Hello everyone, if you’ve been following along then you know this is the third week of our “Network Set-up How-to’s.” As I said in the last post, once you’ve completed making your own cables and setting up your network, there isn’t a lot left unless you want to get into the fancy stuff. So here it is people, the fancy stuff: setting up a local area network via a wired connection and how to activate file sharing on the network. It may sound a little crazy but don’t worry, you know I put it in “lazy”-man’s terms.
Setting up a local area network (LAN)
Okay so remember back in the “Set up a Home Network” blog post, you set up a router? As to not regurgitate the same step-by-step guide, I’m going to assume you have at least the modem and router set-up for now. Connecting the computers and resources comes pretty easily once you have that done, but there is one factor that may pose as a problem with a LAN network: If you want to connect multiple computers and have internet access, then you’re going to need a hub (or switch) that will centralize network traffic between multiple hosts and you will need the router for internet access, of course.
Some cable routers will need to be configured by logging into its server, known as the Dynamic Host Configuration Server or DHCP server, via a connected computer. Not all routers require this so I’m just making you aware of it, but it’s not a core part of the how-to. When this is required, connect your computer to the router as you would in step 3A. On your router there should be a sticker or label with an IP address to use as the server webpage, and the default username and password. Use these to log in; you can change them once you do. If for any reason you reset your router, the settings will also reset to the defaults so don’t lose them.
Configuration will mainly consist of giving your network a name, a password if you so choose, and sometimes manually entering the IP addresses of the computers and resources that will be connecting to it. Resources consist of accessories like printers, faxes, and other devices that you may use. Now that you’ve configured the DHCP settings, it’s time to start setting up the rest of the network. Most people use Category 5 or 6(A) network cables, so I will just refer to them as RJ45 Ethernet cables.
Materials, what you may or may not need:
- Your computers, of course
- Additional resources such as printers*
- Several RJ45 Ethernet cables
- A cross over Ethernet cable*
- A hub or switch
- A router and a modem
Okay let’s get started. Don’t feel bad if it’s all a bit confusing to read, it took me half a day just to figure it out myself; I’m a wireless internet kind of guy and never set-up my own LAN, so bear with me.
- Get all of your computers and resources in the same room. This is a wired LAN so you’re going to need everything in close proximity to the router unless you have a very long Ethernet cable. Many people choose to do a wired LAN because it is usually faster, more stable, and secure. A wireless LAN is also a choice but really, it doesn’t take much (step 3) and file sharing is a little tricky, so I don’t cover it here.
- Let’s assume you have four computers and a printer*. Most hubs have more than four ports, so this next step shouldn’t be a problem. Take five RJ45 Ethernet cables and plug them into one of the ports on the hub; it doesn’t matter which ones as long as it’s not the main port (the uplink). If there is no uplink, then you’ll need a crossover cable* to connect the hub to your router. Connect the other ends of the cables to each computer and the printer. Take another RJ45 cable and connect the hub to a free port on the router.
- Go to your network settings. Usually you can find them through the control panel (network and internet -> network connections). The network should already be connected unless you have a password. You may need to refresh your network connections so that it will scan for what’s available. Verify that each computer is successfully connected. If it is not, find the network name and double-click it or select it and connect to it. If a password is required, enter it when prompted. If all else fails, try to restart your computer and repeat step 3.
- Once all of your computers and resources have been connected, test them. Make sure each computer has internet access. Make sure you can connect to and print at the connected printer from each computer. You should also be able to view what is connected to the network, which should be your computers and the printer. Do this by going back to the DHCP set up page. If there are five IP addresses displayed in the “status” page, then the LAN set-up was successful. If your router did not have a DHCP page, you can also right-click the Windows “start” button, select explore, and scroll down to “My Network Places.” All of your connected computers should be listed in this window.
- That’s it, you’re done.
As you can see, making a LAN once you have set-up your initial network really isn’t too bad. It sounds complicated but really, all you needed was some spare Rj45 Ethernet cables, a hub, and a room where you can set everything up. At my workplace, we have something similar. We’re not all connected by a router; each computer connects to an Ethernet port in the wall which then connects to a server. In my office are several printers that I can select from, simply by selecting their name from the Printer drop-down menu prior to printing a document. Additionally, all of the computers are able to share files via a global network and file sharing. Let’s take a look at how this works.
Most Windows editions are relatively the same when it comes to file sharing. The first thing you need to do is turn it on.
- Double click “My Computer” from the desktop or select it from the star-menu.
- Click the tools tab and “folder options.”
- Click “View” and then scroll down to “Use simple file sharing [recommended].” Click inside the checkbox to turn it on or off. A green check appears in the box if it’s on.
- Press “Ok” to confirm this activation of file sharing.
Now that file sharing is enabled, the rest of this is pretty straightforward.
- Open Windows Explorer by right-clicking on the start button and selecting “Explore.”
- Find the folder you want to share. Right-click it and select “Properties.”
- A few tabs will be available. Click “Sharing.”
- In the “Sharing tab,” you will see an option to share the folder, and then multiple options below it. Click “Share this folder” to activate the other options.
- From here, you can select how many users have access to the folder/files and edit their permissions, such as viewing or editing files.
- Click “Ok” to activate the options you selected.
- Now test the file sharing to make sure it worked. Go to each computer and see if you can find the shared folder on the network via going back to “My Network Places” and selecting the computer with the shared folder. If you can’t, then you may have missed a step or forgot to click “ok.”
Wow, that was a lot longer and confusing than I had expected. I hope you kept up with me throughout the whole thing, and I hope it all worked correctly for you. I think this about wraps up the blog post. See you next week for our last network how-to post on “servers.”