Home Networking

Some lucky people in this world have two computers in their household; one in the kids’ room and one in their room maybe.This week I’m going to shed some light on the advantages that can be gained by networking both machines together.

First things first, to make setting up a home network easy and worthwhile I would suggest that both machines are of fairly good specification and ideally should be running a Network friendly OS such as Windows ME or XP.This isn’t essential as you can have two old machines running Windows 95 if you like but the immediate benefits will be less obvious and your network will be a lot harder to set up.

With those criteria met, you will require a number of items to make your home network successful – these should not exceed £60 or so.

2 Network cards; if you have a newish PC, ask the person in the shop for two PCI network cards of 10/100mbps specification.Don’t worry so much about what that actually means; these are the cards that will allow your two PC’s to communicate to one another.

A length of RJ-45 crossover cable.This is the cable that will connect your machines together so ensure that it is long enough.

A moderate amount of knowledge of using a Windows PC.

The instructions I will give will be based on a Windows ME or XP machine.As I stated above, it is possible to set up the network on a 98 or 95 machine but I would require a longer article to discuss this procedure as it is quite a bit trickier.Before I explain how to go about setting up your home network, what exactly could you gain?

1)You will be able to play games across the network – Being defeated hands down by your 12 year old son on Half Life must be quite an experience.

2)You would be able to share pieces of hardware.For example, if you had one printer but two computers you could both utilise it instead of buying a second one.The same goes if you only have one connection to the Internet which you would like to have shared between two machines.

3)If you had a number of files on one machine that you would like both systems to have access to, let’s say for example a database of contact numbers then this would also be possible using a home network.

If this has convinced you of the need of a network in your home then perform the following steps carefully:

First take the lid off both the computers and slot the Network cards into a free PCI slot (white coloured slot) in the computer, screw them down in to the case and put the lid back on.This is easier than it sounds, but if in doubt then please get a knowledgeable friend to help you with this step.

Once you restart your computer, Windows should re-appear saying that it has found new hardware and should request a driver disk that would have been provided with your network cards.Insert the CD into the drive and get Windows to automatically search for the new driver and wait for it to install.Repeat this for the second machine so they both know how to utilise the piece of hardware which will allow them to communicate.

Once this stage is complete, it should be fairly plain sailing from here onwards, all you have to do is go into ‘Start’, ‘Settings’, ‘Control Panel’ then click on ‘Network Connections’ and the on to ‘Set up a home network’.Windows will next ask you a number of questions about how you want to set up your home network such as what it should be called, whether you would like to share your printers or not, etc.After this step is complete, it will ask you to insert a floppy disk into the computer which you can then use to transfer exactly the same settings onto the second machine so that it knows how to communicate with the first.

If all goes well then you should have the base of your home network installed and you can start sharing files and playing multiplayer games.As always however, there are a number of things that could go wrong along the way so if you are in serious doubt as to your abilities to perform the above then please get someone with a greater knowledge to do it for you.If you do have any minor difficulties along the way then you are always able to click on ‘Help’ and Windows will give you assistance.

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

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