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Setting Up an Ethernet Network
A very fast private network in your own home
By Red Squirrel


If you have more than one computer in your house, you probably thought it would be cool to have them hooked up together like it is at school and in the office. For less than $200 you can setup a 100Mbps network (12.5MB/sec). Setting up a network is fairly easy and should not take very long unless you need to start knocking walls down to get cables from one place to the other.

Basics
First we need to understand the basics behind a network. Basically what we want is to have all computers connected together to form a network, but we also want that network to have access to the outside world, most likely the Internet, or another network. In a home, it is more typical that you will want it to access the Internet. This requires that you have an always-on connection such as cable or dsl and a modem for it. It is possible to do this with dial-up, but it is not worth it, really.

What you need

  • 1 NIC (Network Interface Card) per computer Ė This is like a modem, but for a LAN instead of a phone line. These can be found for less than $20. There are more expensive ones, but a network card is a network card, just make sure you get 100Mbps.


  • 1 Ethernet patch cable per computer Ė This is the standard in home and office networking. There are other methods such as wireless, fiber, token ring etc but in this article we will talk about Ethernet. These are usually blue cables that have plugs look like a phone line plug but have 4 pairs instead of 2. Make sure the cables you get are long enough to reach from a central location to each computer. The central location where all cables will go will most likely be where your Internet is fed into your home. Ethernet cables vary in price depending on quality and length. They are usually around $10 to $20 each.


  • Router Ė This is where you connect all the cables. The router will make all computers part of the same network. To access the Internet, you must have your Internet connection plugged into the routerís uplink port. Make sure the router you get is 100Mbps as well. If you are networking from scratch, you might as well get the good stuff. A typical router is at least $150, it is the most expensive part of the network, but also the most important.


  • This is it. What you now need to do is install the NICs into each computer, plug a Ethernet patch cable from each NIC to the router and connect a cable from the routerís uplink port to your Internet connection, in my case, my internet connection is adsl, and I have a modem in which I plug in my phone line to it, and plug in an Ethernet cable into it, so you would plug it where the Ethernet cable goes.

    Note: Some broadband providers will get you this cheap usb modem, this limits your ability to network with a normal router. You need to use a computer AS a router. This involves putting two NICs in a computer and having one as uplink and the other as a port like you would see it on a router. In this case the USB port would technically do the job of a NIC, so you would only need one NIC. You would need to install software that would make that computer act as router. This is best done with Linux/Unix software. This article will not cover turning a PC into a router, however. (maybe later once I actually try it)

    How it works
    Your router is acting as a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and is assigning an IP address to each computer. This makes these computers local to itís own network, and not directly part of the Internet. The typical IP range used for local networks is 192.168.1.xxx and only from your network, these IPs can be accessed/seen. You can be running the most insecure computer, and it will be safe because only from your network it can be accessed, if itís connected to a router. The reason you can access the Internet is because it is provided by your router, because your router is connected to the Internet and picks up the DNS (Domain Name Server) and other DHCP info and passes it on to your computers, just like your ISPís DHCP passes it to your router or directly connected computer.

    The only externally visible part of your network is your router, but most likely all that will be seen is the routerís open port for administration. Most routers have a web-based administration, which is unfortunately set externally as well. It is good to put a strong password. Hacking into this and changing port forwards is about the only way someone could access the other PCs unauthorized.

    The only way your network can be accessed from behind a router is if port/IP forwards are set on the router. For example, you can forward all port 80 requests to the computer that has the internal IP 192.186.1.100 so if your internet IP is 217.158.132.126 and someone connects to it on port 80 it will forward the request to the computer 192.186.1.100 on your network. That computer is then accessible externally from the Internet, but appears as 217.158.132.126.

    Routers are good to get around ISP limitations on how many computers you can have accessing the Internet, as you are only using 1 IP address that belongs to them, which is used by your router. Your router then gives local IPs to all the PCs and the IPs belong to your router. When you access the Internet, it is through your routerís IP. For example, my local IP is currently 192.168.1.100 but actually appears as my routerís external IP if I connect to a server. This is why many file sharing programs donít work properly behind routers.

    Crosstalk
    Crosstalk is when more than one wire interferes with the other causing unwanted results. This is because electricity produces magnetic fields all around the wires, so when you have 8 (4 active) wires inside a cable, theres quite a magnetic field produced. However, when the pairs are twisted, this makes it less vulnerable to crosswalk. In fact, a setup like the one below works perfectly fine. I even had a UPS in that nest at one time, no problem at all!



    Hubs and Switches
    You probably heard of hubs and switches. These look like routers but work differently. A hub will simply allow multiple computers to connect over 1 Ethernet cable. It is sort of like a cable TV splitter. If you use a hub instead of a router, you will get an IP from your isp for each computer, and each computer will be accessible externally as if it were connected directly to the Internet. If your ISP limits you to how many IPs you can have, they will be able to 1) know you are over and warn/disconnect you or 2)Actually limit it so other PCs wonít be able to connect. A switch works the same way, but is more efficient because of the way it transfers data to each computer, but it basically does the same job as a hub. A switch or hub is good if you are out of ports on your router, you can simply plug in a hub, uplink it to your router and you have more ports to plug into. If you were to plug a router into another router, it would basically be another network connected to the network, which is connected to the Internet. It is not recommended unless you have a good reason to isolate both networks from each other.

    Setting up File and Print share
    Now that all the computers are connected together, it is simply the thing of configuration them to "see" each other. In Network Neighborhood, you should already be able to see the other computers, but you can't do much. If it is not already enabled, you need to setup windows file and print share. In win98, right click on Network Neighborhood and select "windows file and print share" and check both boxes. In win2k, it is installed by default (in fact, all your drives are shared by default!). Then, on either OS, choose the folders you want to share and right click on them and select "sharing" and set the name and password. Unfortunately, in Win2k, there's no option to set a password. There's a default overall password for the computer, but there's no way to change it. It is best to use a Win98 computer for sharing, and not win2k. Novell is even better but this article will not go into setting up NetWare shares, but it's similar.

    To access shares, simply select the computer in "Network neighborhood or "my network places" and select "map network drive" on the folders, or you can browse them from there.

    I hope this article was useful for you and helped you understand how to setup a network. If you have questions simply ask them in our networking forum.

    Red Squirrel
    Administrator and owner





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    19344 Hits Pages: [1] 3 Comments
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    Latest comments (newest first)
    Posted by richardj on April 04th 2006 (05:43)
    I have a question----

    What is the USB port on a DSL modem used for?? conf.gif

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    Posted by Red Squirrel on April 04rd 2006 (20:37)
    Actually linux would be the way to go for a samba server. em320.gif I'd have to update the article.
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    Posted by Red Squirrel on August 08st 2005 (14:38)
    Hmm more tricky on an office network. Maybe they push certain policies to the PC to not allow it to see others. Can other people's PCs see yours, or other PCs? It may be a security feature or what not. It's like where I work, they block every outbound port but 80 and 21 and maybe a few others.
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