children."
SteadyState Version 2.5 supports Windows Vista.
You can make use of a search engine if you want more information on any of products or networking terms that have been used or mentioned in this article, or if want to conduct your own searches.