Sharing an Internet connection

Software — buying and building your network

What a brave soul. Here’s what you’ll suffer through:

Sharing software wiring diagram

If that looks too intimidating, you can chicken out now, but you’ll never hear the end of it from your so-called “friends”.

…well….not really…

Sharing software is actually much easier than it used to be. You only need to know that the server computer runs the sharing software, and the client computer(s) receive Internet access through the server computer. Most of the configuration can be done automatically.

In fact, the popular Sygate Home Network software doesn’t even require you to install two network cards (NICs) in the server computer; its OneNIC technology allows you to connect all computers directly to the hub, just like in the extra IPs setup.

Note: Instead of a hub, you can use a wireless access point with corresponding wireless network cards to connect your computers without cables. Just make sure that NIC 1 on the server computer is still a wired card (not applicable if using OneNIC).

Alternate sharing software wiring diagram

A different way to wire.

Better yet, if you have just two computers, you don’t even need a hub! You can simply use a crossover cable (the yellow cable in the diagram at right) to connect your two computers directly to each other. As long as you’re not planning on adding any computers to your network later, this can save you $30 or more.

So, basically, you have a lot of options.

Even if you decide to be completely traditional, you have the choice between a hub and a switch.

They perform identical functions, but switches run more efficiently and cost a little more. If you have just two or three comptuers, It’s probably worth the saved cash to stick to a hub like the Linksys EFAH05W. If you have 4+ computers, consider a switch like the Linksys EZXS55W.

Once you've made that decision, you need to make sure you have one NIC for each client and two NICs for the server (unless you’re using OneNIC). You can check by looking for an RJ45 jack (it looks like an enlarged phone jack) on the back of each computer. Those that lack the jack will need an NIC. Internal models like the Linksys LNE100TX are cheapest. If you don’t want to crack open the case, try the USB200M, which connects directly to a USB port. For laptops, consider PC card models like the wired PCM200 or the wireless WPC54G (requires wireless access point).

(When you start searching for these products, try PriceGrabber. It’s a nice, clean, easy-to-use price comparison service that will help you find the best deals available.)

Note: When buying wireless products, you must consider the three competing standards: B (low-speed), G (hi-speed), and A (hi-speed). B and G products are compatible, but both are incompatible with A products.

The last item on the list is cabling. Even if you go wireless, you’ll still need a cable to connect the cable/DSL modem. Wired networkers will also need one cable per computer (as illustrated at top), or one crossover cable to connect two computers (as illustrated in second diagram). You may have enough cables lying around the house. If not, check out the cable guide to learn about Cat5 and find the right stuff for your setup.

When you have all the equipment, set it up—install the NICs, and use the appropriate diagram to connect the cabling. After that, it’s time to pick out software!

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