What You Need to Set Up Your Mac OS X Snow Leopard Wired Network

To set up a network on Mac OS X Snow Leopard, you need the right hardware and software. Some of the hardware and most of the software that you’ll need probably came with your Mac, and any good-sized computer store will have everything else you need to get up and running.

Here is a list of equipment that you need to assemble before you start building your network:

  • Devices that you want to network: Most times these are computers, printers, cell phones, smartphones, and other stand-alone, network-capable devices (such as file servers and shared tape back-up drives).

  • Network interface card (NIC): The NIC connects to the network cabling, and it speaks the language of electronics, sending data around the network. Nowadays, most networks use the Ethernet networking protocol, and most NICs are Ethernet compatible. All Intel-based Mac models have Ethernet NIC hardware built right onto the Mac’s main system board.

  • Switch: The switch is used to connect everything, so it’s the focal point of the network. A switch is really just a small box that has a bunch of Ethernet ports on it. A port is really just like an Ethernet NIC on your computer, but a switch has lots of them. Inside, all those Ethernet ports are arranged so that the talking (sending) wires from each port connect to the listening (receiving) wires on all other ports. Therefore, when one computer talks, all others listen.

    Setting up a switch is usually no more difficult than connecting a power cable to the device and then plugging in your computers with their own Ethernet cables.

  • Cables: Cables are used to connect the Ethernet port on each computer to the switch, the central hardware of the network. With a little experience, you’ll be a cable-wielding superhero with hundreds of feet of cable draped across every piece of furniture in your place for your first LAN party. Technically, you can run 100 Mbps Ethernet over Cat5 cable.

    Although you can do 10/100 Mbps Ethernet over Cat5 cable, any new cables that you buy should be Cat5E or Cat6ll. Be sure to buy straight-through Cat5E/Cat6 cables (also called patch cables) and not crossover cables, which are used only in certain circumstances. Crossover cables are mainly used to connect two computers directly (to form a tiny, two-computer network), connect a cable/DSL modem directly to a computer, or connect multiple switches.

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