A home network connects your computers and devices (printers/copiers/scanners/faxes, TVs, Media and audio systems) in your house so that you can share those devices, share your files—including music, pictures, and movies— then multiple people can surf the Internet and access other elements on the network at the same time.
A home network eliminates all kinds of inconvenient and annoying situations, like:
- You won’t have to save your files to a CD or flash-memory device and take it to the computer that’s connected to the printer.
- You won’t have to wait until someone is done e-mailing grandma so you can surf the ‘Net.
- You won’t have to let your roommate finish researching a thesis while you wait to play a video game on line.
- You can stream music and digital photos from a computer and media sharing devices across the network.
You may ask, simply – do I Need a Home Network? Well with more than one billion devices estimated to be connected to home networks by the year 2010, more likely than not you do. A simple direct connection these days has its disadvantages, including:
- Your PC and any other network enabled device or system cannot access the Internet at the same time.
- Swapping the modem connection between your Game system and your PC gets old quickly.
- Unless all of your computer peripherals and your TV are right next to your modem, you’ll need to drape Ethernet cable across your house to enjoy an Internet connection.
Wireless networking is perfect when you want to connect devices in locations where it would be difficult or expensive to run Ethernet cables. However wire is always preferable to wireless when possible. Speed of the connection, the amount of data that can be transferred, and the security of the connection are all superior with a wired connection.
Let’s say your PC and the high-speed Internet equipment from your ISP (modem, router, or gateway) are in your office, and you want to use your Gaming system for live play in your family room with your high-definition TV. Wireless networking will get you out of drilling holes in your walls and running Ethernet cables throughout your home. But it may not have the ability to transfer all that data live on line gaming requires. So the experience can freeze or slow down. The same can be said for streaming Movies, large computer applications or anything that exceeds the wireless transfer capability of your wireless modem.
Many IP enabled devices are explicitly designed for easy integration with a wireless network these days. However, the quality and effectiveness of your wireless network depends on a number of factors. There are many types and quality levels of wireless networking adapters, wireless-to-Ethernet bridges, routers, and gateways. Compatible home networking equipment is a must to ensure it all works as it should. The distance between your wireless-capable router or gateway and your components, the construction of your home, the presence of other wireless devices (like cordless phones), and other sources of interference (like microwave ovens) can also negatively affect the strength of a wireless signal. A weak signal can result in the following issues:
- Difficulty finding and connecting to the internet.
- Disconnection or dropping from sessions.
- Slow or other poor performance.
If you want to stream media from a PC, bandwidth issues can lead to poor or broken performance. Simply put, if you want to do it right, a wired Local Area Network is the best option.
A router is different from a modem, in that a modem connects you to the internet (it’s the box your internet provider put in your home when you purchased internet access), and a router allows multiple connections to that router, allowing for example your PC and your video game and entertainment system to access the Internet, and each other at the same time. Some modems have routers built in, which would mean they have multiple Ethernet ports on the back.
Required Hardware for a Router Connection
- Usually at least 3 Ethernet cables
- A router compatible with your electronics.
- A NIC (network interface card) in your computer (s). If your computer has an Ethernet port (also referred to as Cat5 or RJ-45), it has an NIC. An Ethernet port looks like a standard telephone jack, only bigger.
To connect your LAN with a router:
- Before you connect any cables, turn off your router, modem, PC, game console, etc. (Unplug your modem from its power source to turn it off.)
- Connect one end of an Ethernet cable to the Ethernet port on your modem and the other end to the Ethernet input port on the back of your router.
- With another Ethernet cable, connect one end to one of the router’s Ethernet output ports. Connect the other end to your computer’s Ethernet port.
- With the third Ethernet cable, connect one end to another of the router’s Ethernet output ports. Connect the other end to the Ethernet port on the back of your fists IP enabled device. Continue for every device you want to connect to the internet via your network. You are creating your home network at this point
- Turn on your modem, then your router, then your computer.
- Make sure your computer can access the Internet. If not, you may need to configure the router for Internet access. For help configuring the router using your computer, check the instructions that came with the router.
- Turn on each peripheral device, one at a time. Verify they see the internet and the network in the same way for each device.
Direct Modem Connection
To get your computer up and running as quickly as possible, a direct modem connection is your best bet. Like the name suggests, this method connects your computer directly to your modem or gateway. It’s perfect if all you want to do is get your computer online.
If, however, you want to share your Internet connection with your Game console, other computers and peripheral devices (even your TV these days), choose an alternate connection type:
- If your Internet service provider (ISP) provided you with a gateway (which combines a modem and a wireless router), you can share your Internet connection using a Gateway Connection.
- If your ISP provided you with a stand-alone modem, you can purchase a router and use a Router Connection to share Internet service between your PC, and other devices in your home.
- If you have a USB or internal PCI modem, choose a Windows ICS Connection.
Required Hardware for a Modem Connection
1 Ethernet Cable
In most cases, you will need to initially configure your high-speed Internet connection on your computer before directly connecting your computer to a modem. Contact your Internet service provider (ISP) for details.