Network two Macs
The most fundamental of networks, hooking two Macs together is both useful and relatively straightforward. Whether a two-Mac network is your final goal or you want to leave the option for expansion open, you'll both learn how to set everything up and minimize your costs at the same time.
Will your network be temporary?
Typically, people set up a temporary network connection to move files from an old Mac to a new one. If your network is only going to be a one-time or temporary connection, the emphasis will probably be on cost over performance. Fortunately, most people can set up a network using only a single cable connecting their Macs, so the cost will be minimal.
LocalTalk is the "original" flavor of Mac networking, built-in to Macs as far back as the Mac Plus, which was released in 1986. LocalTalk uses a Mac serial port to communicate, usually the printer port (although you can use the modem port
instead). LocalTalk is known for being both inexpensive and slow (relative to Ethernet), with a maximum transfer speed of around 20K per second. For more detailed info, see the
What is LocalTalk? page.
Ethernet is the most-used kind of networking today, for both Macs and PCs. Used almost exclusively in the business world for many years, Ethernet is now also found in many home networks. All Power Macs come with at least
10BaseT Ethernet built-in and many can also use
100BaseT "out of the box." If your Mac doesn't have Ethernet built-in, there are a plethora of adapters available to get almost any Mac on an Ethernet network. Ethernet is much faster than LocalTalk, with a maximum transfer speed of around 800K per second for 10BaseT and 8MB per second for 100BaseT. For more detailed info, see the
What is Ethernet? page.
Note for owners of newer Macs like the iMac or Blue & White G3 Pro
If you have a new Mac, such as the iMac or Blue & White G3 Pro,
Ethernet is your only option, as these Macs do not include serial ports and thus do not support
LocalTalk connections. I would expect future Mac models to follow suit.
Setting up the least expensive network possible
The least expensive
LocalTalk network consists of a single
serial cable connecting one serial port (usually the printer port) of each computer you wish to network. Serial cables are typically used to connect printers, modem, and other peripherals, and are extremely common. Since most Mac owners have such a cable in their possession, the cost of such a network is practically nil. For setup instructions, check out the
Setting up a Two-Mac LocalTalk Network page.
The cheapest Ethernet connection, good for two (and only two) computers is a
crossover cable connection. A crossover Ethernet network uses only a single cable, eliminating the need for a
hub by switching the cable's send and receive wires. Because these wires are swapped, a crossover cable cannot be used as part of a hub-based network. Many Macs can take advantage of a crossover network and you can find a crossover cable at most computer stores. For setup instructions, check out the
Setting up a Crossover Ethernet Network page.
Setting up a network you can expand later
If you want to set up an Ethernet network that has the maximum ability to expand as more computers enter the picture, you'll need to base your network around a
hub . A typical small network hub has from four to eight ports and costs $40-80. A hub-based network uses
twisted-pair Ethernet wiring and
RJ-45 connectors, typically available at computer stores in five- or ten -foot increments. For setup instructions, check out the
Setting up a Hub-based Ethernet Network page.
If you want to set up an LocalTalk network that has the maximum ability to expand as more computers enter the picture, you'll need to base your network around LocalTalk adapters, such as
Farallon's PhoneNet and
Belkin's QuickNet. These adapters connect to each other in a
daisy-chain fashion and cost about $10-20 each. Adapter-based networks use standard phone cable as wiring and can be easily expanded to accomodate new Macs. For setup instructions, check out the
Setting up a LocalTalk Network page.
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