If you don’t have a home network set up or if you have some of the components you need but haven’t set everything up yet, this guide is for you. In this guide, I show you what hardware you need to set up a home network, where to get it (if you’re in the US), and give the basics of connecting it all together.
This guide is part of the Home Network Setup, Sharing, Streaming, and Backup Series. Learn more about setting up a home network, configuring file sharing and streaming, and performing network backups on the series homepage.
If you’re in the UK, follow this guide to find out what hardware you need.
What Hardware Do I Need?
The basics for any home network are a modem and router. A modem demodulates (interprets) the information coming from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and gives your network the information needed to display the web pages you request, download the video you want to watch etc. If you have an internet subscription, you likely have a modem (and maybe a router already.) If you don’t, my recommendations are:
|Motorola Surfboard SB5101 Cable Modem – I use this exact modem at home and find it very reliable. There’s not much to say about a modem other than: buy a good-quality one that wont fail in its first year of use. If you don’t already have a modem, I highly recommend using this one.|
|Rca VH606 Digitaal Rg6 Coaxial Cable – This is best value Coaxial cable I could find. This cable is used to connect your modem to your wall cable outlet. Please note: you’ll need to contact your cable company if you don’t already have internet service as the modem will not receive valid data until you do so.|
|Linksys by Cisco WRT54G2 Wireless-G Broadband Router – I use this router in my home and, with four wired and six wireless devices connected, it doesn’t break a sweat. I highly recommend this router if you’re setting up a simple home network. The purpose of a router is to take the incoming signal from your modem (see cable needed below) and distribute that signal to the requesting device. A router, for the purpose of this guide, is essential if you want more than one device connected to your home network.|
|Category 5e (Cat5e) CMR Ethernet Patch Cable – To connect your router to your cable modem, you’ll need ethernet cable; Cat5e will provide more than enough bandwidth to transmit the signal from your modem to the router. If you’re planning on using a completely wireless network, this is the only cable you’ll need as your router should come with another cable, which can be used for initial set up of your router.|
Wired or Wireless?
The next decision to make is whether to use wired or wireless. My recommendation is to use wired where possible and only use wireless if you’re using a laptop (that you plan to use around the house) or for a desktop that’s out of reach of the router.
If you’re using a wired connection, you’ll need to make sure your desktop has a network card (most do.) If you’re not sure if you have one, either Google the model number of your PC and look for specifications or look on the back for an ethernet jack. All modern laptops come with an ethernet port and are “wired networking ready”. Here’s what you’ll need to get up and running on a wired connection:
|Category 5e (Cat5e) CMR Ethernet Patch Cable – As mentioned above, Cat5e ethernet cable provides more than enough bandwidth for your home network. You’ll need one cable per device connected to your router. Be over-conservative with length as you may want to rearrange your home and you don’t want to be limited by the length of your ethernet cable.|
|Linksys by Cisco LNE100TX EtherFast 10/100 LAN Card – If you’re using a desktop computer that doesn’t already have a NIC (Network Interface Card), you’ll need one to connect to your router. This card is for a PCI slot. Check the specifications of your PC to ensure it has a PCI slot.|
If you need to use wireless because you are using a laptop or desktop in another room (away from the router), you’ll need a wireless card. Many PCs and Laptops come with wireless cards; however, if you don’t have one, I recommend the following:
|Linksys by Cisco WUSB54GC Compact Wireless-G USB Adapter – This USB wireless card will work in desktops and laptops. However, if you have a desktop, you’d like to connect wirelessly, I recommend using a more permanent PCI card (see below.)|
|Linksys WMP54GS Wireless-G PCI Card with SpeedBooster – If you want to connect a desktop wirelessly to your network, this card will let you. This card is for a PCI slot. Check the specifications of your PC to ensure it has a PCI slot.|
There you have it: all the hardware you’ll need for a basic home network. In the following posts in this series, you’ll learn how to use your home network to share files, stream media, backup data, and more.
Rich is the owner and creator of Windows Guides; he spends his time breaking things on his PC so he can write how-to guides to fix the problems he creates.
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