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Chapter 3. Sharing a Connection > Setting Up a Small Network

Setting Up a Small Network

The first step to sharing an Internet connection is to set up all your computers in a small local area network (LAN). To do this you’ll need to install a network interface card (NIC) in each PC you want to connect to the network. (NICs are internal cards that provide Ethernet networking capability to your PC and are typically in the $35–$100 range.)


Network interface cards are also called network cards and Ethernet cards —the later appellation referring to the type of cable (Ethernet) that is run between computers on the network.

When assembling your network, you can choose from either 10Base-T (10Mbps) or 100Base-T (100Mbps) network cards. The 100Mbps cards cost a little—although not much—more, but provide ten times the data transfer rate. A 10Mbps network is more than adequate for Internet connection sharing, and for most home use; if you’re constructing a larger network for a business, you may want to go with the faster 100Mbps cards. In either case, installation is easy enough for most users to perform without additional technical assistance.


Many NICs are billed as 10/100. This means that they’re capable of the faster 100Mbps transmission rate, but can also operate at the slower speed if connected to a 10Mbps hub. (A 10/100 card will sense the proper speed automatically, no additional configuration necessary.)

After you’ve installed all the NICs, you also have to install a central hub to physically connect the machines together, as shown in Figure 3.1. (A hub is simply a device that connects other networked devices or computers together.) After the hub is up and running, you run Ethernet cabling between the hub and each PC, and then configure Windows (on each PC) for network use.

Figure 3.1. A simple LAN connecting three PCs through a central hub.

Fortunately, none of this is particularly difficult—if you know what you’re doing. Fortunately, you can purchase complete networking kits at most computer stores that include everything you need—NICs, hub, and cable—in a single box, complete with easy-to-follow instructions. In addition, there are a number of fine computer books that walk you step-by-step through the installation of various types of home and small-business networks; Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Networking, 3rd Edition, by Joe Habraken (Que, 2001) is particularly good for this purpose.

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