Networking 101: Tying the Network Together

February 3, 2012, By George Lang

Setting up all your computerized devices to share resources can be a bit tricky. If you recall last week’s article, we hooked all your devices to the Internet by connecting them to your Internet service provider (ISP) through a wireless router. This week we will take the fundamental steps to create a network that allows you to share storage devices (e.g., hard drives), files, music, movies, and printers. We will simplify things a bit by sticking to the Microsoft Windows operating platform (these generic steps apply to most other platforms as well).

To start, all devices must be made a part of the same workgroup and they must have a unique name within that workgroup. Find “Computer” (“My Computer” in Windows XP) either on the Desktop or on the Windows “Start” menu. Right-click on the icon or menu item respectively and click properties. The “System” window that opens gives you the opportunity to “Change settings” under the “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings” section.

Click on the “Change settings” link. Under the “Computer Name” tab, the screen will look like the following on a Windows 7 PC.

The “Computer description” field is optional and can be left blank. Make sure each computer name is unique and that all the computers on the network have the same “Workgroup” name. If they need to be changed, change them by clicking “Change” and enter the appropriate information. You will need to select “Workgroup” not “Domain” and enter the same Workgroup name for each computer. Because we are using wireless devices, we recommend you DO NOT use Windows default “WORKGROUP” or “MSHOME” names for your Workgroup. This advice will provide you with an added layer of security for your network.

Next, you will run the “Network ID” wizard and select “This is a home computer; it’s not part of a business network” and then click “Next.” Click “Finish” and you will be prompted to restart each computer in turn. You should now have some network features available to you. To find out which ones, click “Start” and type “Network” into the “Search programs and files.” Click on the “Network” file. The resulting window should look something like this…

The items on this window will be the currently shared resources on your network. These can be reconfigured, added to, or removed according to your individual preferences. Next week we get into how to do this, and we will show you how to share printers.

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