It is imperative for you to keep your home theater network secure. Worms and viruses can eat up your bandwidth, slow your machine to a crawl, and make your computers inoperable. In truth, it is fairly easy to secure your network. The steps below won’t stop the most dedicated of hackers, but it should make your network secure from most attacks.
- Update your operating system. For Windows, make sure Automatic Updates is turned on.
- Install an antivirus program and make sure it is kept up–to–date.
- Install a software firewall program and make sure it is up–to–date.
- Update your router’s firmware.
- Change the default password for your router.
- Stop broadcasting your SSID (Service Set Identifier). The SSID is basically the name for your wireless network. The option to stop broadcasting is usually in your router’s wireless settings. This will stop wireless devices from automatically detecting your wireless network. Anyone trying to connect to your wireless network will have to know your SSID’s name to connect. This leads to …
- Change the default SSID name. This is usually in your router’s wireless setting. This will stop a hacker from typing in the typical names like “Linksys” and connect to your network.
- Set up your wireless security on your router. The most secure is WPA-PSK, next is WPA, and last is WEP. You will also have to change security settings on your mobile wireless devices.
- Write down all your MAC addresses on all your networking hardware. Then, set up your router to only allow the MAC address in your list to communicate on your network.
- Install anti-spyware software on your computers
It’s hard to provide details in the steps above due to the many different types of software, routers and operating systems. Check your manufacture’s website for more detailed instructions.
Your network will only be as good as your weakest link so make sure all your computers have updated operating systems, antivirus protection, firewall, and anti-spyware protection. Most software has automatic updates and scans so it’s not too much of a hassle.
Networking Your Computers (Windows XP)
Below is a very basic step–by–step instructions to network your Windows XP computers. Instructions for Windows 2000 and Media Center Edition should be very similar.
- Make sure you followed the steps in the above Security section on all networked computers. The last thing you want is to spread viruses to the other computers in your network.
- Make sure you have a connection (cable plugged in or wireless access) to your router, switch, or wireless access point.
- Make sure you are logged in as a user with Administrative privileges.
- Make sure the settings for Windows Firewall or other commercial firewalls allow home networking.
- Make sure you have all the MAC addresses of the computers you are trying to connect to in the “allowed list” on your router.
- Right click on My Computer and click on the “Computer Name” tab. Run the Network Identification Wizard to setup your network. Give your computer a unique name and make sure the workgroup name is the same on all computers. You will have to restart your computer when you are done.
- To share folders, right click on the folder you would like to share and go to properties. Then go to the “Sharing” tab and click “share this folder on the network.” If you want other computers to be able to change the files in the folder, click the box for “Allow network users to change my files.” Also, if this is your first time sharing a folder, you’ll see a link to enable sharing. When you click on the link, you’ll have the option to go through the Network Identification Wizard again or to “just share this folder.” Skip the wizard and click on “share this folder.”
- To share a printer, go to “Printers and Faxes” under the Control Panel and go to the properties of your printer. Go to the Sharing tab and click on “share this printer.” To add this printer to other computers on your network, go to the same “Printers and Faxes” section in your LAN's coputers and click on “Add a Printer.” A wizard will pop up and follow the steps below:
- Click next
- Click on “A network printer, or a printer attached to another computer”
- Click on “Browse for a printer”
Congratulations! You are now able to share files between different computers, print from different computers, stream video from different computers, play music located on different computers, and more.
Home Networking Tips
- Run Cat5 wires whenever possible to avoid wireless interference issues and to get more bandwidth. It takes less time transferring video files through your home theater network on wires (1 Gb/s max) than wireless (54 Mbps max).
- It is not difficult to make your own Cat5 wires, and it is a lot cheaper than buying them. All you need is a crimping tool and a spool of wire. See this page for more details.
- Make sure your software firewall doesn’t block networking from other computers on your LAN. Windows XP built–in firewall will do this as well as commercial firewalls.
- It is not advisable to use Window’s built–in Firewall. It’s known to cause home networking problems and doesn’t do a good job at stopping intruders. Commercial firewalls will do a better job.
- Remember that most local IP addresses run in the range of 192.168.0.0 through 192.168.255.0.
- You can get your MAC address by typing “ipconfig –all” in cmd.exe of Windows, or using the “ifconfig” command in Linux.