How to Set Up a Computer Network

By Alan Hughes

Technological advances have made it much easier to set up a home or office network than it used to be. Self-configuring switches and operating systems have made it possible for almost anybody to set up a small network. The size and scope of the network you build will depend on your environment and your budget. Be sure you know your expected outcome before you begin to build your computer network.

Step 1

Determine whether you will build a wired or wireless network. The primary considerations are budget and security. If you need high security, a wired network is a better choice. If the security need is not so high, but budget is a major consideration, then a wireless network should fit the bill.

Step 2

Acquire the necessary equipment based on your infrastructure decision. If you choose to install a wired network larger than 15 to 20 devices, you will probably need to hire a consultant to handle the wiring and installation. If you install a wireless network, you will need one or more wireless access points. With either type of infrastructure you will need Internet connectivity through an Internet Service Provider.

Step 3

Determine your IP addressing scheme and assign IP addresses to any servers on your network. Servers get static IP addresses so that they are easy to find on the network using DNS services. Private networks typically use a "192.168.0.n" range, where "n" is the host address of each individual device. Assign a subnet mask of "255.255.255.0" for this range. Windows Vista and Windows 7 provide automatic IP addressing that assigns each device an IP address automatically, based on what the operating system determines via network discovery processes.

Step 4

Select your workgroup name and assign it to each computer on the network. Click "Start," right-click "Computer" and click "Properties." Click the "Change Settings" button and change the workgroup name. You can leave the default workgroup name, which is "MSHOME" on Windows Vista and Windows 7, but if you have Windows XP or older operating systems on your network you will have to change the default of "WORKGROUP" to "MSHOME."

Step 5

Verify connectivity if your network is wired. Click "Start," "Computer" and expand the "Network" link to see other devices on your network. If you can see all the other attached computers and printers, you are finished. If you cannot see other computers, check the network interface configuration, make any corrections and retest. The remaining steps are for wireless networks.

Step 6

Assign a broadcast SSID, or network name, to your wireless router if you are putting in a wireless network. This is the name that shows up when you scan for available networks. Unless you are setting up a public Wi-Fi hotspot, choose a name that is obscure and not easily connected with your home or your business. The specific instructions for this step and the next differ according to the specific wireless router that you are using, so consult your installation manual for configuration details.

Step 7

Assign an encryption type to your network. Choose WPA2-Enterprise or WPA2-Personal for the highest security available. Assign a passphrase of at least eight alphanumeric characters to be used by the encryption algorithm. Your router may require a restart to make the configuration changes effective.

Step 8

Verify connectivity for your wireless network. Click "Start," "Computer" and expand the "Network" link to see other devices on your network. If you can see all the other attached computers and printers, you are finished. If you cannot see other computers, check the network interface configuration, make any corrections and retest.