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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Evaluating Your Current Hardware for Network Capabilities

Before you can build a home network, you ought to take a few minutes to see whether your PCs and other devices are ready to network, and what type(s) of networks they support.

Examining Your PCs

You can use an RJ-45 connection for ethernet networking, and a USB port for any home network discussed in this book. Figure 3.1 illustrates typical ethernet (RJ-45) and USB ports on the rear of a typical desktop PC.

Figure 3.1Figure 3.1 RJ-45 (ethernet) and USB ports on the rear of a typical desktop PC.

If you have a notebook or laptop computer, you might find these ports on the rear or sides of your PC. Figure 3.2 compares USB, RJ-45 (ethernet), and RJ-11 (modem) ports on the rear of a typical notebook computer.

Figure 3.2Figure 3.1 Modem, ethernet, and USB ports on the rear of a typical notebook PC.

As you can see from Figures 3.1 and 3.2, it's easy to determine whether you have an ethernet port or a USB port. However, it can be harder to tell whether your notebook computer already has wireless ethernet (Wi-Fi) installed.

Here are some ways to determine this information:

  • Computers with Intel Centrino technology incorporate built-in Wireless-B (802.11b) Wi-Fi networking.

  • Stickers on the outside of the computer might indicate the presence of built-in Wi-Fi adapters.

  • Find the specific model number of your computer (look for a sticker on the back or bottom of the PC) and check the vendor's specification sheet to determine whether it has Wi-Fi on board. For example, an IBM ThinkPad G40 2384EHU does not have on-board Wi-Fi, but a G40 2384B9U supports Wi-Fi (802.11b and 802.11a standards).

  • Open the Network Connections dialog in Windows 2000 or Windows XP to see whether a wireless network adapter is present: Right-click on the My Network Places icon on the Windows Desktop or Start button and select Properties.

Check the Card Slots, Too!

If you don't find RJ-45 or USB ports next to other ports as in Figure 3.1, check the card slots (located to the right of these ports). Some systems use an ethernet or USB card to provide these ports.

To learn how to add your PC to an ethernet home network, see Chapter 5, "Installing and Configuring a Wired Ethernet Network." To learn how to add your PC to a Wi-Fi home network, see Chapter 6, "Installing and Configuring a Wi-Fi Network."

Checking Out Your Personal Video Recorders (PVRs)

If you own a ReplayTV PVR, you have a network-ready PVR; all ReplayTV PVRs have included a 10/100 Ethernet port from the beginning. If you have a TiVo, check Table 3.3 for a list of network-compatible TiVo models.

Table 3.3  TiVo Models That Support Network Upgrades



Service Upgrade Required



TiVo Plus*


DVR-810H, DVR-57H

TiVo Plus*


Series 2

* TiVo Plus brings the TiVo features in third-party units up to the level of the standard TiVo service provided with TiVo Series 2 PVRs.

To learn how to add TiVo to your home network, see Chapter 7, "Home Networks at Play."

Evaluating Your Game Systems

The Microsoft Xbox has a built-in 10/100 Ethernet port. You can also add a wireless ethernet game adapter to the ethernet port. However, the Sony PlayStation2 and Nintendo GameCube don't have any on-board network support.

If your Sony PlayStation2 was purchased as part of a bundle with the Sony Network adapter, the Network adapter can be installed to provide 10/100 Ethernet network support for your console. Otherwise, you can purchase the Sony Network adapter separately. To add the Nintendo GameCube to a home network, purchase and install the Nintendo Broadband adapter; this adapter provides 10/100 Ethernet network support. After 10/100 Ethernet adapters are installed in the PlayStation2 or GameCube, you can add a wireless ethernet game adapter.

To learn how to install these adapters and connect any of these game systems to ethernet or Wi-Fi networks, see Chapter 7.

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