You can build a small network between two computers using a very cheap networking cable, called cross-over cable. This can be a terrific solution if you are looking for an inexpensive way of putting together only two computers for allowing them to share files, printers and Internet access. In this tutorial we will teach you in details how this can be done.

You will need, however, two network cards installed on one of the computers. The first card will be connected to your broadband modem and the other card will be used to connect this computer to the other computer, through a cross-over cable (this cable can be bought already assembled or you can build it by yourself). This is why some high-end motherboards have two on-board network cards: they allow you to share your Internet connection without needing to install a broadband router, by installing one of the ports to your broadband modem and the other to the other computer.

Of course if you don’t have or don’t want broadband Internet access you won’t need two network cards on one of the computers. So dial-up users will need only one network card at each computer. Another situation you could build this simple network without Internet access is when you want to connect two computers just for copying files, like copying all files located on your hard drive to another computer, for example.

The extra card on the computer that has the broadband Internet connection and a cross-over cable is all you will need to build a network using two computers.

You need to keep in mind, however, that this kind of network has some limitations:

  • The computer that has the broadband Internet connection will need to be always turned on. If you turn it off the other computer will lose its connection to the Internet. If you don’t want this to happen, you will need to build your network using a broadband router. Read our tutorial on how to build a network using a broadband router for further information.

  • You will be able to interconnect only two computers. If you need to connect more than two PCs, you will need to buy a broadband router or installing a hub or switch to the second network card of the computer that has the broadband Internet connection. For this connection you will need a regular pin-to-pin cable and not a cross-over one.

  • If you want to share your printer between your two computers, the computer that has the printer installed will need to be turned on if you want to print a document from the other computer. Since the computer that has your Internet connection will need to be always turned on anyway, we recommend you to install your printer on that computer as well.

You are able to connect the two computers without using any extra device because you will be using a special networking cable, not a regular one. So let’s talk about this cable.

Gabriel Torres is a Brazilian best-selling ICT expert, with 24 books published. He started his online career in 1996, when he launched Clube do Hardware, which is one of the oldest and largest websites about technology in Brazil. He created Hardware Secrets in 1999 to expand his knowledge outside his home country.