Network Options for Home Computers
Fort Hays State University
Dr. Rita Hauck, Instructor
Home networking of personal computers has become a must for many people. When you
have two (or more) computers at home and want to be able to access broadband Internet from
either or both at any given time, you can link them yourself without an incredible amount of
difficulty. You must, of course, check with your broadband Internet provider to see what
policies they may have established about sharing the Internet service they are providing for you.
Today there are many affordable options for setting up a home networking system.
Windows XP has made the process of establishing links between computers much simpler than
the previous versions of Windows. The connection is virtually made for you via the “Network
If freedom from cumbersome and unsightly cords is desired, a wireless networking
system (nicknamed “WiFi”) may be acquired and set up. These are more expensive and do not
have the same capabilities to transmit data (especially video) as the wired networks.
Another option that works very well and with relative ease when networking computers
in several rooms of a house is the power-line method. This method utilizes the electrical wiring
already installed in a house with adapters, connecting cords and power outlets. It is more
expensive than the less efficient wireless networks and less expensive with more capability than
the more efficient wireless systems.
One can also choose to use the home phone-lines to connect computers, which is about
$50 less expensive than using the power line method. The drawback to using the phone-line
method is there are usually not too many phone jacks installed in a house and there may not be
one in the destination desired for a computer.
The least expensive method is the use of a directly connected Ethernet cord. When this
method is used, there will be the limitations of a cord running from one to the other. Also the
host computer must be connected to the Internet before the client computer (or “guest”) will have
access. I selected this method for my home, since it is just my husband and I at home now and
both computers are housed in the office.
If the same version of Windows is on both home computers, the networking process may
be a little simpler than if you have two different versions. It works well if both computers are
using Windows 98, Windows 2000 or Windows XP. As long as Windows XP is on one of the
computers, the process is almost totally automated. It is recommended you start with the
computer that has the newest Windows version. This computer will referred to as the „host‟
computer. After the host computer is linked, it must be turned on and have uninterrupted
Internet connection before the other “guest” computer is booted up. Otherwise the guest
computer will be unable to access the Internet.
First, you will need to acquire a connecting Ethernet cord long enough to reach from the
broadband modem of the first (host) computer to the other (guest) computer. You will also need
to ascertain whether your broadband modem is capable of inserting more than one connecting
cord. If it is not, you will need to acquire a router (a device that will allow multiple connecting
cords). With a router, the „Host‟ computer will not need to be connected to the Internet to
prevent a broken connection for the „Guest‟. Connect both computers to the modem or router
before starting the networking process.
Beginning with the „Host‟ computer; click on „Programs‟; then „Accessibility‟; then
„Communications‟; then „Network Setup Wizard‟. Or, click Start, Control Panel, double-
click Network Connections. Under Common Tasks, the Network Setup Wizard can be
opened. Once you open the Wizard, it will ask you a series of questions to direct you to the type
of connection desired. For example, one query involves selecting a name for your computer.
The final step will ask if you want to create a floppy disk to use in the other computer to
finish the setup. This is what I did and it worked! I really had my doubts that it could do that
with a disk, but it did. I was truly amazed, but I must admit – my first try did not work. The disk
ran and ran for quite some time, but nothing seemed to be happening. When I disabled the
Firewall on the “Guest” computer and let the disk run for several minutes, it did work. I realized
a connection had been established when I heard the honking of the ICQ Internet program that
had been installed earlier.
If you have more than two computers to network in your home, I suggest that you borrow
or buy the book “Networking for Dummies,” by Doug Lowe to be better prepared for the task.
There are tips, visualizations and checklists for each step of the process. Chapter 15 outlines
how to protect your network data from catastrophe and how to perform routine maintenance
procedures on your computer(s). Mr. Lowe has even composed “Ten Networking
Commandments” that list important points to remember. His commandments include a reminder
to back up one‟s hard drive regularly, a suggestion to keep a written record of your network
configuration for reference, and my favorite – “Thou shalt not tinker with thine network
configuration files unless thou knowest what thou art doing”. (Lowe, p. 317)
There are also many useful online guides. Here are a couple, good luck!
“Howstuff works” http://computer.howstuffworks.com/home-network.htm
“Practically Networked” http://www.practicallynetworked.com/networking/
Chang, Stephanie. “Home Networking From the Ground Up”. PC Magazine.
April 6, 2004; pp. 91-108, ill.
Howard, Bill. “LAN in a Can”. PC Magazine. June 22, 2004; p. 73.
Lowe, Doug. Networking for Dummies, 6th Edition. New York:
Wiley Publishing, Inc. 2003.
McLeod, Ramon G. “Home Net Hassles”. PC World. October 2002; pp. 18-22, ill.
Miastkowski, Stan. “Home Wired Home”. PC World. June, 2000; pp. 139-152, ill.
N‟Gai, Croal and Jaffe, Bruce R. “Networking Made Easy”. Newsweek.
July 22, 2002, Vol. 140, Issue 4p 55-56.