Creating a Windows XP Network – An Overview
Creating a home network or a small office network does not require much expertise - thanks to the Windows Network Setup Wizard. You can access the Windows Network Setup Wizard from Start Menu -> All Programs -> Accessories ->Communications. It is better to pre-plan the kind of network you want. Wired networks are more secure than wireless. Though wireless networks offer ease of computing in a certain range, people can get unauthorized access to your personal wireless network even if you miss out on a simple point. Plus, creating a wireless network for home or small business will incur more costs as the wireless hubs/routers are expensive. Another downside is that the building structure may create interferences with signals - forcing you to change your position to connect to the network.
The procedure is almost same for setting up both wired and wireless networks. In this article, we will focus on wired networks (or Ethernet, as they are better known). To start with, you need a high powered computer - preferably a desktop operating on Windows XP, Service Pack 2 or 3 (though a simple computer can also be used, high resource computer will add speed to your Windows XP network). In addition, you need two Ethernet cards or NIC (Network Interface Cards) on this computer, hereafter referred as host. All your other computers will connect to this host for sharing printers, scanners, Internet or any other peripherals as well as files. The need for two Ethernet cards arises as one of the cables will go into the modem that connects to the Internet and the other one goes to the network router/hub. If the modem is internal, than you can use a single NIC – not practical - as most ISPs offer their own external modems. You can opt for modems that go into the USB port to avoid the need for two Ethernet cards.
All of your other computers in the network should also carry an Ethernet card (all of the modern computers and laptops carry the card, also called as LAN card, Ethernet Card or NIC). Another important device is a router or hub that you will use to connect all the computers you wish to connect to the Windows XP Network. Keeping the router/hub turned off, connect all of your computers to the different slots in the router. Switch on all computers and then the router. Check out the lights on router to see if all computers are properly connected to the router. If any light is OFF or blinking off and on, you need to check the Ethernet card and the cable to fix the issue.
Up to this point, we have not used the Windows XP Network Wizard. Once you can see all lights "green" on the router hub, connect the host to it. Before connecting the host computer, make sure you have connected it to the Internet modem and all other peripherals that you wish to share on the network. With this done, run the Windows XP Network Wizard available under Communications submenu of Accessories Menu in All Programs from Start menu. Though you will need to run it on each computer - to create a proper Windows XP Network - you have to run it first on the host. Just run the wizard and follow the prompts. The last screen offers you several options including an option to create a network setup disk. I recommend you create the network setup disk. This eases your task while also serving as a ready CD when you include more computers into the network. Once you run the CD on each computer, you are all set. You can access the different computers and host computer using My Network Places. To share files and folders, right click, select Properties and enable sharing using the Sharing tab. As long as the host is connected to Internet, you can use any computer to browse the Internet.
TIP: Never allow sharing of the system drive of host computer to avoid complications including accidental deletion of important files that may ruin your network.
Now that you have your Windows XP Network working, let us check out some important points related to Windows XP Network Administration.