Set up a network – wired versus wireless

A networking guide that will show you through the process of setting up a network at home or in a small office.

Wireless network versus wired network

These days most networks are based on wireless set-up but this is not for everyone. Whether you aim to set up a wireless or wired solution read on.

Wireless network

The heart of your network will be a wireless router. This will be wired into your Internet connection (via a modem) or it will be a wireless router and modem combination; these are often offered by the broadband providers as a free modem / router (alternatively, if you want to supply your own router then read the mac gear guides). A wireless router will transmit a wireless signal around your home. The signal will follow the WiFi standards of 802.11.

If you get your ADSL broadband through your telephone line you will use an ADSL modem to receive your Internet connection. Your modem will in turn plug into your wireless router; the modem provides access to the Internet, your wireless router allows you to share the connection with multiple devices.

Your broadband ISP may have provided you with one of their free modem router combinations but you are not obliged to use this for accessing the Internet – any modem can be used to access the Internet. If you get your Internet connection from Virgin Media you will need to use the cable modem that they have supplied. You can add any wireless router that you like, just make sure it is only a wireless router not a modem / router combination.

Apple’s routers lack a built-in modem so are perfect for combining with a stand-alone modem. If your broadband ISP provided a free modem / router combination but you want to use an Apple wireless router, no fear, you can either disable the ISP’s router function or leave both the routers running. Check your ISP’s documentation for how to disable their router’s wireless functionality.

Wired network

If you decide against the suitability of installing a wireless network (it may be that your home’s walls are too thick, or your wireless range won’t reach to the office in the bottom of the garden, or you have concerns over wireless network security) then you can still build a wired network solution.

To create a wired network you will still need a modem but you will plug this into a standard router (no wireless capacity), an Ethernet switch, or to a wireless router that has its wireless feature disabled and contains multiple Ethernet sockets in the back to share with the networked computers.

Wired network using new Ethernet cables

You will need to run Ethernet cables from your router to each computer. It is best to buy a spool of Cat6 cabling and lay/install the cables around the house much as you would with electrical cabling. To save money, rather than buying pre-made Ethernet cable, buy a spool of cable from somewhere like and lay the cables to the required lengths.

Using the existing electricity cabling

If you don’t fancy laying new cables around the house then it is possible to use the existing electricity cabling to create a network around your home. You should purchase specialist adapters that plug into your existing mains sockets. There are two sets of networking standards – HomePlug and PowerLine. Make sure that when you purchase your adapters for the plugs that they come from the same brand – this is important so make a note. You can buy adapters from most high street computer specialists (such a PC World) or save yourself some money and buy them at discount from Maplin or Amazon.

Connect your master adapter to your router and plug the adapter into the wall. Plug additional adapters into your electrical wall sockets wherever you want to receive the network signal. Each device connects to the adapter via an Ethernet cable. Therefore, you will not be able to wonder around with a wireless laptop not plugged in or get the Internet on devices that don’t have Ethernet cables – such as the iPhone. If you do require a wireless connection in a specific part of the network then you can use a bridge adapter to create a WiFi access point wherever there is a mains socket.

Mixed network: a combination of wired and wireless

If you have an assortment of computer equipment of varying ages, chances are you are going to need to “wire in” some components to your wireless set-up. Items such as a shared printer, or hard drives shared on the network (for a small office) won’t necessarily come with wireless capability. In these instances, build the network to a wireless specification BUT add in the additional items by using the spare Ethernet connections on the back of your wireless router.

Networking equipment

To create a wireless network you are going to need the following items: a modem, a wireless router, computer equipment capable of accessing the wireless network – by using in-built or plug-in WiFi adapters. If your computer equipment is old, you may need to upgrade it and purchase some wireless adapters or dongles (suggest some affiliated websites here ?)

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