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How to Connect Two Computers and Share Files Between Them

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, the two must have corresponding network capabilities. Connectivity can be achieved through wired or wireless LAN and USB configurations listed below:

  • 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, wireless LAN does not require any physical connectivity.

A wireless and wired ethernet network cards for desktop computers

A wireless and wired ethernet network cards for desktop computers

Crossover/straight-through Cable: Wired Local Area Network

In order to implement connectivity using the crossover cable, both computers should have the RJ 45 network ports in them. All computers today (laptop and desktop) ship with network interfaces (ports) integrated onto the motherboard. In case yours is an exception, a new PCI network interface card or compatible USB stick can be acquired from a retail store.

The following types of cabling can be used:

  • A crossover cable connects two computers directly.
Connectivity using a crossover cable

Connectivity using a crossover cable

  • A straight-through cable connects via a hub, switch etc.
Connectivity usinga  straight through cable

Connectivity usinga straight through cable

In order to use a crossover cable, you will have to configure the IP addresses of the two computers.

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

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

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Wireless Access Point (AP)/Router: Wireless LAN

Connectivity via an access point /router device is perhaps the most widely used. An 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

All laptops come embedded with wireless capabilities, but only a few desktop computers have this functionality. You should avail the desktop computer a wireless network device i.e. wireless network card or wireless USB device.

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 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 permits 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

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:
> Subnet mask:

(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.

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.

© 2013 Alfred Amuno


Alfred Amuno (author) from Kampala on January 28, 2013:

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.

SHAR NOR from Miami, FL on January 28, 2013:

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?

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