How to Set Up a Computer Network

There's more than one way to set up a home network

When you're planning to set up a home network for wired or wireless connections, you need to know how to select equipment and configure the systems. Networks enable a wide range of activities, including sharing files, always-on internet access, and applications that include those for smart homes and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Planning a Home Computer Network

Diagram of home network
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Designing a home network involves taking stock of the computers and other devices you have while considering the ones you are likely to acquire later. Take the time to sketch out a home network diagram before you get started.

Home networks can be built using a combination of wired (cabled) and wireless connections. Each connection technology has advantages in certain situations. If you are unsure which you want, check out the pros and cons of wired vs. wireless home networking.

Buying Network Equipment

Family Sharing a Home Computer
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 A confusing array of choices awaits anyone shopping for network hardware. Home networks commonly use a device called a broadband router for centralizing and sharing the home's files and internet connection. The router serves as a traffic director between the internet and the devices in the home. Several other kinds of networking equipment may also be added to home networks.

Many different brands and models of routers (and other networking products) exist. Some routers are designed for high-traffic networks, some for portability, and some include manageability, advanced security, and other features especially useful for small businesses. Choosing the wireless router that works best for you depends on multiple factors, including speed, reach, ease of use, brand, cost, and warranty.

Setting Up Home Broadband Routers

Wireless Router Connecting Devices (Concept)
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Broadband routers are designed for convenience in setting up home networks, particularly for homes with high-speed internet service. When set up correctly, they simplify the process of sharing files and internet connections and improve the security of a network. When set up improperly, chaos can ensue. For more information, see:

Sharing Files and Printers

A local network facilitates the efficient transfer of files without the need to carry disks or keys between computers. With only a small additional effort, a printer can also be set up for sharing among multiple computers across a local network.

Configuring Home Internet Access

Many people build a home network with the goal of sharing internet access among all their computers and mobile devices. Connecting an internet modem to the home network is the typical way to set up shared access.

Direct Connections Between Computers

The simplest kind of network contains two computers linked by a point-to-point direct connection. You can use these connections to share access to files, a printer, or another peripheral device when a router connection isn't available. So-called ad hoc mode wireless networks allow direct linking of more than two computers.

Configuring Mobile Internet Access

People increasingly rely on internet connectivity while traveling for business or pleasure, which often entails connecting to a network owned by someone else. The ability to establish safe and reliable connections to new networks is essential in an always-connected world.

Working With IP Addresses

An Internet Protocol (IP) address is the fundamental way a computer identifies themselves on a home network, the internet, and other networks. Computers, routers, games consoles, and other devices connected to an internet protocol network each possess its own IP address. Specific IP addresses are typically used on local networks.

Securing Network Devices and Data

Various technologies exist to improve the security of data as it is being shared on computer networks. The ability to reliably back up data across the network is also critical to avoid loss. Some of these security measures require you to take actions when setting up your network to get maximum protection.