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How to Connect Two Computers and Share Files Between Them

Updated on June 16, 2016
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Alfred is a long time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

In order to connect two computers and share files between them, you need to have corresponding network capabilities in both computers. The connectivity can be achieved through various local area network (LAN) configurations which could be wired or wireless.

Connecting two computers at home can be done through:

  • crossover/straight-through cable - wired network
  • USB cable - wired network
  • wireless access point - wireless network
  • ad hoc network - wireless network

Whereas wired LAN requires physical and direct connection of cables to two computer network interfaces, wireless LAN does not require physical connectivity.

Images of a wireless (left) and wired (right) ethernet network cards which can be installed inside a desktop computer
Images of a wireless (left) and wired (right) ethernet network cards which can be installed inside a desktop computer

1: How to Connect Two Computers at Home

 Crossover/straight-through Cable: Wired Local Area Network

In order to connect two computers using the crossover cable, both computes should have the RJ 45 network ports in them. All computers today (laptop and desktop) ship with network interfaces (ports) integrated onto the motherboard. Incase yours is an exception, a new PCI network interface card or USB card can be acquired from most computer retail stores.

The following two types of cabling can be used:

  • A crossover cable are used directly between two computers.

Sample connectivity between two computers using a crossover cable
Sample connectivity between two computers using a crossover cable
  • A straight through cable connects through a hub, switch etc.

Router connectivity to two computers using straight through cables
Router connectivity to two computers using straight through cables

In order to connect two computers using a crossover cable, you will have to configure the IP address in order to achieve working connectivity.

Both crossover and straight-through cables can be purchased from computer stores.

A three meter cable should suffice for a small room, but always go for a longer cable. You do not want to pay the shop another unnecessary visit just because you purchased a short cable.

 USB Bridge Cable

USB bridge cable enables physical connection just like wired LAN. It is however limited to short distances.

Permissible USB cables length range between two and ten meters. Worth noting too is that the longer the cable, the diminished strength of data transfer. The same applies to wired networks.

USB 2.0 cables allow for speeds up to 480 Mbps, which is good enough, but this speed is limited or enhanced by the data transfer rate of the computer ports.

USB to USB communication, connectivity can be done in two modes; link or network modes.

The network mode enables the cable to function in a network environment. Settings that are needed for the usual network card also apply when this mode is chosen.

If all you want to do is copy files between computers, then USB bridge cable will do just fine. The cable comes with a software CD, or one can be downloaded from the internet, and this software provides an interface to effect file transfer.


USB bridge cable
USB bridge cable | Source

 Wireless Access Point (AP)/Router: Wireless LAN

Perhaps the most popular connectivity involves the use of an access point /router device.

A wireless access point is a device that enables two or more devices within a specified radius to communicate wirelessly.

A desktop computer installed with a D-Link wireless network card
A desktop computer installed with a D-Link wireless network card

We know that all laptops come embedded with wireless capabilities, but only a few desktop computers have this functionality.

If this is your choice of connectivity, you should then avail the desktop computer with a wireless network device i.e. wireless network card or wireless USB device.

Instructions on how to configure connectivity between the two computers can be read at the end of this hub.

A pocket wireless access point  from ASUS. Apart from being an access point, this gadget turns your desktop into a wireless computer
A pocket wireless access point from ASUS. Apart from being an access point, this gadget turns your desktop into a wireless computer

 Ad Hoc Network: Wireless LAN

An ad-hoc network is when two or more computers all with wireless capabilities communicate to and with each other without the services of a wireless access point or router.

In an ad hoc setting, one select computer is set up as the access point and is capable of permitting seamless communication with more than two computers. An ad hoc network configuration boasts an average speed of 54Mbs and does not need complex configuration.

How to setup an ad-hoc network in Windows 7.

An ad hoc setup can help connect two computers at home
An ad hoc setup can help connect two computers at home

2: How To Configure TCP/IP For A Basic Home Network

A simple IP address configuration should go like this:

  • From the Desktop or control Panel, right-click Network (Windows 7) and select Properties.
  • In the new window, click Change adapter settings.

  • A new window will open with all the network cards installed in your computer.
  • Right click the appropriate network card. Appropriate here meaning the card where your network signal is detected. In the image below, Windows is identifying new network through Realtek network card.

  • Double click the network card icon. A Local Area Network Properties window will pop up.
  • Within the Local Area Connection page click Internet Protocol Version 4.
  • Then click on Properties.

  • You will be re-directed to the TCP/IPv4 properties page where you can fill in the information below:

> IP address: 192.168.0.1
> Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0

(see image below)

  • Fill in the following IP address In the second computer.

This is just basic configuration.

When the two computers have been configured as directed, make sure to save the changes and exit.

Each of your computers should be able to identify the other.

This can be confirmed by opening the Network icon on the desktop.

You may also want to Turn on network discovery and file sharing the first time you try to access the Network.

3: How to Share Files Between Two Computers

The network configurations above will not be complete without actual sharing of files, printers and internet.

You need to enable sharing of individual folders. Windows 7 makes it easy to do this:

Under Control Panel Home, click Change advanced sharing settings and configure the options as required.

  • You can also configure sharing of individual folders and devices manually:
  • In order to share a single folder, simply right click it and then Properties.
  • Next click on the Sharing tab and then Advanced sharing.

  • Tick the Share this folder check box.
  • Click Ok and then Ok.
  • Your folder should now be shared and can be accessed across the network.

  • You can also give assign additional permissions by clicking on Permissions and making sure that the three check boxes under Allow are checked.

4: Local Area Network Speed

While adopting wired or wireless networks, it is important to understand the data transfer speeds between wired and wireless networks.

A wired network will provide better bandwidth in reality, owing to resistance to obstacles that normally impair wireless connections.

A 1Gbps wired network is practically superior to most wireless G and N networks.

Wireless network connections are usually vulnerable to bad reception and radio interference from the surroundings.

Most wired networks though, still operate at speeds of 10/100Mbps which, as explained above is decent enough and will comfortably rival wireless connections.

It suffices to write that the popular 802.11n wireless standard – wireless N and the new 802.11ac – wireless AC, are getting better than their predecessors.

However, the overall network speed will be determined by the speed of the lowest performing network device. It is, therefore, wise to go for devices and cables that perform at the highest speed.

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    • sharingknowledge profile image

      SHAR NOR 4 years ago from Miami, FL

      This whole idea is first turning the desktop computer to be able to access wireless connections? How much and where can i get the wireless cards at a cheaper price since you happen to be knowing more?

    • amuno profile image
      Author

      Alfred Amuno 4 years ago from Kampala

      I don't know where you are located but here in my country such cards and other computer accessories are available in virtually any retail computer store, priced at less than $20.

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