Generally speaking, PCs are sold with all of the networking software included in the operating system, but none of the networking hardware.
You can connect the computers using any one of several different methods. Some networking kits save you the trouble of wiring your home by sending networking signals along the wiring that's already in your house—telephone or electrical wiring. Other kits provide wireless networking, which works by transmitting radio waves from PC to PC. You can even get fiber-optic cable kits for networks.
But these networking methods are more expensive and usually much slower than the world's most popular networking system: Ethernet. Tens of millions of Ethernet systems have been installed around the world. Ethernet hardware is readily available at almost any computer store, although you'll find a better selection of products and better prices by shopping online or from catalogs. Ethernet is the easiest and least expensive kind of network to configure and maintain—and it's fast. This section shows you how to create an Ethernet network.
An Ethernet network requires three components: network interface adapters, Ethernet cables, and an Ethernet hub.
You may hear this kind of circuit board called a networking card, a network interface card, or a NIC ("nick"). Either way, it looks like a standard expansion card; one goes into an expansion slot (PCI or ISA) in each PC, as described in Chapter 16.
When shopping ...