LAN 102: Network Hardware And Assembly

Putting Your Network Together

In this section is a detailed checklist of the hardware and software you need to build your network.

First, start with the number of computers you plan to network. You need the items discussed in this section to set up your network.

Network Adapters

Every system needs a network adapter or interface card. These are normally built in but can also be added in the form of a card or external USB device.

Traditionally, network adapters are also called network interface cards (NICs). To simplify technical support and minimize the number of drivers you have to deal with, where possible I recommend you use the same make and model of NIC for each computer in your network.

For the best performance in a wired network, I recommend using only Gigabit Ethernet components, especially with regards to NICs and switches. If your system has a built-in Fast Ethernet (100 Mb/s) NIC, you might consider replacing it with a gigabit Ethernet card. I recommend PCI Express-based gigabit NICs for desktop computers and ExpressCard gigabit NICs for laptop computers with ExpressCard slots. (ExpressCard includes the PCI Express bus.) If these slots are not available, use PCI or CardBus cards instead.

USB network adapters can be convenient, but USB 1.1 sockets are much slower than 10/100 Ethernet and slow down any USB-attached network interface. USB 2.0 sockets and devices are satisfactory for connecting 10/100 Ethernet USB adapters but they are completely inadequate for gigabit Ethernet adapters. If you truly want gigabit Ethernet performance, avoid USB and use a PCI, PCIe, or ExpressCard-based card instead.

On the other hand, when adding wireless networking to desktop systems I recommend USB wireless network adapters over those using PCI or PCIe slots. There are several reasons:

  • Installation—You don’t need to open the system to install a USB device.
  • Portability—You can easily use the USB device with any other PC.
  • Signal strength—You can more easily achieve optimal antenna placement with a USB device, especially when attached to the end of an extension cable.


For the best performance systems should be connected via a Gigabit wired connection, wireless should only be used if a wired connection isn’t possible or cost effective.

You should record the brand name and model number of the network adapters you are using, as well as the driver version or source. Use the table on the next page as a template for storing this information.

Installing the Network Adapter

When installing an internal network card, follow this procedure:

  1. Open the case and locate an open expansion slot that matches the type of NIC you purchased (preferably PCI or PCI Express).
  2. Using a screwdriver, remove the screw securing the slot cover at the rear of the case.
  3. Insert the card gently, ensuring that the edge connector is seated solidly in the slot.
  4. Fasten down the card with the same screw that held the slot cover.

Tip: If you are a realist like me, you might not want to close the case until you are certain the NIC is working. (See the next section, “Testing Your Network Adapters and Connections.”)

Once the network adapter is installed, you need to install the drivers for the card that match your OS.

Testing Your Network Adapters and Connections

Connect the network adapter to the network. With an Ethernet network using UTP cable, run the cable from the card to the switch, turn on the computer and switch, and watch for signal lights to light up on the NIC’s back bracket (if so equipped) and on the switch. Switches normally use LEDs to indicate the presence of a computer on a particular port, and they usually indicate the connected speed. If the LEDs show that the card is connected at the correct speed, that usually indicates the card and intervening cabling are functioning correctly. For other types of networks, see the diagnostics provided with the network hardware for testing details.

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  • Lots of good information there. Lots of history too.
    5
  • O... I thought all CAT5 are able to transmit 1000Mbps signals BEFORE reading this article... It's kind of weird ~_~" that I can get 5.X MB/s download speed = ="
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  • Don could you talk to Chris A and Joe and see if we could give a few hard copies of this book away as prizes for some of our users here in the forums who work hard to help others?

    How about a copy for each of the users who make the top ranks for the month of November ... under the Hardware sections of the forums?


    :)
    4
  • mixer device
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  • They make it look like making a cable it so easy, and it is, after the first few tries. Also, making one or two cables isn't too bad, but don't let yourself get talked into making 50 two foot patch cables. Your finger tips will never forgive you.
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  • Great information.
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  • JasonAkkermanThey make it look like making a cable it so easy, and it is, after the first few tries. Also, making one or two cables isn't too bad, but don't let yourself get talked into making 50 two foot patch cables. Your finger tips will never forgive you.

    I got talked into making 10...
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  • JasonAkkermanThey make it look like making a cable it so easy, and it is, after the first few tries. Also, making one or two cables isn't too bad, but don't let yourself get talked into making 50 two foot patch cables. Your finger tips will never forgive you.


    Oh I don't know. I have made several thousand patch cord over the past 18 years.

    All you need is a high quality crimper, good cutters and small screw driver. You are set.
    1
  • This was a great article. In fact it inspired me to buy the book. I'm happy to report that the rest of the book is just as well written. Very educational. A top notch reference.
    2
  • Read the first page. Seems like well written stuff, but not exactly written for my type of user. Also it seems to be igoring a lot of stuff. For instance it sais the network runs at the speed of the slowest component and will figure it out on its own. This isn't true. If you run a pair of 1000TX capable nics on old cat 5 cable (without the e), it'll still attempt to run at that speed, despite the massive crc errors it might generate. Also, if you're running on 'old gigabit hardware' it won't nessecarily have support for 10Base-T speeds. Also, not all firmware has autonegotiate or automdix support, thus you sometimes have to specificly set the speed between links. This is mainly for fiber links though, which seem to have been ignored entirely.

    Anyway. As I said, I think it's well written and probably quite suitable for people who don't know anything about networks (except it seems to assume people know the osi model). I'll go see if the other chapters are equaly basic.
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  • kelvintyO... I thought all CAT5 are able to transmit 1000Mbps signals BEFORE reading this article... It's kind of weird ~_~" that I can get 5.X MB/s download speed = ="


    5 MBps = 40 Mbps... so it's not that weird. xD
    0
  • Great article with lots of information. The crossover cable mentioned would work for 10/100, but for gigabit ethernet you must also crossover the blue and brown pairs. Unlike 10/100 ethernet, gigabit ethernet uses all eight conductors.
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  • reynodDon could you talk to Chris A and Joe and see if we could give a few hard copies of this book away as prizes for some of our users here in the forums who work hard to help others?How about a copy for each of the users who make the top ranks for the month of November ... under the Hardware sections of the forums?


    Heya Reynod,

    We had access to 10 copies of it for a contest that ran with the first few pieces of the book, but those were given away already.

    I agree that it's a great idea to reward the most active forum users, though. I'll get together with Joe and see if there's anything we can do there!

    Have a great weekend,
    Chris
    1
  • Thanks Chris.

    I feel a bit stupid now I missed it.

    It would be great if you could do something again though.

    I did PM Don Saturday to ask him.

    Cheers
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  • patch cables of those small lengths you just buy readymade - they're more sturdy anyway, and you can get them as any cable type (cat5e, 6a etc) .. and long's you don't add old cat5 or mix shielded with unshielded, cables really are the least difficult part of network building - although cisco want you to believe otherwise.
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  • completely amazed at how many errors are in page 2
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  • Either I'm missing to read something or the article on page 3 does not note, that to make Patch Cables you must use a different type, multi-filament copper cable instead of the standard in-wall one-wire solid copper conductors that get cut when you crimp. Huge mistake
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  • Shielded twisted pair (STP) refers to the amount of insulation around the cluster of wires

    There is no "amount" it does have a shield.

    it was first thought that shielding the cable from external interference was the best way to reduce interference and provide for greater transmission speeds. However, it was discovered that twisting the pairs of wires is a more effective way to prevent interference

    No. Shielding is better. But the trick on twisting is that we are talking about "differential" signals. If not, twisting would be useless. Twisting to cables cancel each others emissions and emissions from other places to the cable are canceled too.

    10GBE pros say you should not wire UTP but only STP.

    Need cable lengths longer than the lengths you can buy preassembled

    Never buy preassembled cables. Can't assemble cable as I said before on mono-filament cable.
    One filament wires can't be twisted or take turns or >90 degrees. There's a big chance they can break. Can't wire thru a pipes with the RJ45 plug on it.

    Use Jacks. Buy machine assembled/tested multi-filament patch cords from the jack to the computer/router/printer/switch, whatever.
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  • I read this article as it was linked in the power supply guide posting, which I thought (on perusing it quickly) seemed rather well done. However, this article is so attrocious (both in inaccuracies and it's horribly outdated information) that it draws into doubt the quality of the original article that brought me here. I'm not just some Joe going off on a rant without knowing a thing, and my apologies as I am sure that this was likely intended for average Joe who doesn't have a strong base in networking, but even for that, it could have been written immensely better. I don't know if the author is to blame or the technical editor.

    First off, as a disclaimer, I didn't bother reading the wireless section. Stuff has been changing too rapidly the past few years to even bother, and it is ultimately so simple nowadays that you shouldn't even have to bother with the wireles options. What I did see of wireless information (such as range) was horribly inaccurate. In my experience with most indoor environments, you'll be lucky if you get a *reliable* signal at a fraction of the 150 feet he mentions.

    Simple advice for wireless: Buy a dual-radio N-capable wireless router and then decide if you're going to use N-capable internal wireless cards or USB dongles for any devices you have that do not include integrated wireless. Be warned that in my experience, many wireless routers designed for home use work fine for wireless devices accessing the internet, but when attempting to transfer data between a wired and wireless device, the router will act as a bottleneck, often running at speeds lower than what standard (10 Mbps) ethernet will provide. If you plan on hooking up a device such as a home server or NAS device to your home wireless router, be careful what you pick and either fork out the money for a higher-end SOHO/SMB device or read your reviews thoroughly and ensure that you're getting exactly that device (down to the revision number even, sometimes).

    This article clutters the users mind with unnecessary information and technical details which to knowledgeable persons will already be apparent, and recognized as often incorrect; and for the unknowegeable reader - incorrect and irrelevant but taken as true. To rattle off a few
    -switches and hubs, while sharing some features (they're small, blockish and have multiple ports) are also different at an operational level - switches are OSI layer 2 devices, while hubs are electrical devices operating at OSI layer 1.
    -Packets do not get where they need to go because of MAC addresses; frames get where they need to go thanks to MAC addresses while packets are at OSI layer 3 and utilize IP addresses for routing.
    -If you want to see your MAC address via ipconfig, use ipconfig/all. ipconfig on its own will not provide you with this information.

    If I wanted to take a closer read or go through it again, I'm sure I could pull out atleast as many errors as I listed above, but I've gotten enough of my steam out about someone publishing yet more outdated and erroneous technical info or advice in the realm of networking and IT. Please, if you're going to write a tech article, do it with a purpose, stay true to it, make sure you have your stuff down pat, and damn well update it if you're going to re-publish it.

    No one cares about coaxial ethernet anymore, unless you're over the hill or working in some industrial environment with networked machinery, in which case I hope you're not getting your expertise from this article.

    PS. I'd still like to say thanks to Tom's Hardware and that they're an invaluable resource - not just for their reviews and articles, but for the user community they have generated as well. But with that said - is it just me, or is Tom's IT site just one big stream of advertisements in the guise of articles, news stories, and white papers?
    0
  • why are you using blue and brown wires even though they are of no use?
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