Windows 7 : Creating a Windows Network - Additional Networking Functions, Installing Network Adapters

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6/28/2013 7:29:16 PM

1. Additional Networking Functions

Besides sharing files between computers, there are several other things that you can do with a network. In the next few sections, I outline some additional features you might want to include in your network.

Printing and Faxing

Shared printers simply need to be connected to their host Windows computers with a standard USB or parallel printer cable. Other computers can then reach the printer through the network. However, If you need to put a printer farther than about 10 feet away from a networked computer, beyond the reach of a standard printer cable, you have three choices:

  1. Get a really long cable and take your chances. The electrical signal for a USB or parallel printer connection is not supposed to be extended more then 10 feet, but with parallel cables I’ve gotten away with 25 feet in the past. Buy a high-quality shielded cable. You might get data errors (bad printed characters) with this approach.

  2. Use a network-capable printer and cable it directly to your network switch. Some printers have networking capability built in. For some printers, you can buy an add-on network printer module. Alternatively, you can buy a “print server” module, which connects to the printer’s USB or parallel port and to a network cable. Network supply catalogs list myriad such devices. Some of the newer DSL/cable-sharing routers and wireless access points have a print server built in. These are great for small offices.

  3. Use a printer-extender device. These devices turn a parallel port signal into a serial data connection, somewhat as a modem does. I don’t like these devices because they result in very slow printing.

If several people on your network need to send or receive faxes, you might want to set up a network-based faxing system. Unfortunately, Windows 7 does not let you share your fax modem with other users on your network, as Windows Server does. If you want to share a single fax line with several users on your network, you have to use a third-party solution. The easiest approach is to use a “network-ready” all-in-one printer/scanner/fax unit. If you shop for one of these, be sure that its faxing features are network compatible. There are also third-party software products that can give network users shared access to a fax modem. The former gold standard product was Symantec’s WinFax Pro, but it’s been discontinued, and most of the products still on the market seem to be oriented toward large corporations. For a small office network, you might consider products such as Snappy Fax Network Server from or ActFax from

Providing Internet Connectivity

You’ll probably want to have Internet access on your LAN. It’s far less expensive, and far safer security-wise, to have one connection to the Internet for the entire LAN than to let each user fend for himself or herself.

Windows 7 has a built-in Internet Connection Sharing feature that lets a single computer use a dial-up, cable, or DSL modem and make the connection on behalf of any user on your LAN. You can also use an inexpensive hardware device called a router to make the connection. I strongly prefer the hardware devices over Windows Internet Connection Sharing. 

Providing Remote Access

You also can provide connectivity to your network from the outside world, either through the Internet or via a modem. This connectivity enables you to access your LAN resources from home or out in the field, with full assurance that your network is safe from outside attacks.

If you need to access your network from outside and you aren’t planning to have a permanent direct Internet connection, you might want to plan for the installation of a telephone line near one of your Windows 7 computers so that you can set up a dedicated modem line for incoming access.

2. Installing Network Adapters

If you’re installing a new network adapter, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the product for Windows 7. If there are instructions for Windows Vista but not Windows 7, the Vista instructions should work. And if there are no instructions at all, just follow these steps:

If you have purchased an internal card, shut down Windows, shut off the computer, unplug it, open the case, install the card in an empty slot, close the case, and restart Windows.

If you are adding a PCMCIA or USB adapter, be sure you’re logged on with a Computer Administrator account, plug it in while Windows is running, and skip ahead to step 3.

When you’re back at the Windows login screen, log in as a Computer Administrator. Windows displays the New Hardware Detected dialog box when you log in.

In most cases, Windows should already have the software it needs to run your network adapter. If it doesn’t, the New Hardware Detected dialog box might instruct you to insert your Windows 7 DVD. If Windows cannot find a suitable driver for your adapter from this DVD, it might ask you to insert a driver disk that your network card’s manufacturer should have provided (either a CD-ROM or a floppy disk). It may also offer to go online to get a driver from Windows Update. If you have an Internet connection up at this time, the online option is very useful.

If you are asked, insert the requested disk and click OK. If Windows says that it cannot locate an appropriate device driver, try again, and this time click the Browse button. Locate a folder named Windows 7 or Windows Vista (or some reasonable approximation) and click OK.


The exact name of the folder containing your device driver varies from vendor to vendor. You might have to poke around a little on the disk to find it.

After Windows has installed the card’s driver software, it automatically configures and uses the card. Check the Device Manager, as described in the next section, to see whether the card is installed and functioning.

Checking Existing Adapters

If your adapter was already installed when you set up Windows 7, it should be ready to go. Follow these steps to see whether the adapter is already set up:

Click Start, right-click Computer, and select Manage.


If you see an exclamation point icon in the Network Adapters list, for tips on getting the card to work before you proceed. Here’s an additional tip: Network adapters are really inexpensive. If you’re having trouble with an old adapter, just go get a new one.

Select Device Manager in the left pane, and open the Network Adapters list in the right pane.

Look for an entry for your network card. If it appears and does not have a yellow exclamation point (!) icon to the left of its name, the card is installed and correctly configured.
If an entry appears but has a yellow exclamation point icon by its name, the card is not correctly configured.

If no entry exists for the card, the adapter is not fully plugged into the motherboard, it’s broken, or it is not Plug and Play capable. Be sure the card is installed correctly. If the card is broken or not Plug and Play, you should replace it.

Installing Multiple Network Adapters

You might want to install multiple network adapters in your computer in these situations:

  • You simultaneously connect to two or more different networks with different IP addresses or protocols. You’d use a separate adapter to connect to each network.

  • You want to share a broadband cable or DSL Internet connection with your LAN without using a hardware-sharing router. I strongly recommend using a hardware router, but you can also do it using one adapter to connect to your LAN and another to connect to your cable or DSL modem.

  • You have two different network types, such as phoneline and Ethernet, and you want the computers on both LAN types to be able to communicate. You could use a hardware access point, but you could also install both types of adapters in one of your computers and use the Bridging feature to connect the networks.

I suggest that you use the following procedure to install multiple adapters:

Install, configure, and test the first adapter. (If you’re doing this to share an Internet connection, install and configure the one you’ll use for the Internet connection first. Be sure you can connect to the Internet before you proceed.)

Click Start, Control Panel, Network and Internet, Network and Sharing Center. Click Change Adapter Settings from the Tasks list on the left side of the window. Select the icon named Local Area Connection and choose Rename This Connection in the ribbon bar. (Or right-click the icon and select Rename.) Change the connection’s name to something that indicates what it’s used for, such as “Connection to Cable Modem” or “Office Ethernet Network.”

Write the name on a piece of tape or a sticky label and apply it to the back of your computer above the network adapter, or to the edge plate of the network card.

Install the second adapter. Configure it and repeat steps 2 and 3 with the new Local Area Connection icon. Name this connection appropriately—for example, “LAN” or “Wireless Net”—and put a tape or paper label on the computer, too.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to easily distinguish the two connections instead of needing to remember which Local Area Connection icon is which.

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