How to Set Up and Troubleshoot a Home Computer Network
Setting up a home computer network may sound daunting, but it’s relatively simple, provided you break everything down into specific steps. Home computer networks are ideal for sharing a wireless connection among multiple computers, especially for those who have a home office, teenagers, or another computer configuration.
Purchasing a Router
Before you begin to worry about software, worry about hardware. A excellent router, like a Cisco router or a Linksys router, will save you from having to endlessly reboot and reprogram while still allowing you to quickly set up a home network. Make sure you buy from a company that has years of experience designing high quality routers that are capable of handling high amounts of traffic (such as data heavy media files). Virtually any home network will run smoothly without irritating slowness or delays.
After you’ve purchased a router, the next step is to determine how much bandwidth you are receiving from your wireless connection. This becomes particularly important if you have a household where the network users are habitually downloading movies or other large data files. While a router can rapidly transfer this information, it is constrained by the amount of bandwidth available to the household. A connection that transmits data at 2.4 GHz with a 54 megabit speed is usually adequate to the task.
If your network feels exceptionally sluggish, check to make sure that you are receiving the wireless by ‘pinging’ the network. Alternatively, if you are receiving the full wireless bandwidth but are still experiencing slow results because of the types of media you are transferring, you may consider paying for a faster service.
While software drivers for networking are fairly easy to find and download from the Internet, purchasing software directly from a computer retailer is recommended as a way to keep your network free of faulty software. A higher incidence of spyware and viruses makes downloading free software inadvisable, especially for something as sensitive as a computer network.
Purchasing software from one of the major companies, such as McAfee or Symantec, will also provide you with another vital component of wireless home networking: a firewall. Because wireless networks are difficult to secure, the best option is to buy software that not only allows you to network, but is built specifically to keep out uninvited users. Firewalls are designed to protect your valuable information behind a tightly secured ‘wall’ which can’t be accessed unless a very specific encrypted code is used.
Now that you have all the components, you’ll want to set up the router first. Install the software driver onto each computer that will use the network. Set up a passkey that is fairly hard to break. Avoid simple or obvious terms that an outside user could easily guess. Set up each computer with this information.
The company that is providing your wireless connection will usually assign you a name and a passkey. However, in some configurations, you will be able to reprogram this information.
No matter how expertly a system is set up, on occasion a technical problem manifests, resulting in a lack of connectivity for computers. There are a few ways to quickly check what’s working and what’s not.
Usually, problems are caused by one of two things: the software on the computer itself is malfunctioning, and not allowing the computer to connect. You can test this by seeing if any other computers can connect to the network. If they can, the problem is local to that computer. A simple reboot of the software should solve this problem. However, if the software continues to be unable to connect to the internet, you will need to uninstall the software, and then reinstall it. Sometimes, a version can become corrupted. By wiping it clean and starting anew, the problem should resolve itself.
The second most common problem is that the router needs a quick reboot. If you purchase a quality router, you will not have this problem very often, although every now and again even the best routers need a quick reboot. Turn the router off for at least thirty seconds. Switch it back on, and check your connectivity in about ten minutes. This gives the system plenty of time to reset itself.
If this doesn’t work, the wireless provider may temporarily be out. Call your wireless provider to determine if they are experiencing an outage, and when you can expect the resumption of service. If all of these methods don’t resolve your problem, there is a basic flaw in your initial setup.