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Network two Macs

Preface

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.

Your options

LocalTalk qm_icon picture 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 qm_icon picture 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 qm_icon picture Ethernet built-in and many can also use 100BaseT qm_icon picture "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 qm_icon picture is your only option, as these Macs do not include serial ports and thus do not support LocalTalk qm_icon picture connections. I would expect future Mac models to follow suit.

Setting up the least expensive network possible

The least expensive LocalTalk qm_icon picture network consists of a single serial cable qm_icon picture 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 qm_icon picture connection. A crossover Ethernet network uses only a single cable, eliminating the need for a hub qm_icon picture 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 qm_icon picture. A typical small network hub has from four to eight ports and costs $40-80. A hub-based network uses twisted-pair qm_icon picture Ethernet wiring and RJ-45 qm_icon picture 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 qm_icon picture 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.

Need more info?

Problem still not solved? Questions linger? If so, please send mail and I'll do my best to help out. I try to answer all mail with 24 hours, although it can take longer if the answer requires some research.

Contents of Three Macs & a Printer are ©1996-1999 Matthew Glidden (except for the bits that aren't).

Questions or feedback? Feel free to send mail.

[This page was last updated on 3/7/99; 1:56:01 PM.]



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