Monday, September 13, 2010

Home Networking - Where to Begin and Different Approaches


This is the grandfather of networking, the bread and butter combo, the standard. Setting up a wired network is not very difficult, can be done inexpensively, and doesn't require much prior networking experience.

What you'll need

For internet sharing, you will need a Cable/DSL router. This splits your internet connections to multiple devices. If you simply need to connect multiple computers for file sharing, chat services, or games within the home, you can use an Ethernet switch. Then, of course, you'll need Cat5 wiring.

How to do it

There are very few processes less difficult than setting it up physically. Simply plug your computers' NICs (Network Interface Cards) into the router or switch. If you have a cable router, plug the router into your DSL/Cable source. You will need some basic Cat5, Cat5e, or Cat6 cabling. Now, when it comes to software, network creation can sometimes be a beastly task but that depends fully on your operating system and I just simply refuse to go there.


Everything's got its drawbacks and wired networking is definitely a thing. Cat5 cables can be somewhat attractive, but they're still cables that you'll either need to run through your walls (which is a lengthy, messy, and potentially dangerous process) or they'll be trip hazards. This is the principle reason that the next options exist, in my opinion.


Wireless networking is becoming more and more commonplaces in homes that need to link together multiple PCs or share an internet connection, but that don't want to run cable all over their home. 802.11g technology with transfers up to 54Mbps are becoming very affordable, too, making it a very practical option for many.

What you'll need

For internet sharing and networking, you will need a wireless router. Then, for each computer you want to network with, you will need a wireless access point which can be in the form of a PCI card (for your desktop PC), a PCMCIA card (for a laptop), or even a USB dongle (for desktop or laptop).

How to do it

This is another remarkably simple process. See the steps above for a wired network, just remove the cables. Plug your incoming internet connection into the router, plug the WiFi (receiving) cards or dongles into the connected devices.


This isn't as fast as wired speeds (Cat5 is 200Mbps, Cat5e is 400 Mbps, and Cat6 is 1000 Mbps vs. Wireless' 54 Mbps). There are also distance limitations based on interference from other 2.4 GHz band-using sources (such as cordless phones) as well as walls and other obstacles. It is still a viable option for most homes, though.

PowerLine HomePlug system

The HomePlug alliance began to give people an option for wiring their homes without needing expensive equipment or spending a lot of time wiring. It uses your existing power cabling to carry a network signal, meaning you basically already have networking installed in any room with a power outlet. Very, very cool stuff. Hands down.

What you'll need

You will still need a router for your internet connection. Beyond that, you simply need a PowerLine wall unit for each room + 1 for the router. You will need short runs of Ethernet cabling (Cat5) for each room.

How to do it

Connect your router to a PowerLine unit via Cat5. Then connect each computer or laptop from its Ethernet card to another PowerLine unit to any plug in the same home or office.


If speed is an issue, PowerLine's not the way to go. The max speed is 14Mbps and tests show that that decreases with distance from the source. However, it still works for most common internet needs. Speed would only be a real issue if you needed to transfer large files between computers on a regular basis or stream video from one computer to another.

Lewis is a technogeek with Sewell Direct. They carry much of the equipment you need, including bulk cat5 cable.

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