Hardware requirements overview

There are several components you need to create a home or small office network:

Computers: You need two or more computers for a network.

Network adapter: Often called a network interface card. Network adapters connect your computers to the network and allow your computers to talk to each other. Network adapters can be connected to the USB port on your computer or installed inside your computer in an available PCI expansion slot.

Network hubs and cables: A hub connects multiple computers at a central location. A hub is typically used when connecting two or more computers to an Ethernet network. A hub is not required if you are going to connect your computers through your phone lines using a home phoneline network adapter (HPNA) or if you use a wireless adapter. Using Ethernet or HPNA, you need cables to connect to either a hub or the phone lines. You can also use IEEE 1394 network adapters.

Modem: This includes 28.8 or 56 kilobits per second (Kbps) modems, wireless modems, Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), and cable modems 

In addition, make sure the computers on your network meet the following minimum requirements:

The computer sharing its Internet connection should be running Windows XP Home Edition or Windows XP Professional. This is called the Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) host computer.

The Network Setup Wizard can only be run on computers using Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows XP Home Edition, or Windows XP Professional.

Once you have all the required hardware installed in each of your computers, you can run the Network Setup Wizard


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

Before running the Network Setup Wizard, configure your Internet connection on the ICS host computer. For more information about creating your Internet connection using the New Connection Wizard see, To make an Internet connection 

External network adapters are the easiest to install. External network adapters do not require that you open up your computer. You can plug them in to a USB port on the back of your computer. For more information on installation, refer to any documentation that came from your hardware manufacturer.

For a comprehensive list of hardware supported by Windows operating systems, see Compatible Hardware and Software in Help and Support Center. 

Buying the right hardware

Modems overview

Network adapters overview

Home and small office networking overview

Start the Network Setup Wizard

Steps for creating a home or small office network

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