Setting up a local network for your home computers and other networked devices makes it much easier to share files, printers, and other data. However, there are some considerations that you should review before you set up your own network.
Do I have the right equipment? In order to set up connections between computers, each computer needs to have either a wireless ethernet card or a wired ethernet card. If your computers don’t have the ability to connect to a network, they will not be able to communicate with one another or connect to the internet. To find out whether you have a wireless ethernet card or wired ethernet card:
For Windows XP users: In Windows, click on the Start button, then open Control Panel and navigate to Network Connections. If you have an ethernet card, you will see a link for a “Local Area Connection”. If you have a wireless card, you’ll see a link for a “Wireless Network Connection”.
For Windows Vista and Windows 7 users: In Windows, click on the Start button, then click on Control Panel. Locate the category “Network and Internet” and click the link to “View network status and tasks”. Finally, click on the “Change Adapter Settings” on the left-hand menu. You should see an icon for “Local Area Connection” or “Wireless Network Connection”.
If you don’t see a network card listed, you can purchase one from a computer parts retailer. There are cards available for both laptops and desktops, and you can choose between a USB ethernet card or a PCI or PCI-express card.
Do I need a router?
If you only want to connect computers, and those computers all use the same operating system, you can set up a shared network just by following instructions for Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7.
If your computers are composed of several different operating systems, or if you want to connect other devices to your network, it may be easiest to set up a router. A router is like a network’s brain; it directs communication from one device to another.
Are my computers secure?
Creating a multiple-computer network allows your computers to share data, but not all sharing is good! If one of your computers becomes infected with a virus, it’s likely the virus will spread to the other computers on your network. Fortunately, there are precautions that you can take to minimize your computers’ vulnerability.
Antivirus and Antispyware software will monitor your computer for signs of an attack. If kept up to date, this software can prevent infection from viruses and other malware.
System Updates often contain hotfixes for specific vulnerabilities in your computer’s operating system and other software. Make sure to update regularly!
Passwords for both your computers and your router will ensure that no one has access without your permission.