Having designed and installed computer networks for SOHO (small office/home office) to major corporations I thought sharing some of my experiences may be useful. This guide assumes that the reader is fairly experienced with computers but has little knowledge of networking. The trouble shooting guide is, hopefully, useful to a wider audience.
Before continuing I must emphasise that I cannot be held responsible for any problems that occur by you using this guide nor have I got the time to answer individual queries.
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I will assume that you already have some form of broadband connection and want to share it with two or more computers. Your broadband is likely to be supplied in one of three ways (there are others)
- ADSL/DSL - provided by traditional phone companies such as BT.
- Cable - provided by cable TV/phone suppliers such as Virgin Media.
- Ethernet - often found in shared office accommodation.
With ADSL (or DSL) the phone line will terminate in some form of socket. Attached to this socket you will have a filter with two outlets, One of the outlets will run the phone and the other will go to the ADSL modem. The modem is then attached to the computer via USB or ethernet. Most modern modems have both USB and ethernet (via RJ45) connectors on them.
Cable installations typically either use a cable modem or an outlet on the set top box. Before buying a router or any other hardware check with your cable company to ensure that your modem or set top box will work with a router. Generally the answer will be yes however they may recommend specific routers that are known to work on their network.
With shared buildings that distribute the Internet via ethernet you will often find that they have given you your own firewalled network. If this is the case you already have a network established. If you find, however, that you are sharing the network with other companies in the building then you might consider installing your own router to isolate you from the rest.
The router is the heart of the Internet enabled small network. There are many types and many manufacturers. I am going to describe the basic types to enable you to make your choice. I am not going to recommend one manufacturer over another however the big names should give you good support if things go wrong.
Modem or no modem
The first choice is to decide if the router has the modem built in. If you have a ADSL or cable modem with ethernet connectivity then you don't need this however it makes the set up more complex. Unless you know what you are doing then I strongly recommend that ADSL users buy a router with an ADSL modem built in. Cable users - follow your suppliers advice on this. Ethernet users need this type of router.
When you look a the connections on the router you will typically see a number of RJ45 sockets. Typically you will have 4 local ethernet connections plus a single connection marked with broadband. It is this single connection you use to connect to your modem or upstream ethernet.
The other RJ45 connectors are used to feed local PC's.
Wireless or no wireless
Your next choice is to decide if you want wireless connectivity or not. On most routers (wireless or not) you will find a cluster of RJ45 sockets (4 is very common). These are use to feed the wired in PC's. If you need more than 4 connections simply buy a ethernet switch and connect it to one of the router sockets.
Most (if not all) of the wireless routers also have RJ45 sockets to drive wired in PC's. The wireless part of the router is known as an access point.
If you want wireless buy a router that supports 8011.g standard.
Wiring it all up
I am going to assume that this is an ADSL set up with 2 wired-in PC's and a laptop with WiFi (wireless) capability. The router is assumed to have an ADSL modem built in. The PC instruction will refer to Windows XP.
Next read the router manufacturer's instructions. The following instructions will hopefully give you an idea of what you need to do BUT I must reemphasize follow the manufacturer's instructions. My instructions should help you work out good passwords and be useful if things go wrong.
Plug in the router and connect an RJ45 lead between it and one of the computers. Do not connect the phone (ADSL) lead at this time.
- The manufacturer will give you the routers default IP address. It will be something like 192.168.0.1 (you MUST use their address and not mine).
- Starting with both the router switched off and the connected computer switched off. First turn on the router, wait for 30 seconds then turn on the PC (normally you can switch them on together).
- From the PC press the START icon then the RUN button. Type cmd in the text box and then press return or click OK.
- The command box will be displayed (bit like the old DOS box). Type in ping 192.168.0.1 (use your default IP address).
- Hopefully you will get a reply something like... Reply from 192.168.0.1: bytes=32 time<1ms TTL=127.... this will be repeated 4 times. Don't worry if your reply is not exactly the same. If this does not happen see trouble shooting.
- Most modern routers are configured via the Web browser. Start Internet Explorer and rub out your normal URL and key 192.168.0.1
- Hopefully your router will respond. If not check you have put in the correct address. Because you have been using a broadband modem you may not have the local network (LAN) enabled. Press start and select control panel. From here select Internet Options. From the connections tab ensure that "Never dial a connection" is selected. Press the "LAN settings" button and select the "Automatically detect settings" check box. Press the OK buttons until the dialogue close. then retry step 7.
- The next job is to secure the router. There will be a configuration option to set the router password. Choose a secure password - hint: take a common word say woodland and mix the case up and change some of the characters to numeric or special characters e.g. w00dL&nd
- If you have wireless then secure it. Typically this involves keying a pass phrase such as "To be or not to be that is the question" You could make it more complex - "t0 bE or n0t T( be that 1s th@ qUest1on"
- Whatever you choose note it down. Also note down the security type and encryption level you are using. Normally having keyed the phrase you will also be presented with 4 lines of hexidecimal (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B,C,D,E,F) characters note these down as well.
- If you intend to use the wireless capability don't forget to turn the wireless facility on and enable the discovery facility (allowing your laptop to see your wireless network). Later on you may wish to disable this however I leave mine on.
- It is important that you follow the installation guide regarding the wireless set up. Choose the highest security that the laptop (or other wireless) devices are able to use.
- As part of the wireless set up ensure you chose a SSID. When you come to look for your network fom the laptop this will make life so much easier.
- To recap on wireless - set up the SSID and ensure you have enable wireless security!
- Finally you need to connect the ADSL and set up the modem side. Most modern routers will have a wizard to help you do this. Typically you will select the ISP then fill in your ADSL user identity and password. If there is no wizard then your ISP will give you the ADSL setting you need to use.
- At this point go back to the browser and try keying http://www.ebay.co.uk but substitute bbc for ebay (Ebay wont allow me to put the bbc address in!)
- Connecting the second wired PC should now be easy.
- Connecting the laptop is a case of enabling the wireless facility and setting up the security.
- Once enabled you should find that you have a new icon in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. The Microsoft one looks like a terminal with sound wave coming out of its right hand side. Whatever the icon you should find an option on the right hand mouse button that enables you to display the discovered networks.
- Hopefully you should discover a network with your SSID on it and it should indicate that it is a secure network
- By matching the security information saved earlier you (hopefully!) should get the laptop connected. Be prepared to spend some time getting the security matched up.
I have already dealt with the most common problem of the Internet settings.
Ping failing means that you are not getting connectivity between the PC and the router. Just double check that you are pinging the correct address e.g. ping 192.168.1.1
- Check the wiring
- Press Start - Control Panel - Network Connections. You should see a line with "Local Area Connection" on it.
- Using the right hand mouse button select status and then select the support tab
- You should see an address such as 192.168.1.10 with a subnet set to 255.255.255.0 and the default gateway set to the router address e.g. 192.168.1.1
- If this is not true then first check the TCP/IP settings: select the general tab and press the properties button from here select the line marked "Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) and press the properties button. Ensure that "Obtain an IP adress automatically" and "Obtain DNS server address automatically" are selected.
- If the TCP/IP settings are correct but the status is showing an address not in the 192.168.x.x range then the issue could be the DHCP facility inside the router. Let us suppose the default router address is 192.168.2.1 then pick another address by change the value of the last octet such as 192.168.2.1. Set the TCP/IP settings to (set 4 above) to manual and key the machine address as 192.168.2.10, the mask as 255.255.255.0 and the gateway as 192.168.2.1.
- Recently I discovered a PC that had no MAC address and, therefore, would not connect. This can be checked by going back to the status - support tab and pressing the details button. The MAC address is the 12 hexadecimal characters called physical address. In this case it was all zeroes. I corrected by going back to properties and pressing the Configure button. One of the dialogue boxes off of this button allowed me to key a 12 character address. Do not directly copy the MAC address from another machine as they have to unique on a given network.
Ping www.ebay.co.uk does not work
Pinging the router (e.g. 192.168.2.1) does work but pinging the BBC does not (ping www.ebay.co.uk but substitute bbc for ebay). Try ping 126.96.36.199 If this does not work then you have connectivity between the router but not out to the internet. Check the ISP settings such as your ADSL user identity and password (maybe time to give your ISP support a quick call).
If pinging the number format does work but the www etc. does not then DNS is not working. Your ISP should have provided you with a least 2 DNS server addresses (in number format) check that these have been correctly typed into the router settings.
Now you have a network you can use file and pinter sharing. To get started on this go back to Control Panel and select the System icon. Select the Computer Name tab. Press the Change button. Rename the computer to something sensible and select the workgroup radio button. The default workgroup name is workgroup. You may change the name but whatever you chose use the same workgroup name on all you computers. Reboot all the computers and then use Windows Explorer to explore your network places. Hopefully you will see your workgroup name as a folder and under that folders named after your PC's. Use windows help to set up shared folders and printers.
Hopefully this guide has proved useful. I could easily write an entire book on this subject so I have only jusr skimmed the surface of this subject but hopefully I have given you enough information to get your home network started.