How do I connect computers with Ethernet cable?

This describes the basic requirements for a wired network. We will cover wireless networking next.

Connecting only two computers

If you want to connect two computers, all you need is a "straight-through cable" and an interface in each computer. A straight-through cable is an Ethernet cable that has a pair of wires that pass straight through the cable on each end. (Usually, Ethernet cable is called "crossed pair" or crossover cable. This means that somewhere between the two ends, two of the wires are crossed.)

You can plug each end of the cable into each computer, and you have a very simple network! You should follow your operating system's directions for proper configuration instructions. You can share files and a printer, and if you have Internet Connection Sharing set up, your Internet connection as well.

Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) allows one computer to establish a connection to the Internet, and another computer on the network can access the Internet through the first computer. Windows 98SE or later support ICS. You should consult operating system's documentation for information on how to configure ICS. If it is not built into your operating system, USRobotics has links to shareware that will allow you to run ICS on your computer. One of the main drawbacks of ICS is that the "main" computer is a bottleneck for all Internet traffic. If that machine is not available, none of the computers on the network on the network will be able to access the Internet. There may also be performance issues (on the main computer or the local network), depending on how much processing the sharing computer has to do.

How do I connect 3 or more computers?

Useful terms (Links will pop up in a new window)

straight cable
crossed pair (cross cable)

See how it all works together:

USRobotics Solutions

Network Configurator