After you’ve installed your networking cards, connected the cables, and run the Network Setup Wizard (see Chapter 17), the fun begins. You’re now ready to share the following components among the various PCs on the network.
Your Internet connection. Having a network means that all the PCs in your house can share a single connection. This is a huge feature, one that can save you hundreds of dollars a year if you have a cable modem or DSL. It’s called Internet Connection Sharing, and it’s described in Chapter 17.
Printers. Another excellent justification for creating a small network is that all of the PCs can share a single printer. Or, if you’ve bought several printers—say, a high-speed laser printer for one computer, a color printer for another—everyone on the network can use whichever printer is appropriate to a particular document. You’ll find step-by-step instructions starting on Section 13.4.1.
Files, folders, and disks. No matter what PC you’re using on the network, you can open the files and folders on any other networked PC (and its mounted disks), as long as the other PCs’ owners have made these files available for public inspection. That’s where file sharing comes in, and that’s what this chapter is all about. (Even if you don’t do the networking thing, you’ll need file sharing to access your files and folders using a laptop on the road.)
Your network may include only one Windows XP computer, along with a Windows 95 or 98 machine or two. ...