Home Computer Network

OK, hardware is not my specialty so please be patient with me.

For some reason I keep ending up with people’s cast off PCs when they upgrade. The result is that I now have a number of machines that, while not state of the art, are quite enough for internet use and MS office and some multiplayer-enabled games.

So I’m wondering, how do I network computers? Am I right in assuming that all I need is a network card for each machine (at $15/each) and a router ($25)? As far as cabling, do I connect them with cat-5 or cat-6 wire? I’m thinking of setting this up for a maximum of 7 machines, probably no more than 3 would be used at any one time.

Would this, as I suspect, make all hard-drives available to all machines? Because that would be cool since I currently have one hard drive with a few hundred CDs worth of music on it. Would be nice to make that available to the whole house.

Yep. If you have your heart set on using 7 pc’s at once, though, you might want to make sure the router you’re buying has enough ports. In fact, with that many PC’s, you might be better off buying an eight-port network switch (one of the 30-40 dollar models on this page, for example) and then plug an internet router (if you have one) into that.

If it’s only 3 at a time, unplugging the cords and plugging them in as you need them, you could probably get by with the usual internet routers (which usually come with 3 or 4 free plugs).

Cat 5 works fine.

You’d have the share the drives to make them available–it’s not automatic, for security reasons. It’s not difficult at all, though.

Another option is to get a sufficiently powerful wireless router and then just dump wireless cards into the computers you want to use networked. It’ll be a bit more expensive, but at least you won’t need to futz around with cabling.

Wireless comes with its own headaches, so YMMV.