Creating a small Ethernet network

Ethernet is a common solution for connecting computers to the Internet and for sharing data between computers. You can use Ethernet to connect dozens of computers in an office, or simply to connect the cable modem in your home to your computer

Ethernet networks vary greatly in design and complexity. You can easily integrate wireless computers, such as those using AirPort or third-party 802.11 cards, with your wired Ethernet network. Read about three simple types of Ethernet network you can create in your home or office below.

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Equipment for an Ethernet network

These are the items used to create the Ethernet networks described below.

  • Ethernet cable - Each device you want to connect to your Ethernet network requires a standard RJ-45 twisted pair cable, sometimes called a patch cable. Here are some illustrations of an RJ-45 Ethernet connector from two views, and a computer's Ethernet port with the Ethernet icon above it.

    If you don't have an Ethernet cable, find out which cables are used by Macintosh computers.
  • Ethernet hub - This is an appliance that has several Ethernet ports. You connect each device to the hub with an Ethernet cable to form a network.

  • Crossover cable - This is a special type of Ethernet cable used to connect two devices directly without a hub.
  • Router - This device directs traffic on your network, and it often looks similar to the hub in the picture above. It's especially important on a home network, because a router is what allows two or more computers to share the same Internet connection.
Tip: In addition to being a wireless access point, AirPort Extreme is also an easy-to-use router. Its Ethernet ports let you to connect a hub for wired computers or a single wired computer directly.

If you don't need wireless capability, you could get a wired-only router that has a multi-port hub built in.

Three simple networks

1. Hub network

In a simple hub network, just connect each device to a hub with an Ethernet cable as shown above. This network may be used for file sharing or printing, for example. The depicted network is not connected to the Internet.

2. Crossover network - two devices only

In this most simple network, you connect two devices' Ethernet ports with one crossover cable as shown here. This type of network may be used for sharing files, playing network video games, or printing to a printer that has Ethernet, for example.

Tip: If you buy a crossover cable, it's a good idea to label it clearly so you don't confuse it with a standard cable. Depending on which computers you're using, a crossover cable may prevent connection to a network. Some later Macintosh computers can automatically detect and reconfigure pinouts so that a crossover cable is not required and/or may be used interchangeably with a standard cable.

3. Router with shared Internet connection

In this network, your Internet service provider allows you one Internet connection that is shared among computers by a router. In the example shown here, the router is an AirPort base station. An Ethernet cable connects a DSL or cable modem to the base station's WAN port. Another Ethernet cable connects the base station's LAN port to a wired computer. Where the illustration shows one wired computer, you could connect a hub to the LAN port to accommodate many wired computers.

Tip: A router is the best way to connect your network of computers to the Internet. If you do not want to purchase a router but still want to connect to the Internet while using other TCP/IP applications (such as file sharing) on your local network, your computers must be set up in a specific way.

After creating a network, you may wish to set up file sharing, print to a network printer, or connect to a Windows PC. You can read all about how to do this in these informative documents:

To learn more about networks you can design with an AirPort Base Station, see:

If you do not have AirPort-capable computers or want a wired-only router, you can find them at the Apple Store and the Macintosh Products Guide.

Important: Wireless Internet access requires an Internet service provider (fees may apply) and AirPort (or AirPort-compatible) wireless Ethernet card and base station. Some Internet service providers are not compatible with AirPort. Read more about AirPort requirements for wireless Internet access.

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