Various Types of Internet Connections for Your MacBook - dummies

Various Types of Internet Connections for Your MacBook

By Mark L. Chambers

Consider the types of connections that are available under Lion to link your MacBook to an ISP. You can choose from five pathways to digital freedom:

  • A dial-up connection: Old-fashioned, yes. Slow as an arthritic burro, indeed. However, an analog (or telephone modem) connection is still a very viable method for reaching the Internet for most computer owners. It’s the cheapest method available, and all you need for this type of connection is a standard telephone jack and a modem.

    Apple used to include a modem with every computer, but no longer. These days, you’ll have to buy an external USB modem to make the dial-up connection. (Any Lion–compatible USB modem will work fine.)

  • A broadband connection: Be it through DSL (which uses a typical telephone line) or cable (which uses your cable TV wiring), broadband Internet access is many times faster than a dial-up connection. Plus, both these technologies are always on, meaning that your computer is automatically connected to the Internet when you turn it on and that connection stays active.

    With DSL or cable, no squeaky whine accompanies your modem while it makes a connection each time you want to check your movie listings website. Both DSL and cable require a special piece of hardware (commonly called a modem, but it really isn’t); this box is usually thrown in as part of your ISP charge.

    (Note that many cellular providers offer cellular modems for Internet connectivity. Some of these modems use a USB port, whereas others use the ExpressCard slot on a MacBook Pro.) DSL or cable broadband connections usually require a professional installation, too.

  • A cellular connection: If you own a cell phone, you may already be using the Internet on your phone over a 3G or 4G connection. That same type of Internet connection is available for your MacBook from the major cellular providers.

    Sure, it’s pricey compared to a typical broadband connection, but if you’re a road warrior with a laptop — or if, for some reason, you can’t get cable or DSL service in your area — then cellular Internet may be the option for you.

  • A satellite connection: If you’re really out there — miles and miles away from any cable or DSL phone service, and even out of the range of a 3G/4G cellular network — you can still get high-speed Internet access.

    The price for a satellite connection is usually much steeper than a standard DSL or cable connection, but it’s available anywhere you can plant your antenna dish with a clear view of the sky. Plus, a satellite connection is actually faster than other types of broadband access.

    Older satellite technologies required you to also use a dial-up connection — and the antenna could only receive, not send — but most ISPs that can handle satellite connections now offer satellite systems that both send and receive through the dish.

  • A network connection: The last type of connection concerns those Macs that are part of a local area network (LAN) either at the office or in your home. If your MacBook is connected to a LAN that already has Internet access, you don’t need an ISP at all, and no other hardware is required:

    Simply contact your network administrator, buy that important person a steak dinner, and ask to be connected to the Internet. On the other hand, if your network currently has no Internet access, you’re back to Square One: You’ll need one of the previous four types of connections.

After you connect one of your computers on your network to the Internet, you can use an Internet sharing device to allow all the computers to share that Internet connection.