How to Configure Your Computer to Connect to DSL or Cable Internet

By John R. Levine, Margaret Levine Young

The installer configures your computer to communicate with DSL or cable Internet. Follow the instructions to connect to your account the first time; some DSL and cable modems come with a software CD you may need to use. Don’t let the installer leave until you’ve gotten online and you know the connection works.

Connecting a phone line to your computer.
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/VisualField

Even if you plan to use your computer via Wi-Fi, it’s easier to do the initial setup by plugging your computer into the router or modem with an Ethernet or USB cable. Wi-Fi has issues, like which of several networks in your neighborhood is the right one to use, while with a cable, there’s no choice, it’s the one at the other end of the cable.

Chances are good, at this point, that you’re on the Internet. You should be able to start up a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, and type the name of a website in the Address bar at the top. The web page should appear momentarily. If you have a connection with a username, it may ask you whether to connect.

If you still can’t connect, you can try configuring Windows yourself.

Configuring Windows 8.1 to connect

Windows 8.1 detects an Internet connection if one exists, so you may not have to do a thing. It spots Wi-Fi or a connected DSL or cable modem and does the right thing. If you have to set the connection up yourself, or fiddle with it afterwards, follow these steps:

  1. Press the Windows key until you see the Windows 8.1 Start screen. (That’s the screen entitled “Start” with the multicolored boxes.) If you’ve installed a Windows 7–style menu, press the Windows key once and you’ll see a menu with a search box in the lower left corner of the screen.

    Either way, you are ready to search for the Network and Sharing Center, the application that enables you to see and configure your network setup.

  2. Type network sharing.

    If you are on the Windows 8.1 Start screen, a Search box appears for you to type into, along with one search result: The Network and Sharing Center. If you use a Windows 7–style menu, it should also appear as a search result.

  3. Choose Network and Sharing Center.

    The Network and Sharing Center displays a number of options, depending on what kind of connection you have.

  4. Click Set Up a New Connection or Network, and then click Connect to the Internet, and then click Next.

  5. Enter the information provided by your ISP.

    In particular, enter the login name and password that your ISP gave you.

Configuring Windows 7 to connect

Windows 7 also detects an Internet connection if one exists. If you need to do it yourself, choose Start→Control Panel→Network and Internet→Network and Sharing Center. Then follow steps 2–4 for Windows 8.1.

Configuring Windows Vista to connect

If your network connects with a wired LAN connection and doesn’t require a login or password (this includes most cable modems), Vista normally configures itself automagically. For connections that require a login, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Start→Connect To and then click the little Set Up a Connection or Network link.

  2. For the Network Connection type, choose Connect to the Internet and click Next.

  3. Select Broadband (PPPoE).

  4. Enter the required information in the boxes.

Configuring a Mac to connect

To set up a connection from Mac running OS X, click the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen, choose System Preferences, and click the Network icon. You see the Network window.

Either the USB Ethernet or Ethernet entry in the left-hand column should be green if your Mac is connected via cable to your modem. Click USB Ethernet to see its settings and follow the instructions from your ISP.

The network dialog box on a Mac.