Why make a network ??
If you have multiple computers at home, a network serves several purposes.
You can transfer files between the computers. Ever downloaded a large file then tried to install it on the other computer ?? Oh, yes floppies and pkzip will do -but slow. A zip drive will do it easily but not inexpensively. A network is fast an easy.
You only have a CD-ROM in one computer. How do you install the programs from the CD-ROM on the other. You can physically move the CD-ROM!! A network will let you do it easily
Backup - lots of files and lots of floppies or maybe even lots of Zips. Why not back up to a Hard Drive on the other computer. A network will let you do it.
Sharing Hard Drive space. You can share files between the two computers and the Hard Drive in the other(s) becomes an extension of your computer.
Only one printer ?? Well, with a network all the computers can print to the same printer.
Only one phone line for Internet ?? With a network you can share the modem and actually have both connected using the same modem (same connection obviously) with a network. This does require a proxy server with WIN95\98. WIN98SE includes ICS which will let you do it..
Basically, by networking the computers, you can share resources, share drives, share printers, share CD-ROM drives and gain a lot of benefits. It is easy and it is quite cheap.
You want to try it - Go for it !!
Here are some basic considerations and planning steps:.
You will need to install a network card in each computer. What type of spare slots do you have ?? ISA or PCI. Generally, I would prefer PCI cards but they tend to be a bit more expensive.
You need to decide whether you want to use the newer 100Mbs cards or the older 10Mbs. For a home network 10Mbs is good enough and it is a lot cheaper. Furthermore, 10Mbs is faster than many Hard Drives you may have, thus it will never limit you unless you have quite a few computers using the network at the same time
You need to decide how to connect the network cards together. What type wiring to use ?? Here again you have two choices RJ45(10Base-T) or BNC (10Base -2). The RJ45 looks like a telephone wire with a connector (snap in type) similar to the telephone one except they have 8 wires while a telephone one has fewer. This type wiring requires a hub (you can get a special wire and not use a hub with two computers). The BNC is a coaxial cable and looks just like the one used for TV. NOTE: Do not use TV cable. The TV cable is 75 ohm while the RG58 networking cable is 50 ohm. Always use CATV even though CATIII will work fine with 10Mbs. If you use 100Mbs you need to use CATV RJ45 type wiring. Either one have its advantages and disadvantages. It is important to choose since some of the Network cards only has one of the two types. A lot have both so either can be used. My preference for a simple Home network is to use BNC since it does not require a hub and it is cheaper.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this the price of 100 Mbs cards have gone down. Presently they are the preferred choice. I would also include a hub and use CATV or better wiring.
Wall plates and snap in fittings are available for both types. There are also snap in fittings available for the wall plates that will fit regular phone and TV wiring. Thus if you want to build it in you can.
There are Networking Kits available which will give you a couple of network cards, some cabling, the connectors and hub if using RJ45 for reasonable prices - around $90 and up for BNC. It is more expensive for RJ45.
My suggestion for a simple start is a networking kit. They are available with a small hub and tow network cards. You can also just get a couple of 100Mbs Network cards and some CATV wiring. All the software you need is built into Win95\win98. You can get network cards for as little as $20 a piece.
Now that you have decided to do it - let's set it up !!!
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Last revised: May 29, 2005.