Almost every Windows machine on earth is connected to the Mother of All Networks, the one we call the Internet. But most PCs also get connected, sooner or later, to a smaller network—some kind of home or office network (known to nerds as a local area network, or LAN).
The payoff is considerable. Once you’ve created a network, you can copy files from one machine to another just as you’d drag files between folders on your own PC. You can store your music or photo files on one computer and play them on any other. Everyone on the network can consult the same database, phone book, or calendar. When the workday’s done, you can play games over the network.
Most importantly, you can share a single printer or high-speed Internet connection among all the PCs in the house.
If you work at a biggish company, you probably work on a domain network—the big, centrally managed type found in corporations. In that case, you won’t have to fool around with building or designing a network; your job, and your PC, presumably came with a fully functioning network (and a fully functioning geek responsible for running it).
But if you work at home, or if you’re responsible for setting up a network in a smaller office, this chapter is for you. It guides you through the construction of a less formal workgroup network, which ordinary mortals can put together.
Setting up a network has never approached the simplicity of, say, setting up a desk lamp. But Windows offers a feature ...