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Cables And Connections Between Computers

LAN 102: Network Hardware And Assembly

Depending on the network architecture you choose, you might need to run cables. If you are installing a Fast or gigabit Ethernet network (both of which use UTP cables), you need cables that are long enough to reach comfortably between each computer’s network port and the network’s hub or switch.

Because HomePNA networks are based on your existing telephone line, the patch cord included with the NIC is usually long enough to connect with your existing RJ11 telephone jack. The HomePNA NIC has two jacks: one for the connection to the telephone line and the other to enable you to connect your telephone to the NIC. Be sure you use the correct jack for each cable; otherwise, your network won’t work. HomePNA enables you to use your telephone system for voice and networking at the same time.

Wireless network NICs use an external antenna to make the connection between computers. In some cases, the antenna is built into the NIC, whereas in other cases the antenna is attached to the NIC or needs to be extended from a storage position inside the NIC.

Switch/Access Point

UTP Ethernet networks require a switch if more than two computers will be networked. (You can use a crossover cable between two computers only.) Wireless Ethernet networks also require an access point if more than two computers will be networked or if the network will be used to share an Internet connection. Switches and access points are normally included in a wireless router. With a wireless router/switch as a starting point, additional switches or access points can then be added as necessary.

For a wired Ethernet network, use one or more switches of the correct speed with at least enough ports for each computer on the network. For a wireless Ethernet network, you need at least one access point, depending on the range of your wireless network. Most access points have a range of 150 to 250 feet indoors (and up to twice that distance or more outdoors), which is adequate for most homes and many small businesses. You can use high-gain antennas or add more access points if you need a wider area of coverage.

Configuring Your Network Software

Windows 9x, 2000, XP and later normally install all of the networking software you need automatically. The following table shows the minimum network software configuration you must install for Windows peer-to-peer networking. Windows Vista and 7 use the Network and Sharing Center to configure peer-to-peer networking.

Minimum Network Software for Peer-to-Peer Networking
Windows Network clientYesNo
NetBEUI or TCP/IP* protocol
File and print sharing for Microsoft NetworksNo
NIC installed and bound to protocols and services aboveYesYes
Workgroup identification (same for all PCs in workgroup)YesYes
Computer name (each PC needs a unique name)YesYes

*If TCP/IP is used as the standard protocol, each workstation must have a different IP address—either manually assigned or received from a DHCP server built into a server, router, or gateway computer or device.

For more information about Windows Vista/7 and networks, see Scott Mueller's Upgrading And Repairing PCs, 20th Edition, “Networking with Windows Vista/7,” p. 832 (this chapter).

Use the Network icon in the Windows Control Panel to select your network settings. To set up your network, you’ll need the OS CDs, disks, or hard-disk image files and the network adapter drivers. Devices like routers, access points and switches either have software built-in (accessable via an internal web page) or they don’t need any software at all.

To install a network component, follow this procedure:

  1. Open the Network icon in the Control Panel.
  2. The Configuration tab is displayed; select Add.
  3. Select from the following:
    —Select if you want to install the Microsoft or other network clients for your network. Every PC on a peer-to-peer network needs the Client for Microsoft Networks.
    —This should already be installed, but you can use this option to install a new adapter.
    —For a simple, non-Internet network with versions of Windows before XP, install NetBEUI. If you want to use Internet Connection Sharing along with networking, install both TCP/IP and NetBEUI. With Windows XP, use the Network Setup Wizard to configure TCP/IP easily.
    —Install File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks on any computer that will be used as a server.
  4. Click the Identification tab. Enter a unique name for each computer on the network; use the same workgroup name for all computers on the network.
  5. Click OK. Supply the Windows install disc or other media as necessary to install the network components you requested.

You might need to reboot your PC to complete the process. After this is completed, you’ll be ready to share resources.

Networking with Windows Vista/7

Windows Vista/7 includes TCP/IP as its default protocol, enabling it to connect to other computers running Windows or other OSs. However, its network management and configuration processes are much different from those that earlier Windows versions used.

Network management is performed through the new Network and Sharing Center. The Network and Sharing Center displays the status of the network, the signal strength for wireless networks, the status of network discovery and the sharing of files, the Public folder (equivalent to the Shared Files folder in XP), printer sharing, and media sharing. The Network and Sharing Center can change these settings as desired and controls whether password-protected sharing is enabled or disabled. When this feature is disabled, Vista/7 acts like Windows XP with simple file sharing enabled. When this feature is enabled, you must set up users and assign them rights just you would with Windows XP Professional with simple file sharing disabled.

The Network and Sharing Center can also provide a map of your network, showing the relationship of devices such as routers and switches and Windows Vista/7–based computers on the network. To add Windows XP–based systems to the network map, you can install the Link Layer Topology Discoverer (LLTD) responder. To get this feature and learn how it works, look up Knowledge Base article 922120, “Network Map Does Not Display Computers That Are Running Windows XP,” at

To add a protocol or component to a particular network connection, open Networks, select Network and Sharing Center, and select Manage Network Connections from the task list. Then right-click the network adapter and select Properties.

Other differences include enhancements in the use and management of wireless networks, improvements to the Windows Firewall, and improvements in the network repair and diagnostics procedure. Windows Vista/7 also adds support for network projectors and online meetings, using its new People Near Me and Windows Meeting Space utilities.

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