How to Use Ethernet

By Maxwell Payne

An Ethernet connection can be used to connect to high speed DSL or cable Internet connections. Ethernet connections can also be used to connect to Local Area Networks (LANs) to access and share devices such as printers. You will need an Ethernet-compatible network card to access and use Ethernet connections.

Things You'll Need

  • Ethernet cable
  • Ethernet-compatible network card

Step 1

Verify that your computer has an Ethernet-ready network card or slot. On the outside of a computer or laptop, the Ethernet connection port looks a bit like a large telephone jack. If there is no network card present, you will need to purchase and install one. A decent one can be purchased for under $25 (see Resources). Install the network card by turning off the computer, removing the casing, and pushing the network card firmly into place in an available PCI slot. Laptop users should use a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, since installing an internal network card on a laptop can be difficult.

Step 2

Connect the Ethernet cable to the Ethernet connection port on the network card. It is advised that the Ethernet cable be a CAT5 cable, as this is the most common kind of Ethernet cable available (see Resources).

Step 3

Connect the other end of the Ethernet cable into your DSL or cable modem. If you are accessing a Local Area Network, connect the other end to the available Ethernet port on the router or network wall jack.

Step 4

Click on "Control Panel" and "Network Settings" on a Windows-based PC. Mac users should go into "System Preferences" under the Apple logo in the menu bar (note that a Mac may automatically detect the new network connection). Configure the Ethernet connection so that it will connect to the network or Internet connection. Settings vary widely, so consult your Internet service provider or network administrator for any usernames, passwords or specific IP addresses. Enter this information into the related input fields in the Network Settings section of the Control Panel.

Tips & Warnings

  • Purchase longer Ethernet cables to be able to connect to routers, printers or modems that are farther away from your desk area.
  • It's also possible to connect an Ethernet connection directly to another computer or device such as a printer. Going into "Sharing" on either a Mac or PC will allow you to set up a connection between two computer to share files over Ethernet connections. Both computers will need to grant permission for the other to access the connection. Set up will vary depending on your security settings and current operating system. This kind of connection setup is suited for advanced users.
  • Always unplug and turn off the computer before installing components such as network cards. Discharge static electricity before doing work on the internal parts of a computer by touching your hands to an unconnected metal surface.