LAN 102: Network Hardware And Assembly

Cables And Connections Between Computers

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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  • JasonAkkerman
    Lots of good information there. Lots of history too.
  • KelvinTy
    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 = ="
  • Reynod
    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?

  • Anonymous
    mixer device
  • JasonAkkerman
    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.
  • thrasher32
    Great information.
  • xx_pemdas_xx
    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...
  • spookyman
    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.
  • silveralien81
    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.
  • neiroatopelcc
    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.
  • fixxxer07
    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
  • dthurber
    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.
  • cangelini
    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,
  • Reynod
    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.

  • neiroatopelcc
    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.
  • juanc
    completely amazed at how many errors are in page 2
  • juanc
    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
  • juanc
    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.
  • Slothy
    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?
  • Anonymous
    why are you using blue and brown wires even though they are of no use?