Network Planning: Taking Inventory

The first step to building a network plan is taking a thorough inventory of your current computers. Before you can plan how to get “there,” you have to know where “here” is. Collect the following information about each of the computers in your inventory:

  • The processor type and, if possible, its clock speed: It would be nice if each of your computers had a shiny new i7 Quad Core processor. In most cases, though, you find a mixture of computers: some new, some old, some borrowed, some blue. You may even find a few archaic pre-Pentium computers.

    Most computers display the processor type when you turn them on or reboot them. If the information on the startup screen scrolls too quickly for you to read it, try pressing the Pause key to freeze the information. Press the Pause key again when you’re ready for your computer to continue booting.

  • The size of the hard drive and the arrangement of its partitions: To find out the size of your computer’s hard drive in Windows Vista or Windows 7, open the Computer window, right-click the drive icon, and choose the Properties command from the shortcut menu that appears. The illustration below shows the Properties dialog box for a 922GB hard drive that has about 867GB of free space.

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    If your computer has more than one hard drive, Windows lists an icon for each drive in the Computer window. Jot down the size and amount of free space available on each drive.

  • The amount of memory: To find this information in Windows, right-click Computer on the Start menu and choose the Properties command. The amount of memory on your computer is shown in the dialog box that appears. The illustration below shows the System Properties dialog box for a computer running Windows 7 with 8GB of RAM.

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  • The operating system version: This you can also deduce from the System Properties dialog box.

  • What type of network card, if any, is installed in the computer: The easiest way to get this information is to right-click Computer on the Start menu, choose Manage, click Device Manager, right-click the network adapter, and choose Properties. For example, the illustration below shows the Properties dialog box for the network adapter that’s built into the motherboard.

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    The Device Manager is also useful for tracking down other hardware devices attached to the computer.

  • What network protocols are in use: To determine this in Windows Vista, open Control Panel, open Network and Sharing Center, click Manage Network Connections, and then right-click the Local Area connection and choose Properties. In Windows 7, open Control Panel, click View Network Status and Tasks, click Change Adapter Settings, then right-click the Local Area Connection and choose Properties. The dialog box shown in the following illustration appears.

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  • What kind of printer, if any, is attached to the computer: Usually, you can tell just by looking at the printer. You can also tell by double-clicking the Printers icon in Control Panel.

  • Any other devices connected to the computer: A CD, DVD, or CD-RW drive? Scanner? Zip or Jazz drive? Tape drive? Video camera? Battle droid? Hot tub?

  • Which driver and installation disks are available: Hopefully, you’ll be able to locate the disks or CDs required by hardware devices such as the network card, printers, scanners, and so on. If not, you may be able to locate the drivers on the Internet.

  • What software is used on the computer: Microsoft Office? AutoCAD? QuickBooks? Make a complete list and include version numbers.