You can connect your PCs using any of several different kinds of gear. Many of the world’s offices are wired with Ethernet cable, but, as you probably know, wireless networks are very popular for small offices and homes. Here and there, a few renegades are even installing networking systems that rely on the phone or power lines already in the walls. Here’s an overview of the most popular networking systems.
Be sure that whatever networking gear you buy is compatible with Windows 8.1, either by checking logos on the package or by checking the maker’s Web site. Networking is complicated enough without having to troubleshoot some gadget that’s not designed for Win8.
Ethernet is the world’s most popular networking protocol. It gives you fast, reliable, cheap, trouble-free communication. All you need are three components:
Network adapters. An Ethernet jack is built into virtually every Win8-compatible PC. That’s your network adapter—the circuitry that provides the Ethernet jack (Figure 25-1). You may also hear a network adapter called a network interface card or NIC (“nick”).
If your machine doesn’t have an Ethernet jack—plenty of laptops and tablets don’t—you can add one. Adapters are available as internal cards, external USB attachments, or laptop cards.
A router. If you have a cable modem or DSL connection to the Internet, a router (about $60) distributes that Internet signal to all the computers on your network. (The dialog boxes in Windows call these devices ...