Setting up an Ethernet connection requires a connection to an Internet service provider, a cable modem and a cable to connect the computer to the cable modem. The simplest topology includes a coaxial cable from a wall outlet connected to the cable modem and then either an Ethernet cable (CAT5 or higher) or a USB cable connected to the computer. Once the physical cabling is finished, the operating system drivers complete the connection.
The cable modem converts signals travelling along a coaxial line to signals a computer can use. Most Internet service providers lease a cable modem as part of their standard solution, but many people prefer to purchase one and avoid the monthly fee. Once the cable modem is set up, the choice of connection depends on the type of network required.
For a single computer, only one cable is needed. For multiple computers, a switch or router provides additional connection points. Most devices use an RJ-45 connection jack so the cables must be CAT5 type or higher. Many wireless routers have physical connection points, allowing both wired and wireless Internet access.
Once the physical connections are made, the computer’s network drivers detect the signal, assign an IP address and gateway, and the connection is made. Most operating systems have a “wizard” that steps a user through the process.
Typical problems making a connection include faulty wiring, loose connections or incompatible hardware. Most of these can be avoided by checking with the Internet service provider on cable modem compatibility and using manufactured cables and connectors.