Set up a basic home network

Most people set up a home network so that they can share folders, files, and an Internet connection across all computers in the home. This document provides step-by-step instructions for how to connect multiple computers on a wired or wireless home network.

A network is basically a group of devices that share a connection. This connection can range from a single cable that connects two computers to a more complex wireless signal that allows multiple devices to communicate all at once. Sharing a connection allows the devices to share information, such as personal files and Internet access.

The most common home-network setup includes an ISP modem, router, network cables, and computers or other network-enabled devices (such as printers or game consoles).

Use the steps in this section to set up a basic home network that uses the Windows 7 operating system.

Step 1: Before you begin...Step 1: Before you begin...

Confirm that you have the following hardware:

  • A network interface card (NIC) or an on-the-motherboard network port for each computer on the network. HP and Compaq computers are network ready. Confirm that the computer has an RJ-45 network port on the back.

NOTE: A wireless-network adapter is necessary only if you are setting up a wireless network.

Shape of RJ-45 connector


  • A cable or DSL modem to provide Internet connection.

  • A network router (or hub). A separate network router might not be necessary if your home is already equipped with RJ-45 jacks in the walls, or if your DSL or cable modem provides RJ-45 ports (select models). If you need a network router, consult with a network specialist at your local computer store to find one that meets your needs.

Router or modem/router combo

Router or modem

NOTE:  A crossover cable can be used to connect two computers without a router. However, it allows only two computers to connect, and it is not expandable.

  • Network cables for each computer.

Cables that connect from the DSL or cable modem to the PC 


1 - RJ-45 Ethernet network cable – Cat5/Cat6. Use this type of cable to connect the router/modem to the network port on the PC.

2 - RJ-11 telephone cable. Do not use this cable to connect to the PC.

3 - Six lead specialized phone cable. Do not use this type of cable.

4 - USB cable. Many routers/modems can connect by using a USB cable. Use the RJ-45 network cable before you use a USB cable. Do not connect both a USB cable and a network cable; connect only one.

Make sure that you have done the following:

Disconnect from the Internet. If you have a DSL or cable modem, disconnect it. You can set up the modem to work with the router and enable Internet connection after you have established the network.

Disable any firewall software. Firewall software can interfere with network setup. You can enable the firewall after network setup is complete.

Step 2: Connect the network hardware and cablesStep 2: Connect the network hardware and cables

Do the following to set up the network hardware:

  1. Set up and turn on the power for the network router or other networking device, such as a combined DSL modem and wireless router. (Follow the instructions that are provided by the manufacturer of the network device.)

  2. If applicable, turn on the modem, and ensure that it is connected to the ISP. Then, connect the modem to the router.

  3. Connect the computers to the router (or modem/router combo device). If a crossover cable is used, connect the cable to the RJ-45 network ports on each computer.

Example of a simple wired network

Wired network 

Example of a wireless network 

Wireless network 

  1. Connect the computers’ power cords, and turn on the computers.

Network-setup tips:

  • The ISP modem and the computers should connect to the router (either wired or wirelessly). The router is what connects all of the devices into a “network.”
  • Many DSL modems have the router built in. If your modem is like this, you do not need to connect another router unless you want to boost the signal.
  • Consult the user documentation that came with the modem and router for specific installation instructions.
Step 3: Run the network-setup wizardStep 3: Run the network-setup wizard

Use the Windows 7 network-setup wizard to help add computers and devices to the network.

NOTE: When you are using steps that involve Windows, log in by using the main administrative account. Normally, this is the first account that was created when the computer was first turned on.

  1. Click Start (Start), and then click Control Panel.

  2. Under Network and Internet, click View network status and tasks

Network and Internet 


Network and Sharing Center

Network and Sharing Center

  1. Click Set up a new connection or network to open the wizard for a router or access point.

  2. Select the Set up a new network connection option, and then click Next.

Select a connection option

New connection option

  1. Follow the onscreen instructions to set up a network.

Step 4: Connect to a networkStep 4: Connect to a network

After you have completed the network-setup wizard, return to the Network and Sharing Center.

Network and Sharing Center

Network and Sharing Center

  1. Click Connect to a network.

  2. Select your network, and then click Connect.

  3. Enter the network pass phrase (or security key) for the selected wireless network.

Security key or pass phrase

Security key 

  1. Click OK. The computer connects to the network.

  2. Select a location for the network. Usually, this is Home network.

Set Network Location

Set network location

  1. If you chose Home network , select the type of files to share with other computers that are running Windows 7. Then, click Next.

Share with other home computers running Windows 7

Join a homegroup

  1. View the Network and Sharing Center window to verify that the new network connection is now connected.

Step 5: Turn on Network discovery and file sharingStep 5: Turn on Network discovery and file sharing
Turn on Network discovery and file sharing on each computer that you want to access on the network.
  1. Click Start (Start), and then click Control Panel.

  2. Under Network and Internet, click Choose homegroup and sharing options.

Network and Internet

Network and Internet homegroup

  1. In the Homegroup settings window, click Change advanced sharing settings.

Homegroup settings

Homegroup settings

  1. Turn on network discovery and file and printer sharing. Review the other settings, and turn them either on or off.

Advanced sharing settings

Advanced sharing settings

  1. Click Save changes

Step 6: Share drives, folders, and filesStep 6: Share drives, folders, and files

To share non-public folders, do the following:

  1. Click Start (Start), and then click Computer.

  2. Browse to the folder that you want to share.

  3. Right-click the folder, select Share with, and then select Homegroup (Read), Homegroup (Read/Write), or Specific people.

Share with

 Share with

  1. If you chose Specific people, the File Sharing window displays.

  2. Click the down arrow, select the user with whom you want to share, and then click Add.

NOTE:  A User Account Control window might open. You must accept this window to make the necessary changes.

File Sharing window

File sharing

  1. Click an arrow under Permission Level to set the permission level for each user or group.

  2. Click Share.

Step 7: Test the networkStep 7: Test the network
Open the Windows 7 network window, and browse through the shared folders in each computer on the network. If the computer is able to read and access files from a remote computer, the remote computer is set up correctly. Browse to every available computer from each computer on the network. If there are any issues, go back through these steps, and verify that the settings are correct.

Network window

Network window

When you are accessing shared files or directories, the following error message might display: 

Cannot access PC

Cannot access PC

This error can be caused by one of the following:

  • Password Protection is On, and the Guest account is On.
  • The user account does not have permission to access the share.

NOTE:  Windows 7 file sharing displays all of the shared folders, including those that you do not have permission to access.

To resolve the error, verify the following:

  • The user account has the proper permissions to access the computer.
  • The computer name and user name are spelled correctly.
  • Make sure that firewall software on any connected computer is set to allow access.

When all computers are able to connect to each other on the network, continue to the next step.

Step 8: Enable Internet access and firewallsStep 8: Enable Internet access and firewalls

When you have verified that your home network is capable of transferring files, connect and enable Internet connections for computers that have Internet access.

CAUTION:0Make sure each computer that has Internet access is well protected from security threats. At a minimum, each computer should have its Internet connection protected by using a firewall, and Windows should be updated with the latest critical updates from Microsoft Windows Update. If malicious activity comes though one computer, the activity can spread quickly through the entire network.

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