The Home Network

Networking at Home

Perhaps you have a single computer at home and want to connect a second or possibly a third.  You want to print from all of them but moving the printer from PC to PC just won’t cut it.  What can you do?  Enter the world of home networking.  This article covers the basic components of a home network and how to connect them.  Be sure to follow the instructions provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the equipment manufacturers for specific instructions on configuring the devices.

Required Equipment

First you need a connection to the Internet which will be in the form of DSL from the phone company, a cable connection from the cable provider, or possibly a satellite connection. All of these methods require a modem that actually makes the connection to their system.

Second, you need a router to allow more than one computer to connect to the Internet.  Two major manufacturers are LinkSys and Netgear.  These companies make a variety of both wired and wireless routers.  In some cases, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can supply a device that acts as both the modem and the router.

You also need network (Ethernet) cables to connect the various components.

Connecting the Pieces

You will connect the modem to the external world in one of the following ways:

  • DSL – a telephone cable going to the phone system
  • Cable – a coaxial cable going to the cable network
  • Satellite – a coaxial cable going to the dish

An Ethernet cable connects a special port on the router (usually labeled Internet or WAN) to the modem.  Another Ethernet cable connects a port on the router to a network connection on the back of each computer.  The Ethernet cable looks like this:


The figure below shows the port connections on a typical router. The orange lines connecting to the router represent the Ethernet cables.


You must follow the manufacturer’s instructions on when and how to connect the pieces.  They normally provide an installation disc that walks you through the process.

Once you have everything correctly set up, all of the computers can browse the Internet independently from each other.

What About Printing?

Now that all of the computers are networked, what can you do about printing to a common printer?  This depends on the type of printer you are using.

All modern printers have a USB connection that can attach directly to a computer.  In this case, you can “share” the printer with the other computers. Just right-click on the icon for the printer, select “Sharing…” from the menu, and name the share. You can use the “Add a printer” wizard to connect the other PCs to the printer.  Note that the computer doing the sharing must be turned on for the others to print.  For detailed instructions, just type the phrase “sharing a printer” in the search box in Windows Help.

Some printers also have an Ethernet connection which allows them to connect directly to the router just like the PCs do.  When you install the printer software on each computer, you will be offered this option.  With this method, no other computer must be running to allow printing.

Sharing Files

You can share files among all of the computers connected to the network.  This means you don’t have to run from PC to PC with a disk to move or look at a file.  You can share a folder the same way you did a USB-type printer described above. Another way is to move a file into the Shared Documents folder on your PC.


Home networking opens a vast array of powerful features that make your computing life much easier and more fun.  If this still seems a little overwhelming, just poke around inside Windows help for a while.  It will be able to guide you through the details.

In a future article I will delve into the world of “wireless” networking that adds even more flexibility.

About Dick Buchanan

I started working with computers some 25 years ago when my wife, Carol, and I purchased our first PC which was a Kaypro IV CP/M machine. This lead to studying computer science at Seattle Pacific University and becoming a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE). During this time I have worked for The Boeing Company, IBM Global Services, and Microsoft. I currently own and operate a local computing services company called Byte Savvy located in Kalispell, MT
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