Connecting a computer to a network makes the computer useful as a communications device as well as a data and text processor. Windows supports many kinds of network connections that allow a user to move data between computers, including Ethernet and IEEE 1394 cables, radio waves, and infrared light. The data that moves through all of these transmission media break the data stream into packets to add error checking, addressing, and other important information to the original data stream.
The information in this chapter explains how to use each type of connection to join your computer to a network. The same rules apply to connecting a computer to a LAN and to the Internet; indeed, when you connect your local network to the Internet through a LAN, both the LAN and your own computer become part of the Internet.