If you have multiple computers in your home, networking them is a great idea! There are several big advantages to setting up an in-home network:

  1. If one of the computers has a printer attached, then the other computer can print to it over the network.
  2. If one of the computers has certain files on it, someone on the other computer can access those files over the network rather than having to copy them onto a floppy disk.
  3. If you like playing multi-user computer games that have network capabilities built in, then two people can play these games together over the network.
  4. If you connect to the Internet with one of the computers, the other computer can use that same connection over the network. So one computer can connect to the Internet with a modem and the other computer will route its Internet traffic through that single connection.
Networking PCs has gotten easier and a lot less expensive lately, but it is still a little bit of a challenge. How Home Networking Works discusses the whole thing in detail, but here's a quick answer. There are two popular ways to do it.

The first way is to buy and install network cards in both machines. You can go to a place like Best Buy or Comp USA and get an inexpensive network card for $20 to $30 these days. You have to open the computer to plug the card in, and then install the driver software. You also have to purchase two network cables ($10 to $20 each) and a small hub ($30 to $40) to physically connect the two machines together. Once you get it all together, the two machines should be able to talk to each other.

This approach has two advantages:

  • The network will be very fast -- up to 100 Mbits/sec, and at least 10Mbits/sec
  • It only costs about $100.
It has two disadvantages:
  • You have to open the case and install a card, which intimidates some people
  • You have to run thick network cables around the house. If the computers are in the same room that's OK, but if they are on different floors it can be messy.
You can solve that second disadvantage by purchasing radio modems instead. They cost more but are very easy to connect to one another.

The other path you can follow is something called the Intel Anypoint Network. Instead of using special network cables, you use your home's telephone wiring to connect computers together (this causes no interference when using the phone for normal telephoning - your phone and the network share the same wire). In addition, you can buy a version of the Intel system that uses a USB port, so installation is extremely easy. You can also purchase cards, which are faster.

The big advantage of the Intel system is the use of phone wiring. Simply plug all the computers in your house into phone jacks and they can talk to each other. You also don't need to buy a hub. The disadvantages include:

  • Higher prices (for the USB version) (about $180 for 2 USB adapters)
  • Slower speeds (for the USB version, 1 Mbit/sec)
However, installation takes just a few minutes.

Once you install the cards and cables, both Windows 95 and Windows 98 make network access easy (You really need W98 for the USB support). You can use the Network Neighborhood feature to share files and printers. The Intel system comes with software to share an Internet connection, or you can use the version built into Windows 98.

Here are several interesting links: