Home or small office network overview

In your home or small office, you might have more than one computer. You might also have other hardware devices such as printers, scanners, or cameras. With all of these computers and devices, sharing files, folders, and your Internet connection is the ideal solution.

A home or small office network is a way for you to use other computers or equipment without actually being at those computers. You can work on photos and files with other family members or co-workers while surfing the Internet at the same time.

Using Windows, there are numerous ways to connect computers or create a network. For homes and small offices, the most common model is peer-to-peer networking.

A peer-to-peer network, also called a workgroup, is commonly used for home and small business networks. In this model, computers directly communicate with each other and do not require a server to manage network resources. In general, a peer-to-peer network is most appropriate for arrangements where there are less than ten computers located in the same general area. The computers in a workgroup are considered peers because they are all equal and share resources among each other without requiring a server. Each user determines which data on their computer will be shared with the network. Sharing common resources allows users to print from a single printer, access information in shared folders, and work on a single file without transferring it to a floppy disk.

A home or small office network is similar to a telephone system. On a network, each computer has a network adapter that acts like a phone handset; just as you use the handset for talking and listening, the computer uses the network device to send and receive information to and from other computers on the network. With home or small office networking, you can:

Use one computer to secure your entire network and protect your Internet connection.

Share one Internet connection with all of the computers on your network.

Work on files stored on any computer on the network.

Share printers with all of the computers.

Play multi-player games.

Successfully setting up your home or small office network is a two-part process:


Install and configure the appropriate hardware on each computer. Some hardware might require additional configuration to get connected to the Internet. For more information, click Related Topics.


Run the Network Setup Wizard on each computer in your home or small office network.

The Network Setup Wizard guides you through Internet Connection Sharing, enabling Internet Connection Firewall and network bridging, naming your computer, and providing a computer description.

You can set up one computer to communicate to the Internet using Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). ICS provides the relay for all computers in your home or small office network to communicate with the Internet through a single connection at the same time. Other members of your family can surf the Web, check their e-mail, and play Internet games through a single connection.


To start the Network Setup Wizard, click Start, click Control Panel, click Network and Internet Connections, and then click Network Connections. Under Common Tasks, click Network Setup Wizard

The Network Setup Wizard is only supported on computers using Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows XP Home Edition, and Windows XP Professional.

Before setting up your home or small office network, make sure the computer sharing its Internet connection can access the Internet.

Your ISP might charge you for having multiple Internet connections. Check with your Internet service provider for details.

Internet Connection Sharing overview

Hardware requirements overview

Start the Network Setup Wizard

Choosing your Internet Connection Sharing host computer

Steps for creating a home or small office network

Network configurations overview

Configure a modem for a dial-up connection

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