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Home Networking Made Easy

Posted on the 01 September 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds
You don't have to be a geek to set up a home network

I initally wanted to write this article about troubleshooting network issues. But I decided that a lot of the steps I'd be discussing are useless unless people know what they're working with. Enter this article about setting up and securing a basic home network. I'm only going to scratch the surface of networking in this article, but you will learn enough to get all the necessary components and set them up correctly. You'll also learn how to secure your network so people don't steal your bandwidth or steal your information. And for those adventurous souls out there, I'll explain what a static IP is, why you'd want one and how to set it up. So let's get in to it shall we?

By definition, the simplest network you can set up at home is as easy as connecting a network cable between two computers. This allows the computers to share documents and files, but it's of limited use in general. A more practical, yet still easy, network requires a broadband modem and a router. Typically, your ISP(internet service provider) will provide you with a broadband modem, with or without a monthly fee, so that part is normally taken care of. All you really need to provide is a router, and that does require a bit of thought, unfortunately. There are several different brands and models of router on the market today. Your first question is whether you want wireless capability or not. Wireless routers are a combo deal with wired ports and the wireless ability. If you're unsure, go with a wirless router. If you are absolutely sure you won't want to connect a laptop, cell phone, tablet or other wireless device, than you can save a few bucks with a wired only router. If you do choose to go the wireless route, which I highly recommend, you need to determine what Wifi model you're devices can support. The most common wifi models are 802.11b, 802.11g and the newest is 802.11n. Sometimes they're just called "Wireless B, G or N". Wireless B is the cheapest and least advance model of the three, followed by G and then at the top of the heap is N. Most higher up models will include support for the less advanced protocols, so Wireless N is typically your best bet. Other considerations are data transfer speeds and level of technology. Transfer speeds are a measure of how much data a router can move, and the higher the number, the faster your performance. When I say level of technology, I mean what features your router includes. Some makers will have "good", "better" and "best" options. Since their is no good, better, best standard, you'll just have to evaluate what you can afford and what level of tech you want.

One of our readers pointed out that you can, if you so choose, use a network switch instead of a router. It's been my experience that switches are better for more complex networks and business uses, but they are an equally good choice for your network if you choose to use one. Thanks to Kevin for pointing that out.

You'll also need networking cable, labeled as Cat5 or Cat6, for the connections between components. Now that we have our modem and router in place let's start building our network. If you're router came with instructions or a setup guide, or anything like, you should always follow their specific instructions. Mine are more general steps and are meant only as a guide. We're going to start by connecting a network cable from your modem to the "internet" port on your router. There is a dedicated port on the back of your router labeled internet or something like that. Once you've gotten that connected, you'll then plug in a network cable to any wired devices you have on your network. One end of the cable goes into any of the open ports on your router, and the other goes into the ethernet port on your device. Now, plug the router into the wall with the supplied power cord. If a wired network is what you're after, you should be done. Go to one of your connected computers and try out the internet.

If you prefer a bit of mobility in your computing, we still have work to do. If your router came with some sort of "set up software", you should run that now. If not, look in your router's documentation to determine the address needed to configure it. For my Linksys router it's "". You should be given a username or password. For me, the user name is left blank by default the password is admin. You'll want to change your user name and password, as the default is known to anyone with an internet connection. For Linksys, you'll next need to go to the "Wireless" tab. From there, you should see a setup wizard, which should take you through getting your wireless network up and running. Then, you should look for a "Wireless security" tab. From here, you'll choose a security mode, either WPA, WPA2 or WEP. It's not important to know what those modes mean, but it is important to know that with WEP and WPA modes, my router won't allow data transmission at Wireless N speeds. So I think WPA2 seems to be the best route if you choose Wireless N. Choose a strong password, you don't want people stealing your bandwidth, or worse, your information. Now, change your SSID, the name of your wireless network. Now you just need to go to your wireless devices and attempt to connect to the network. Look for the network whose SSID you chose earlier. Then, enter the password you choose and connect. Hopefully, you'll be connected and ready to rock and roll. If not, go back over these steps and see if you missed anything. I'll be adding an article for diagnosing network issues in the near future, so stay tuned. Hope this helps, and know that if you have any questions that are specific to your router or setup, the internet is full of answers.

Now at the beginning of the article I mentioned static IP's. When you connect to the internet, your router assigns you an IP(internet protocol) address. First up is the why. If it requires extra steps, why would you go through the trouble? Well, for one, you won't have to experience "IP address conflicts". if you are using a dynamic address, one generated by the router, you risk having two computers sharing an IP. If this is the case, you won't be able to be connected at the same time. To avoid this, set up a static IP addresses. If everyone has assigned addresses, no one will be in conflict anyone else. Also, static IP offers a bit better security that dynamic addresses. So how do we go about setting up a static IP? These instructions are for Windows machines. If you have a Mac, do a quick Google search for instructions. Go to the start menu and type "cmd" in the search box then press enter to run. You'll see small black window open up. Type in "ipconfig /all". Find the section that has your "default gateway", "IPv4 address" and "DNS Servers". Copy this information down, you'll need it in a moment.

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