A low-cost way to set up a network

Sometimes you need to connect two computers and you want a fast connection. To do this you need nothing more than the null Ethernet cable. Both computers need an Ethernet card with correct drivers and the TCP/IP protocol installed. An advantage of the Ethernet option is that it works on all versions of Windows, as well as other brands of computers.

For most home applications, a 10BaseT Ethernet card is sufficient; though a 10/100 card is not much more expensive and can send 10 times as much data. Connect the two computers using the null Ethernet cable. If the drivers are installed on both computers correctly, a green or orange light will appear near the point where you plugged in the cable on each computer. These link lights indicate that a physical connection is present between the two computers and that the two Ethernet cards recognize each other. If you do not see the lights, it means the drivers are not installed correctly, the cable is not wired correctly, or the card does not have a link light.

Once you have a physical link established between the two computers, it's time to make the TCP/IP protocol work. Go to the Control Panel folder and open the Network Connections section. Search for your connection in its list and double-click it. Then, open the item named Internet Protocol (TCP/IP). Search for the one that says TCP/IP and has the name of your Ethernet card next to it.

There are many ways to configure a local

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area network, but the quickest and easiest way to connect two computers using a null Ethernet cable is to set the values, as shown below.

IP address of Computer1

IP address of Computer2

Subnet Mask for both

Gateway for both

Preferred DNS Server for both to be left blank

Alternate DNS Server for both to be left blank

At this point, the two computers will act is if they were on a larger network with routers and other equipment. You will not be able to access the Internet, but you will be able to share files and printers. The same restrictions apply here that apply to the other cabling options; the usernames on one computer must have appropriate permissions to access files and printers on the other computer. If you choose to add another computer at a later date or get broadband Internet access, the Ethernet option will be the easiest to adapt to the new network configuration.

This was first published in August 2006

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