If you don’t already have a home computer network and want to set up one, it’s easy. In fact, it’s so easy that I recommend that ANYONE using a high-speed Internet connection should use a router for the added security that it gives their computer.
A wired or wireless router (wireless routers normally have 4 wired Ethernet ports, also, in addition to being able to communicate wirelesly) is pretty much a plug-and-play device.
Most of the time, you don’t really need the directions provided with the cable/dsl wired or wireless router, except for configuring wireless security settings — or if you have a DSL connection.
If you have a cable Internet connection (at home) or an Ethernet connection (at home in some areas, but more often, in a college dormitory), you can plug the router into the power, plug the Ethernet cable from the cable modem or the other high-speed connection into the router, and then plug another Ethernet cable from the computer to the router. Then, you start the computer and get the IP address and other configuration information.
Since Windows, the routers, and the Internet Service Providers use DHCP (Dynamic Host Control Protocol) to dynamically assign changeable IP addresses to computers, it works easily, at least if you have a wired connection.
If you have a wireless router, you should have at least one computer connected to it by Ethernet cable. You’ll need this when you’re configuring the router, including when you need to change the channel that the router uses because a neighbor is using the same channel — the interference will cause networking problems. If you try to configure the router’s security settings while connected wirelessly, you’re likely to lock yourself out of the router — requiring either an Ethernet cable connection or a hold-in-the-button reversion to the router’s factory settings.
Once you have connected the computer to the router, the router to the cable modem, you should have a working Internet connection so that you can surf the web and do email.
The advantage with the router, if you only have one computer, is that the router is the piece of equipment that gets a real Internet IP address, while your computer gets a local area network (LAN) IP address. This means that no computer on the Internet side of your router can initiate a connection to your computer.
Your computer asks the router for a web page, the router asks the web server, the web server sends the response to the router, and the router sends the response to your computer. But, a connection attempt initiated from the Internet simply stops at the router!
A DSL connection is not quite as simple as a direct Ethernet connection or a cable modem connection. DSL often uses a protocol called PPPOE (Point-to-Point-Protocol-Over-Ethernet), which is a derivative of the older Point-to-Point-Protocol that dialup ISP’s use.
If you have a DSL connection, you will have to configure the cable/dsl router according to the instructions that come with the router. Most (or all) of the routers are able to do PPPOE, but the default to the more common TCP/IP.
To add another computer, just plug it in to the router using another wired connection. Or, if you like, you can set up the additional computer using a wireless connection. If you do, be sure to read your manual for the router — most do a good job of explaining why you should secure your wireless network and how to do it.
If you want to share files and/or a printer (or printers) among the computers on your home network, you’ll have to enable those functions. You will also have to set your computers’ firewall programs not to block Windows File and Printer Sharing for computers on your home network.
Of course, you should also be running the usual anti-malware products — anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall programs. My choice is VIPRE Antivirus Premium”, which provides all three functions.