You’ve decided the time is right to upgrade your technology from a single PC to a full blown computer network. Although it may sound a bit intimidating to a you, this article will walk you through the steps and equipment needed to set up your first computer network using Windows 2003 Server.
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Before we get started, we’ll want to cover some of the terms you’ll run into while building a network.
Server – A server is a central machine that shares its services to other machines. This machine will be running Windows Server 2003.
Client – The client is a machine that connects to a server to obtain or utilize one or more of the server’s resources.
Switch – A switch allows computers to “talk" to each other by passing data across physical cables called Ethernet.
IP Address – The IP address is like a unique identifier for each device on your network. Your Cable or DSL modem will have one as well as your server, client and switch. There are two types of IP addresses – public and private. The items on your home network will all have private IP addresses while your Cable\DSL modem will have both a public and private IP.
Gateway – A gateway is a device on the network that allows other devices to connect to a different network. In this case your Cable or DSL modem will be the gateway as it bridges your network with the Internet.
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Next, you’ll need to make sure you have some equipment and software on hand.
Things you will need:
Server running Windows 2003 Server
Desktop or Laptop – this will act as your client
Switch – this allows you to connect the server and the client together to form the network
Cable or DSL modem – this will be your connection out to the Internet
Ethernet Cables – these are the cables that physically connect your client and server to the switch
For this article, I’m making the assumption that you already have a Cable or DSL Internet connection.
When we're finished, the network should look like this:
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Determining Current Network Settings
You may not realize it, but by having a PC and Internet connection, you already have a mini network. We’ll need to grab some of the configuration settings from your PC before continuing.
On your PC, go to Start, Run.
Type “cmd" and press ENTER.
Type “ipconfig /all" and press ENTER.
Take note of the following information – IP Address, Subnet, Gateway and DNS Servers. Write it down on a piece of paper – you’ll need it later.
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Before you dive into configuring the server and client, you’ll want to make sure the physical connections are set up correctly.
Plug your switch into a wall outlet.
Your Cable or DSL modem most likely has an Ethernet cable already running from it to your PC. You’ll want to disconnect the end plugged into your PC and plug it into the switch. There should be a port on your switch that is different than the others and is typically labeled “WAN", “Internet" or “CABLE\DSL". Make sure the Cable or DSL modem Ethernet cable is plugged into this special port.
Take two of the loose Ethernet cables and plug them both into an open port on the switch. Plug each cable into your PC (client) and the other into the Server.
This is all you should need to do to physically create the network. If you have more clients, plug them into the switch as well. Make sure all devices have power and then go ahead and turn them all on.
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Tying the Pieces Together
In this step, we’ll configure the network settings on the server and then make sure we can access the Internet.
Log into the server as an administrator.
Open up the network properties by right clicking on My Network Places and selecting Properties..
Double click on Local Area Connection.
Double click on TCP\IP and set the IP address to one digit higher than your client. Assuming your client is set to something along the lines of 192.168.1.1 – assign your server 192.168.1.2.
Give the server the same DNS, Gateway and Subnet settings as your client.
The client will not require any further configuration. As long as the IP address for the Client and Server (and switch if it has one) are different, everything should be working at this point.
With these few pieces of equipment and software, you can create a basic computer network.
For further information, you can read my article on How to Build a Windows File Server.