If you have more than one computer, there is a very good chance that you are finding ways to interconnect them. Connecting 2 or more computers together is referred to as computer networking.
Networking computers has plenty of advantages. You can share files between computers that are connected together. You can share music, videos, the Internet, or even printers that are connected to one computer to other PC’s on the network. When you connect a group of computers on a network, this is called a LAN or Local Area Network. A Local Area Network is a type of network that covers a relatively small physical area. This is in contrast with a Wide Area Network (WAN), which covers a broad area. The Internet is an example of a Wide Area Network because it consists of multiple computers and devices which cover a broad area.
There are two main types of computer networking – wired and wireless. A wireless network involves connecting a wireless router to your Internet service provider’s (ISP) modem and configuring the wireless network settings on your laptop or PC. Note that a PC or device must have wireless capabilities in order for it to connect to a wireless router. Wired network, as the name implies, involves connecting computers and devices using physical wires.
There are many topologies that can be implemented on a wired network. The most common implementation nowadays is the Ethernet network. This type of network uses twister pair wires that are terminated at each end by a connector. The most common type of Ethernet wire is the Cat 5 or Category 5 twisted pair cable. A Cat 5 cable includes 4 twisted pairs of wires on a single cable jacket. The pairs are made from 24 gauge copper wires.
The Cat 5 cable is terminated at both ends by a connector, often called the RJ45 connector, or more correctly, the 8P8C (8 Position 8 Contact) connector. This connector resembles a regular household telephone connector, but is a bit larger. A special tool, called a crimping tool, is needed to attach the connectors to the Cat 5 cable. Thankfully, you do not need to assemble these cables yourselves. There are pre-made cables with different lengths that can be bought at most computer stores.
So how do you use these cables to interconnect your computers? First, you will need a network device called a network switch or switching hub. This device acts as a network bridge that will connect your network segments. This device will have multiple ports that you can connect to. What you need to do is connect one end of the Cat 5 cable to a port on the network switch and the other end to the network interface (commonly called NIC for Network Interface Card) on the computer. Do this for all the computers that you want to join in the LAN.
After you are done connecting all of your computers, the next step is to configure the Operating System on your computer to “see” each other on the network. This is done by assigning an IP address to each computer. On a computer with Microsoft Windows, this can be set in the TCP/IP properties under Local Area Network Properties. There are many resources on the Internet on how to set your IP addresses, just do a bit of research and you will surely find the information.
If your purpose is to share your Internet connection across all your computers, then you will need a router. A router is a network device that interconnects and routes two or more networks. The router will also have multiple ports, like a switching hub, where you can connect your Cat 5 cables going to your computers. There is a special port on the router that you must connect to your ISP’s modem. Usually, there is no further configuration required if you do the connections properly. Just turn the power on in the following order: ISP’s modem, the router, and then the computers. Wait a few minutes for each device to initialize before turning on the next.
Cabling for your computer network may seem complicated at first, but with all the help and resources readily available on the Internet, you can surely figure out the configurations and have your computer network up and running in no time.