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 UK), and give the basics of connecting it all together.
Please note that this is assuming you have an ADSL subscription (i.e. BT, TalkTalk, Sky, etc), and not Cable (i.e. Virgin). Also, whatever ISP (Internet Service Provider) you are using, if you have joined within the last few years, they should have sent you a free wireless router, with cables, anyway. If they haven’t, and you’re out of your contract, you should be able to speak to them and get them to send you the equipment out for free. For example, BT would send you their Home Hub, which is a really decent piece of hardware (especially as you can run a virtual “phone line” off of it, with BT BroadBand Talk!)
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 United States, please use the US guide to pick hardware. Otherwise, read on:
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:
|Netgear DG834G – I use this router in my home and, I have to say it is really great. I also have a spare one, which I have used as a wireless extender! In my opinion, Netgear really outshine the competition with most of their wireless routers. I have not had one major problem with the router itself, and hopefully never will be! There is also a similar router for Cable users here.||Purchase|
|Category 5e (Cat5e) CMR Ethernet Patch Cable – If you have more than one computer, then you’ll need a Ethernet cable Cat5e to connect them via a wired connection. This cable 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.||Purchase|
Wired or Wireless?
The next decision to make is whether to use wired or wireless. My recommendation is to use wired where possbile 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.
You can also use Powerline, which basically uses your power system around your house as a virtual Ethernet plug! It’s also very affordable – click here to see it at Amazon.co.uk.
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.||Purchase|
|Netgear FA311 10/100Mbps Desktop Ethernet 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.||Purchase|
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:
|Netgear WG111 Wireless 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.)||Purchase|
|Netgear WG311 Wireless PCI Adapter – If you want to connect a desktop wirlessly 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.||Purchase|
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.