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How to Share a Broadband Connection

written by: Ada Stoy•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 11/2/2010

Sharing a broadband connection is the easiest way to connect multiple computers to the Internet. Sharing a broadband connection can be done at home or in the office.

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    What Do I Need to Have in Order to Share a Broadband Connection?

    Before you get to the nitty-gritty details of sharing a broadband connection, you need some preparation. There are some items you need to have before you start.

    Obviously the first thing you need in order to share a broadband connection is the broadband connection itself – LAN, ADSL, DSL, or cable. You also need to check your contract with your provider because there are providers, who explicitly ban you from sharing your broadband connection. Some idea about how Ethernet works won't harm you but for now you can do without it.

    Next, if you will be sharing the broadband connection between two computers only, you need a crossover cable to connect them. Additionally, each of the computers must have a network adapter.

    If you plan to connect 3 or more computers, you won't be able to connect them to each other directly – you will need a switch or a hub. Also, you will need an Ethernet cable from the hub/switch to each of the computers and of course, a network adapter for each of the computers.

    If you plan to use a router, you need to get one. Very often a switch/hub is included in the router (and very often the router is also the modem), which means that you won't have to get each of these devices separately.

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    Sharing a Broadband Connection via Internet Connection Sharing (ICS)

    When your PCs and other devices are properly connected, it is time to start with the software part of the operation. The first approach is to use Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). ICS is built in Windows and it is the easiest way to share a connection, but it gives less control over the connection.

    In order to enable ICS, on your host computer you need to open Control Panel, choose Network Connections and right-click the connection you plan to share. Then, choose Properties and click the Sharing tab. Put a tick in the Allow other network users to connect through this computer’s Internet connection check box. From the Settings tab you can also choose which services you want to share with other users.

    ICS is a fast and dirty way to share a broadband connection, and it is suitable for small offices on a low budget. You can't use ICS if your system uses static IP addresses, or if your network uses a domain controller, a DNS server, a gateway, or a DHCP server. Still, despite all the limitations, ICS could do a great job when you need to share a broadband connection.

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    Sharing a Broadband Connection via a Router

    The second approach to sharing a broadband connection is via a router. The router could be a dedicated device, or you can set a separate computer as a dedicated Linux router. If you have an old computer and you are familiar with Linux routers, this is the best approach but if you don't, any router you can buy on the market will do.

    Connect the PCs to the router, make sure that the router is on and that it is connected to the Internet and most likely this will be all you need to do because routers generally are smart enough to configure the necessary settings in order to allow the PCs connected to them to access the Net. Still, it won't hurt to check the documentation of the router for any recommended settings or additional procedures to perform in order to ensure the trouble-free operation of your shared broadband connection. You may also want to have a look at this article, which explains in more detail how to configure a router.

    Routers are the safer way to share a broadband connection because they use NAT (Network Address Translation) and your IP is not visible to the rest of the world. A router is a much better approach than ICS but for those cases, when you need a fast solution and/or don't have a router, even ICS works.