To connect to a network, your computer needs a network adapter. Most computer manufacturers include a network adapter with your computer. If you're not sure if you have a network adapter, you can find out in a few quick steps.
Many computers have a network adapter built-in that you can use to connect to a wired network. If you want to install a wired network adapter and aren't sure whether your computer already has one, look for a network port on the back of the computer.
Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
Click Network and Internet Connections.
Under or pick a Control Panel icon, click Network Connections.
Microsoft Windows XP displays your network adapters. If an adapter has a red X over it, it is disconnected. If the Network Connections window is blank, your computer doesn't have a network adapter.
If you already have a network adapter, you are ready to configure your network.
Connecting a USB network adapter is as easy as plugging in headphones.
First, buy a USB wired network adapter.
If your USB network adapter came with software, insert the CD into your computer, and follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the software.
Find an available USB port on your computer.
If you need to move your computer to reach the USB ports, you should shut down Windows to avoid damaging your computer. If you can easily reach a USB port, you do not need to shut down your computer.
If you do not have an unused USB port, connect a USB hub to add additional ports. Then connect your USB network adapter to the unused USB port.
Connect the network cable to the network adapter.
Connect the other end of the network cable to your networking equipment.
If you had to shut down your computer to get to the USB port, you can now turn on your computer. Windows detects and installs the new hardware, and then displays a notification informing you that the hardware has been successfully installed.
Many portable computers have a CardBus or CF card slot. (They're the same thing, but the CF card slot is slightly newer and smaller.)
First, buy a wired CardBus or CF network adapter.
If your network adapter came with software, insert the CD into your computer, and follow the manufacturer's instructions to install the software.
Insert your network adapter into the slot on your computer.
Within a minute or so, Windows detects and installs the new hardware, and then displays a notification informing you that the hardware has been successfully installed.
Internal network adapters can be more complicated to install than USB network adapters, and they can only be installed in desktop computers that have a space (generally called a slot) available for you to add the card.
If you are not comfortable opening your computer's case, you should have internal hardware installed by a professional.
First, buy a wired internal network adapter.
If the network adapter came with a CD, you should insert it into your computer, and install the software prior to connecting the hardware.
Shut down your computer by clicking Start, clicking Turn Off Computer, and then clicking Turn Off.
After your computer shuts down, make note of where each cable is connected to the back of your computer. It's handy to tape a small note on each cable with a number or letter, and put a matching note next to the spot on your computer where the cable was plugged in. Then unplug all cables from your computer.
Lay your computer on a flat surface, like a desk or table. Remove the side panel from your computer's case. Depending on the case, you may need to remove screws at the back of your computer.
With the side panel removed, you can see the inside of your computer. Identify an available slot that fits your card. If necessary, remove the small metal panel protecting the opening for the slot at the back of your computer, and save the screw.
Touch an unpainted portion of your computer's case to discharge any static electricity. Then carefully insert the network adapter into the open slot. Gently wiggle the card back and forth until it rests firmly in the slot.
Replace the screw that you removed in step 6, which will help hold the card in place.
Replace the side panel to your computer's case.
Reconnect all cables to your computer, start your computer, and log on to Windows. Windows detects and installs the new hardware, and then displays a notification informing you that the hardware has been successfully installed.