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Cheat Sheet

Home Networking Do-It-Yourself For Dummies

Home networks allow you to easily share resources with others. These resources may include computers, Internet access, shared files and folders, printers, and much more. Get the most out of your home network by knowing how to quickly check and manage its settings using the Control Panel, the hardware requirements for your home network, the different high-speed Internet connection types, the wireless networking standards, and the meaning of some of the common networking terms.

Home Networking Categories on the Control Panel

The Control Panel is the aptly named nerve center for managing and controlling just about every important computer or network setting in Windows 7. With such a treasure trove of tools and utilities, it’s easy to get lost. Sure, you can click your way through all of the various Control Panel categories (and no doubt will become very familiar with them), but here are some of the Control Panel categories that are important to know when creating and maintaining your home network.

Category Tasks
Credential Manager Manage Windows-, generic-, and certificate-based credentials.
HomeGroup Choose homegroup and sharing options, view or print the homegroup password, change the homegroup password, and leave the homegroup.
Internet Options Change your home page, manage browser add-ons, delete browsing history and cookies, change security and privacy settings, and turn the pop-up blocker on or off.
Network and Sharing Center View network status and tasks, connect to a network, change adapter settings, view network computers and devices, add a wireless device to the network, and troubleshoot problems.
Parental Controls Set up parental controls.
User Accounts Change your account picture, add or remove user accounts, change your Windows password, change your account type, manage other accounts, and change User Account Control settings.
Windows CardSpace Manage information cards that you use to log on to online services.

Home Networking Hardware Requirements

Although setting up a home network isn’t necessarily an expensive or difficult project, you will need a few basic pieces of hardware to connect your computers, printers, gaming consoles, and assorted gadgets and do-hickeys to each other — and to the Internet.

Need Purpose
DSL or Cable Modem A DSL or cable modem connects your computer to a high-speed DSL or cable Internet connection. Although dial-up modems are still available for slower dial-up Internet connections, the connection speeds are far too slow for a home network.
Wired or wireless router A wired or wireless router connects your DSL or cable modem to your home network. Many DSL/cable modems now have built-in routers that allow you to connect your network directly to your Internet connection.
Wired or wireless network adapters A wired or wireless network adapter is the device in your computer (or printers, gaming consoles, and other networking equipment) that connects your computer to your network.
Ethernet cabling Ethernet cabling is used to connect your wired network adapters to a router or network switch. Even if you are using a wireless router, you will need at least one Ethernet cable to connect your wireless router to your DSL or cable modem.

High-Speed Internet Connection Types

Choosing the right Internet Service Provider (ISP) and selecting an appropriate level of Internet service (speed) for your home networking needs is an important decision. Most people generally don’t complain that their Internet is just too darned fast, but you have to balance your need for speed with your need for balancing your checkbook. In addition to speed and cost, you should also consider availability, convenience, and reliability.

Type Download Speeds Upload Speeds Monthly Cost Advantages/Disadvantages
Cable 4–15 Mbps 384Kbps–1.5 Mbps $40–$80 Very common; bundled packages; good speed and reliability; congested network may adversely affect speeds
DSL 768 Kbps–6 Mbps 128 Kbps–768 Kbps $15–$45 Very common; bundled packages; good speed and reliability; distance from telephone company central office and old telephone wiring may adversely affect speeds
Satellite 512 Kbps–1.5 Mbps 128–256 Kbps $50–$120 Poor reliability, high latency, expensive to setup
Mobile (Cellular) Broadband 3 Mbps–6 Mbps (4G) Up to 1Mbps $50–$100 plus additional data overage charges Good speeds and mobility; may require long-term contract (typically 2 years) and initial equipment purchase; many plans have monthly data limits (such as 5 GB, then overage charges are incurred)

Wireless Networking Standards

If you decide to go the wireless route for your home network, you’ll need to know a little bit about the different wireless standards that are available. Relax, despite all of the intimidating technical specifications you may encounter, there are really only a few standards and characteristics you need to understand.

802.11a 802.11b 802.11g 802.11n
Frequency 5 GHz 2.4 GHz 2.4 GHz 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz
Speed (Data Rate) Up to 54 Mbps Up to 11 Mbps Up to 54 Mbps Up to 300 Mbps
Range 50 feet 150 feet 150 feet 300 feet
Cost Moderate Low Moderate High

Networking Terms and Their Meaning

Warning! Your computer has encountered a fatal error. Please contact your system administrator. Guess what? On your home network, you are the system administrator! It’s important that you know some basic terminology in case you have to do some extensive troubleshooting with your ISP or need to buy some new hardware.

Domain Name System (DNS): DNS translates Internet addresses (such as www.dummies.com) to IP addresses (such as 208.215.179.146) so routers can find Web sites (among other things) on the Internet. Typically, your ISP will provide you a primary and secondary DNS server address. You configure DNS in your computer’s network settings (or set it up on your DHCP server to automatically configure your computers and other network devices with DNS information).

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP): DHCP automatically assigns IP addresses to the devices on your network. You pre-configure a range of allowable IP addresses on a DHCP server (such as a router or computer) that runs on your network.

Ethernet: Ethernet is a networking standard. Although there are other types of networks, Ethernet is by far the most common and is almost exclusively the only standard used in home networking. You will encounter this term frequently when shopping for various network hardware, such as routers, modems, and cables.

Internet Protocol (IP) Address: Every device (for example, computers, printers, routers, and gaming consoles) on a network must have a unique address. An IP address consists of four sets of numbers from 0 to 255, separated by a decimal (for example, 192.168.1.200).

Internet Service Provider (ISP): An ISP provides Internet service to individuals and businesses. Typical options for high-speed Internet access include DSL and cable.

Malware: Short for malicious software, malware is software code that is designed to damage files or entire computer systems, steal data, disrupt network, and do generally bad things to computers, networks, and people. Malware consists of viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware, adware, backdoors, rootkits, and bots.

Phishing: Phishing (pronounced like fishing) e-mails are a type of spam used by identity thieves to trick an individual into revealing private data, such as banking account information or passwords. Many phishing attempts appear to come from a legitimate sender such as your bank, and may even include authentic logos and links to the actual bank’s Web site (as well as other links that may install other malware or take you to a malicious Web site).

Rootkit: A rootkit (or backdoor) is a program that allows an attacker to covertly gain access to your computer in order to steal data, do damage, or control your computer.

Service Set Identifier (SSID): An SSID uniquely identifies your wireless network and is broadcast by your wireless access point.

Spyware: Spyware quietly collects information about users on your computer or network. Spyware can be used to monitor a computer user’s activities or even log keystrokes.

Trojan: A Trojan (or Trojan horse) is malware that masquerades as legitimate software. Once a Trojan has been installed on a computer, it can do extensive damage to a computer or network, including deleting files, stealing data, and installing other viruses.

Virtual Private Network (VPN): A VPN allows two networks to be connected securely over the Internet as if they were one network. For example, you might use a VPN to connect your home network to your corporate network (if your company permits you to connect to the office from home).

Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA and WPA2): WPA and WPA2 are wireless security standards for protecting your wireless network and the data on your wireless network.

Worm: A worm is similar to a virus, but does not require a host program or file and can replicate and infect computers with human action. Worms typically take advantage of a known vulnerability or bug in a computer program or operating system.

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