Since Microsoft released Windows for Workgroups, networking has become quite easy and very commonplace for most home computer users. Everything that is needed to set up a home network is built right into the computer’s operating system which was installed in the machine. All you have to do is turn it on and set it up. If you happen to have Windows 95/98 setting up a network is a snap!

A home network is, simply put, a made up of set of hardware and also a set of software that will allow computers to communicate with each other. A home network enable File sharing or using the same printer or other input and outputs instead of buying one for each available computer.

A home network functions in almost the exact same way as that used by a private businesses when a LAN or Local Area Network is created. Designations, or IP addresses, as well as some that are catchy phrases that humans will remember are called host names and they know who everyone is as well as where everything is. Let’s say that 10.1.1.5 or Computer Jack sends a file to 10.1.1.6 or Computer Jill. The hardware and software must cooperate with each other in order to know where and how to send the file from Jack to Jill.

This idea is much the same as that used by the post office. There is an address associated with each home. A letter that is sent from one home is routed to another by using that address. Putting the return address on the letter is very important so the person knows where to respond. Also, if the letter gets lost, it will be sent back to the return address. If there is no return address it just goes to the dead letter office. Home computer networks work in much the same way.

The routing data is also known as ‘an envelope’. This surrounds the data or the words on the letter. A home network comes in two main types: cabled and wireless. In a cabled network different wire bundles which are known as Ethernet cables with connectors on each end plug into either a network interface card, or NIC, in the printer, fax, computer or into a switch/router. Hubs or switches are simplified devices that allow physical connections between the components of a network.

A wireless network operates in much the same way. The main difference is that there is no need for cables. Small devices known as transceivers send and retrieve information by radio signals. Let’s say that you want two computers within a home network to both be able to print on the same printer. Where would you even start to do something like that? You can make this happen in two possible ways. In one set up, the printer is physically attached to one of the computers. The alternate set up connects the printer to the network and not to any individual computer;

With this first arrangement, the printer is called local, but shareable. It is possible to allow a remote computer to print to the locally attached device. Computer-Jack then just shares the printer by using software of the hosting system, Computer Jill. In most typical cases nowadays, the printer has its own NIC. It is then attached to a router or switch by way of Ethernet cables or a wireless transceiver. Then each computer on the network is able to ‘see’ the printer as a device that the computer can use.

Scanners, fax machines and other computers operate in pretty much the same way. Every device receives an address and a name. Software on the device allows it to be configured so that its function is accessible to multiple computers on the same network.

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