How to Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition (PART 2)

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This article includes Part 2 of the "Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition" guide. Part 2 provides information about buying the network hardware.

Note To view the other topics of the "Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition" guide, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base articles that are listed in the "References" section of this article.

The "Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition" guide includes the following topics:
Part 1. Introduction: Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition

Part 2. Buying the Network Hardware

Part 3. Connecting the Computers

Part 4. Installing the Network Card

Part 5. Sharing Folders

Part 6. Sharing a Printer

Part 2. Buying the Network Hardware

Your computers can communicate with each other only if they are physically connected. To physically connect them, you must have some hardware. Many manufacturers offer starter kits that make setting up your first network easier. However, you can also obtain all the components separately. You must have the following components to connect your computers:
  • One network card per computer

    The most frequently used network cards are PCI 10BaseT/100BaseT Fast Ethernet adapters. These Ethernet cards for the PCI bus can automatically switch between transfer rates of 10 MBit/s and 100 MBit/s.

    Network card
  • LAN onboard

    New computers typically have a LAN chip on the motherboard. If your motherboard already has a LAN chip, you do not have to install a new network card. However, you may have to activate it in BIOS. For more information, see the manual that the manufacturer supplied with your computer. If you are not sure, you can also ask your hardware manufacturer.
  • One network cable per computer.

    Use CAT5 UTP or STP cables (category 5 unshielded or shielded twisted pair cables with RJ45 connectors on both ends).

    Cable with RJ45 connector
  • A signal distributor.

    A signal distributor connects computers with each other, controls data flow and can negotiate data transfer between 10 Mbit/s and 100 Mbit/s connections. For your small network, use either a dual-speed hub or a dual-speed switch


How to Decide Whether to Use a Hub or a Switch

The signal distributor is the central component that connects your network. The twisted pair cable connects the network cards in all the computers to the signal distributor. This forms a star structure. The term "star topology" originates from this star structure.

The signal distributor does not just connect the devices. It also guides data packets through the network. A hub and a switch differ. When a hub receives a data packet, it forwards it to all other computers. Each computer must verify whether it is the correct recipient.

Diagram of network with hub

A hub forwards data packets to all the ports.

A switch is more intelligent. It recognizes which computer is connected to which port based on the MAC address (the network card's hardware address assigned by the manufacturer) and saves this information in a table. When a switch receives a data packet, it determines the recipient and forwards the packet to the correct computer.

Diagram of network with switch

A switch forwards data packets only to the recipient. Therefore, a switch creates significantly less data traffic than a hub. The more computers that you have in your network, the more sense it makes to use a switch. Your signal distributor must have enough ports to support the number of computers in your network, and it should have extra ports in case you want to add more computers later.
To view other topics in the Set Up a Small Network Guide, click the following article number to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

813936 How to Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition (PART 1)
813938 How to Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition (PART 3)
813939 How to Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition (PART 4)
814004 How to Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition (PART 5)
814005 How to Set Up a Small Network with Windows XP Home Edition (PART 6)
This article is a translation from German. Any subsequent changes or additions to the original German article may not be reflected in this translation. The information contained in this article is based on the German-language version(s) of this product. The accuracy of this information in relation to other language versions of this product is not tested within the framework of this translation. Microsoft makes this information available without warranty of its accuracy or functionality and without warranty of the completeness or accuracy of the translation.

Article ID: 813937 - Last Review: 12/08/2015 01:58:44 - Revision: 4.0

Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition

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