If you own two or more computers, you can connect them together on the same network and gain some immediate benefits.
With two or more computers on the same network, you'll be able to print to the same printer, which is the set up I have at home. My wife's laptop is downstairs in the kitchen desk, and the printer is upstairs next to my workstation. We can both use the same printer, which means we don't have to keep a printer in the kitchen - a big plus for saving precious desk space.
You'll also be able to copy files from one computer to another if they're connected on the same network, and can even share an Internet connection.
To set up a home network on Windows XP, you'll need to run the Network Setup Wizard on each computer. Click the Start button and then select Control Panel --> Network and Internet Connections --> Network Setup Wizard.
Choose one computer to be the main server, through which the other machines will connect to the Internet. The other computers will then connect to the Internet through this main server.
Run the Network Setup Wizard on the other computer(s), but select the option to connect to the Internet through the first computer.
Give each computer a unique name and description, so they can be identified on the network.
Use the same WORKGROUP name on all your computers - this is how Windows figures out that they need to all be on the same network.
If you want to be able to copy files from one computer to another over the network, or to print to a central computer, then turn on File and Printer Sharing.
There's one remaining screen to click through on the setup wizard, and then you'll need to reboot each computer to pick up the changes.
Congratulations - you've just configured your very own home network! You should be able to see other computers on your network by opening Windows Explorer and selecting My Network Places --> Entire Network --> Microsoft Windows Network as shown below. You'll also be able to share the same Internet connection so that both machines can access the web.
If this all sounds a little too technical and complicated, don't worry.
Network Magic has a software program that handles all the details for you automatically with no technical know-how required . It works on both Windows and Mac machines, and also protects your wireless connection from intruders. Click here to learn more about Network Magic, or to download the free 7-day trial version.