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what devices do i need to build a LAN?

looking to make a LAN for about 6 PCs

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migrated from Nov 4 '09 at 18:13

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

For only 6 PCs, you can get away with something like a DSL/Cable modem router to do most of the lifting. The router can provide DHCP, NAT from the modem to give internet access, and sometimes has extra features like wireless support, a shared printer port, or shared network storage. At the very least, the DHCP is necessary for the configuration to be sane.

To do this wired, you'll need:

  • DSL/Cable modem router - usually comes with one Cat5e or better to go from cable modem or DSL modem to router
  • Switch - 10/100 or 10Mb/100Mb/1Gb 8 port switches are pretty cheap and for 6 machines, will likely be enough.
  • 7 Lengths of Cat5e or Cat6 ethernet to go from switch to each machine and from switch to router - less than 100 meters or you'll have problems.
  • Each machine will need a network interface card - you can use the built-in one if the machines have them on the mainboard.

To set up:

  1. If you want internet connectivity get your local provider to set that up for you with a cable modem or a DSL. Once it is working, proceed.
  2. Plug the switch in to a local network port on the router using a Cat5/6 cable.
  3. Plug the router into your modem using the Cat5/6 cable that came with the router.
  4. Plug each PC in to the switch using a Cat5/6 cable.
  5. If the modem is working, power up the router next and wait until it is up.
  6. Turn on the switch
  7. Turn on each PC.

Once all of the network stuff is plugged in and powered up, when you set up each PC, its easiest to pick DHCP for the network configuration. Each of them should have different IP addresses.

Make sure you set up some sort of network security, preferrably on each machine in addition to the DSL/Cable router. That is unless this is just for an isolated local area network that is used for LAN gaming or something and has no internet connection.

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thanks for the help – jhonson Nov 3 '09 at 18:48
do i need to configure a protocal? – jhonson Nov 3 '09 at 18:52
What you do beyond the hardware setup depends on what you want to use the LAN for. – Jay R. Nov 3 '09 at 23:25

If all you need is 6 PCs communicating with each other, then Insyte's solution is pretty much all you need in terms of hardware. You'll also want to configure the PCs appropriately, though:

  • Each PC (and possibly the switch, if it's a manageable one) will need an IP address and subnet mask. You can configure everything statically if you want, or set up some kind of DHCP server (on one of the PCs, or the switch if it's sufficiently high-end) to hand out addresses automatically. See RFC 1918 for a list of suggestions about address ranges to use in private networks. No need for a default gateway unless you're planning to connect this all up to another network or the Internet.
  • Some kind of name resolution is probably in order, so that your PCs can communicate without having to know each others' IP addresses. You can do this by setting up a workgroup or WINS server, or by installing a DNS server of some kind, or even just adding entries to each PC's hosts file. It kind of depends on whether the PCs are running Linux or Windows.
  • One last hint - make sure that the PCs and switch all agree on what the link speed and duplex settings are for their connections; make sure that each link (PC <-> switch) has the same settings at both ends, or you'll end up with either a lack of performance when sending data over the link, or no link at all.
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    You need a switch and network cabling. A cable from each computer goes back to the switch. Assuming you have some sort of broadband internet connection, you'll also need a cable from the switch to the router provided by your ISP.

    Any more details will require a lot more information from you about what you hope to accomplish.

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    im looking to to make a lan to connect 6 pcs together so they can communicate with each other and with out using the internet – jhonson Nov 3 '09 at 17:55
    Then yes, all you need is the switch and network cables. – Insyte Nov 3 '09 at 20:27
    From a hardware perspective, anyway. Of course the individual PCs will require configuration. – Insyte Nov 3 '09 at 20:28

    You need network devices.

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