If you have more than one computer connecting to your home or small office Internet router, it’s probably more convenient to set up a small network. You don’t need to be an expert in routing technologies and wiring. Windows 8 and most home router manufacturers help guide you through the process. However, understanding how your network works helps you secure and manage it in the future.
Your Network and Necessary Hardware
If you have a computer with Windows 8 installed, you’re already one step ahead of the game. Technically, you could share your Internet connection with other users from your Windows 8 computer, but this is a less preferred and inconvenient method. It’s much better to build a wireless (even wired) network, so any additional machines can be quickly added to the network. If friends or family visit, you can give them your wireless SSID, so they can connect to your network without streaming through your main computer.
To provide a wireless network (which you’ll need for wireless devices such as a smartphone or tablet), you need a wireless router. You can purchase a wireless router for anywhere between $30 and $100. Faster routers cost more, but you don’t need an extremely fast router if you are just connecting Internet for basic use. If you plan to do heavy streaming or transferring large amounts of data, you should probably buy the more expensive router for faster data transfers.
You probably need at least one wired connection to connect the wireless router to your cable or DSL modem. This is common with networks, because your ISP provides you with a router you must use with their service. The Internet connection is logged in using the ISP router, and then your wireless router manages internal computers. Some ISPs will give you a wireless router, so you can skip the extra router hardware, but typically, you’ll need to provide your own personal router for full networking.
Wired routers are faster (cabling is faster than wireless), so you’ll want a wired router for gaming. Wireless is quickly catching up, but there might be more latency for fast-paced gamers. Wireless is more convenient, however, so you might choose wireless even if you are a gamer. With wired routers, you must also buy the Ethernet cables and manage messy cable setups. You’ll also need to cable your house, which is much more costly and time consuming.
Understanding Your Router Setup
If you’re new to networking, the hardest part is understanding how to set up the router. Each manufacturer has specific configuration steps, but the overall configurations are the same. It’s just the configuration interface that differs between manufacturers.
The basic setup is your personal router dishes out IP addresses using DHCP. All of your internal devices (desktops or mobile devices) obtain an IP address from your personal router. The router is given a static IP address and connects to the ISP’s router. The ISP router will have an internal-facing IP address that sits on the same subnet as your personal router. Typically, this IP address starts with “192.168.1” or “192.168.0.” Your personal router serves DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol) and keeps track of all your devices, so you don’t need to statically assign anyone an IP. When friends or family need to connect to your network, give them your SSID and password and that’s it.
There are two main settings that you use to personalize your wireless network: the SSID and the password. The SSID is the name users see when they browse for wireless connections. You can also opt not to broadcast your SSID or network name. This means that users must know the name and manually enter it into their device configurations.
The next network configuration is the password or passcode for the network. Most routers give you several encryption options. WEP is not the recommended encryption scheme, because it’s been cracked already. Most security experts recommend WPA or WPA2. When you assign a password and encryption scheme to your wireless connection, you limit who can connect to your wireless network. Without security, you allow anyone to connect and that means random people can connect to your network and steal files and private information.
Connecting Windows 8 (Desktops and Mobile Devices) to Your Network
Connecting to your wireless network in Windows 8 is similar to connecting with previous Windows operating systems. Swipe the bottom-right side of your screen or hover your mouse in the bottom-right corner on a desktop.
If you’re already connected to a network, you’ll see the network connection icon along with the name of the network if it’s wireless. If you’re not already connected to a network, click the wireless or desktop networking icon. A list of wireless networks display (if you’re using wireless).
Each wireless network displays an SSID and whether or not the connection uses security. If the network uses security, you’ll need to know the password before you can connect.
Click the network you want to connect to and type a password if you are prompted for one. Click the “Connect” button. Since this is your home or office network, check the box labeled “Connect automatically.” This option is useful if you just want to connect to this network each time you boot your computer. You can automatically try to connect to multiple different networks in a specified order, which is useful if you have multiple networks you connect to throughout the day.
If you have permission to connect to the network, you’ll connect and see the “Connected” icon display in the Windows 8 task bar. Do the same with other devices on your network. The only limit on wireless networks is the amount of IP addresses you have available on your router.