When people hear about networking, they begin to imagine a giant task that they cannot do on their own. In reality, setting up a small computer network is something that does not require you to move mountains. In this article, we are going to explore how to set up a local area connection (LAN) of ten computers running Windows XP. We will use XP because it is simple and a lot of cyber cafes and school computer centres still use it.
To set up your network, you need:
- The computers
- Network cables of desired length depending on the size of the area the network is to be installed in
- RJ-45 plug and crimping tools
- Network switch
- And YOU!
Cutting the cable and fitting the clips
In every Ethernet cable, there are 8 tiny coloured wires. The wires are placed in a certain order and with the crimping tool, they are attached to the RJ-45 plug. Due to space constraints, I would not be able to describe the whole crimping process in this article but a detailed demonstration would be done in a later article. For now, we’ll simply look at making the work stations communicate with each other.
Setting up the Network Switch
A network switch is a central device to which all your network cables are plugged in. It “distributes” the network. Plug in all the cables from all the computers into the switch.
Configuring the Computers
Now that all the cables have been plugged into the switch, on each of the client computers, run the Network Setup Wizard on each of the computers. Go to Control Panel, click on Network and Internet Connections and the on Network Setup Wizard. In the options on how your computer connects to the internet, your computer connects through another computer so select the second option. In the option for workgroup, put the same workgroup name (e.g. SigmaCafe) in all the computers. This allows you to share resources between the computers more easily. In the option to turn on file and printer sharing, select the first option because we’ll need to share files and printers among the computers on the network. Finish the setup.
To share an internet connection
So far, all the computer are interconnected and interact through the network switch. If you have an internet connection and let’s say your ISP supplies you a Hughes 7740S modem, you will need to connect the modem to the server and then connect the server to the switch. (The Hughes modem is a standing modem with four blue lights).
In order to do that, there has to be two network cards on the server. Connect the modem to one of the network cards and lets call it LAN1 and connect the switch to the second network card and let’s call it LAN2. The computer may name it differently. The important thing is to know which one is which.
Go to Control Panel and click on Network Connections. Open LAN1 and click on Properties. Click on the Advanced tab. Select Allow other network users to connect through this computers internet connection. Click OK.
Open LAN2 and click Properties. From the list, select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) set the IP address to 192.168.0.1 and the Subnet Mask to 255.255.255.0. These are the default settings for a computer sharing an internet connection. Click OK.
Your internet ready Local Area Connection should be well set up by now. By default, all computers on the network would be able to access the internet because they are all interconnected through the switch.