Please help a networking illiterate set up a viable LAN

#1 Edited by Socialone (202 posts) -

Hello Bombers,

I recently decided to organize a small LAN party despite my complete ignorance of networking basics because I grow tired of endless Super Smash and Mario Kart rounds monopolizing our gaming gatherings. I’ll be starting the experiment with a small group (5-7 people) to see how it goes, and when the semester starts I may expand the activity to my whole major, which translates to around 15 more participants.

The hardest part by far is setting up the required hardware. From what I understand after some scouting across various forums on the subject, one may use a switch, a router, a hub or a combination of these. I plan to play exclusively offline, a choice which I hope will reduce the complexity of the whole operation. The consensus seems to be that a switch is the superior option, and I tend to agree. If I do choose that route, I would have to buy this, than plug every machine with a straight Ethernet cable and… ? I read somewhere that the lack of DHCP means that I must assign static IPs to every machine for a 3 days lease (what?). Does that still hold true? If so, I should figure out how to do it. On the other hand, I could connect two routers together with a crossover cable --is it really necessary? Still a much more affordable option, since we do possess said routers. The DHCP on the first router will handle the IPs while I must disable that option on the second router, is that correct? I honestly don't even know where the hell the user interface for a router is. Anyway boom, Ethernet cables everywhere and we’re set. Experienced lanners, which option is the best in your opinion? You could say that reading related threads should have given me a good idea, but my complete ignorance prohibits me from adapting these examples to my particular situation. Thus this thread came to be.

When it comes to games, I decided to pick a few old classics because some of my broke buddies have fairly old machines. My list so far consists of:

  • Starcraft
  • Warcraft 3
  • Age of Empires 2
  • Battlefield 1942
  • Halo: Combat Evolved
  • Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast

I own disc based versions for all of these. Are some of them known to be hard to play locally? Everyone will have to install them on the spot in a rotation, which should take around an hour. The patches worry me though, could I download them all myself and distribute the exes through file sharing afterwards? Last question: since we’ll be offline, I guess I’ll be hosting the game, does that mean my i7 equipped laptop will be the ‘’server’’? I have the most powerful machine of the group, but will I still be able to play like the rest of them without lag?

I know I'm asking a lot, and I somewhat expect a few of you to suggest using two 360s for some basic Halo 3 instead, but hey, I really love my strategy games.

#2 Edited by alwaysbebombing (1588 posts) -

Literately, plug all the machines into the same router. Done.

EDIT: For example, as long as everything is on the same network, LAN games will work. E.g. People playing LAN games of Halo at Uni.

Sorry, one more thing. Switches and Hubs are best, I don't know why I said, "router" but I honestly don't think it matters any more on such a small network. I don't work on small networks too often.

#3 Posted by Socialone (202 posts) -

Literately, plug all the machines into the same router. Done.

EDIT: For example, as long as everything is on the same network, LAN games will work. E.g. People playing LAN games of Halo at Uni.

Yeah, if I had a router with 8 ports, I guess that would work like a charm. Thing is, I'll have to either connect two of them and tentatively mess with the DHCP settings or use a switch and tentatively mess with the IPs. I wanted to know which method is the most idiot-proof.

#4 Edited by alwaysbebombing (1588 posts) -

@alwaysbebombing said:

Literately, plug all the machines into the same router. Done.

EDIT: For example, as long as everything is on the same network, LAN games will work. E.g. People playing LAN games of Halo at Uni.

Yeah, if I had a router with 8 ports, I guess that would work like a charm. Thing is, I'll have to either connect two of them and tentatively mess with the DHCP settings or use a switch and tentatively mess with the IPs. I wanted to know which method is the most idiot-proof.

Personally, I have never had to mess with the DHCP settings or IP. The difference between a router and a switch (or hub, which are a little more lower end) is that a router lets you change all kinds of settings, firmware, security ect. whereas a switch is more a box that creates a LAN across home, or small office networks. Switches are level 2 on the OSI model.

You'd start running into problems if your friends have belonged to different groups then the default windows "WORKGROUP" but almost no one changes that.

#5 Edited by TyCobb (1972 posts) -

Do you not already have a router? If you do, just use that and get yourself a switch to plug into that. The router will take care of the IP Addresses and you won't have to deal with setting everyone to a static IP.

If you decide to daisy chain routers, just make sure you turn DHCP off on one of them. At this point it will just act like a switch.

Stay away from HUBs. They just broadcast the packets received to all of the other ports. Switches are smart and send them only to the port that's needed (unless of course it is a broadcast packet).

EDIT: Answers to your other questions:

Download everything you need (patches, mods, etc.) and install it on your system first. Take notes while doing it so you can quickly get everyone going. Put them in some directory and share it. Once you get get everyone connected and the network seems to be fine, they should be able to find your share. They would just type "\\YOURCOMPNANE\YourShareName" in Explorer.

As for you hosting the games, do not worry. You will 0 latency. Its the others you have to worry about that could have issues. However, there should be nothing to worry about.

One last thing. Make sure when people connect to your network, they mark it as a Home Network and file sharing and discovery is turned on. A quick Google search should show to do that if Vista, 7, or 8.

#6 Posted by Toxeia (729 posts) -

If you're using routers, be sure to disable DHCP on all but ONE of the routers. Also, change their IP addresses so that they are within the same subnet (192.168.1.x). X would be different for each one. To reach the interface for your routers, go to their IP address. By default, it's usually 192.168.1.1. I believe D-Link or Belkin used 192.168.0.1. Login is usually some combination of admin or administrator for the user name, and then password, admin, or leave it blank.

If you get switches to supplement your one router, that'd be easier actually. And avoid hubs - I actually don't think they're even manufactured anymore.

As far as Cross-Over cables, don't bother. That's not necessary with most equipment as they can sense the configuration of the cable. This was mostly a thing for connecting two computers directly to each other or if you're using some high performance networking equipment.

What TyCobb said about the sharing, good idea for sharing files to start. I actually can't remember the process off hand for doing that - so here's two other options. The advantages of using these is that you don't have to do the sharing jazz on their machines and can just get right to what you're trying to share.

One: Admin shares. By connecting to \\your_ip_address\\c$ they will have access to your drive. Unfortunately this provides them total access, read AND write, to your drive. So if you don't trust them, don't do it.

Second: Grab XLight FTP server. You can quickly set up an FTP server on your machine, create an anonymous account, and give them access to the folders you want them to have access to by going to ftp://your_ip_address/

#7 Posted by alwaysbebombing (1588 posts) -

@toxeia: They totally do still make hubs, but I don't know why anyone would buy one?

Also, I really don't recommend daisy-chaining routers together, it can get insanely complicated.

#8 Posted by TyCobb (1972 posts) -

@toxeia: Wouldn't they need to know his username and password or credentials to the Admin account in order to access c$? It's been a long time since I have used Workgroups so maybe this has changed. I have been running an Active Directory / DHCP server in my house for the last 7 years so I am out of touch with most home networks.

#9 Edited by alwaysbebombing (1588 posts) -

@tycobb: They would need his creds to access his c drive.

But for file sharing, why not set up a homegroup between everyone on the host PC and drop everything into a public shared folder?

Windows 7 and 8 are pretty good with homegroups, plus you get that throw away password and can just shut the homegroup down when everyone is done.

#10 Posted by TyCobb (1972 posts) -

@toxeia: They totally do still make hubs, but I don't know why anyone would buy one?

Also, I really don't recommend daisy-chaining routers together, it can get insanely complicated.

I thought HUBs were still around but they must be hard to find. I couldn't find one on Newegg. Searching for HUB just brought up a list of switches and going to Networking and choosing HUB category only displays USB HUBs lol

It should be extremely simple to disable DHCP. Even if you can't re-enable it afterwards, just get a paperclip =)

#11 Posted by alwaysbebombing (1588 posts) -

@tycobb: I know it's easy for people like you and me to turn DHCP off, but I was more trying to make it easy for this duder. You know what beats I'm dropping? Especially when there are lots of friends waiting to play games.

#12 Edited by TyCobb (1972 posts) -

@alwaysbebombing: I understand. Routers are just more common and if he can do it this way, he may be able to save a few bucks if he has an old one lying around or if a friend brought one over. Switches are the proper way to go and much easier since you just plug it in a roll.

@socialone Good luck! I'd love to hear how your LAN party goes.

#13 Edited by VACkillers (1066 posts) -

I used to do this a lot when I was quite a bit younger and using older OS's... Perhaps you could help us out by telling us which operating systems are going to be on the machines? windows 7? windows XP? VISTA? Windows8? Linux? it matters because each OS has different network protocols introduced, XP was easiest, but all done manually, windows 7 does it all automatically with workgroups, but more often then not run into sharing issues. If you use static IPs, you dont need to keep changing them every 3 days, never had to do that before unless you were wanting to do that.

Basic settings would be something like 192.168.1.9 / 192.168.1.8 / 192.168.1.7 / 192.168.1.6 (ip examples)

DHCP 255.255.255.0 (example)

I prefer network HUBS to switches, because its speficilly built for one thing, networking, the switches are usefull if you plan on switching between internet and networking for things like game updates/patches/MODS/ stuff like that... but if you dont plan on doing any of that anyway or have a seperate machine to download those from, then I would just stick to a network hub personally.

If you are using Windows 7 then just simply creating a workgroup and making all the other machines connect to that workgroup then technically it all should be good and okay without really needing to mess around with the IP/DHCP/DNS settings.... It would be an idea to try and get a hub/switch/router that doesn't have an in-built firewall, to make it much easier to connect to eachother without something getting blocked, but if if does, go into the router/switch/hub settings itself, you'd type an ip address in your browser window to connect to it, and basically just go into the protection side of things like either firewall/security and you'll want to enable "DMZ" mode, which makes your hub/router/switch run without enabling its firewall (which shouldn't matter anyway as all this is going to be offline anyway) and you dont have connection issues while trying to join matches.... Games like Unreal tournament and Battlefield, can have issues with routers especially because of firewalls... Dont do port-forwarding you wont need to if you enable DMZ mode and if you use a network hub you wont need to port forward anyway.....

Bare in mind haven't done this for awhile so typing this from memory for the most part just to sort of guide you in the right direction.... Only thing not 100% on was the DHCP, i think thats right, but that could be the subnet mask number for XP also......

#14 Posted by TyCobb (1972 posts) -

What the hell is this....

I used to do this a lot when I was quite a bit younger and using older OS's... Perhaps you could help us out by telling us which operating systems are going to be on the machines? windows 7? windows XP? VISTA? Windows8? Linux? it matters because each OS has different network protocols introduced, XP was easiest, but all done manually, windows 7 does it all automatically with workgroups, but more often then not run into sharing issues. If you use static IPs, you dont need to keep changing them every 3 days, never had to do that before unless you were wanting to do that.

Basic settings would be something like 192.168.1.9 / 192.168.1.8 / 192.168.1.7 / 192.168.1.6 (ip examples)

DHCP 255.255.255.0 (example) <-- That's a subnet mask; not DHCP.

DHCP is not a magical number. It's what assigns the IP address to the computer and holds on to the assignment until the reservation expires. It's a great tool for not needing to statically assign the IP address to every device you want to put on the network.

I prefer network HUBS to switches, because its speficilly built for one thing, networking, the switches are usefull if you plan on switching between internet and networking for things like game updates/patches/MODS/ stuff like that... but if you dont plan on doing any of that anyway or have a seperate machine to download those from, then I would just stick to a network hub personally.

WHAT!? All of them are built for networking. Switches are basically smarter HUBs. HUBs are fucking stupid and just boosts the signal as it broadcasts the packet to ALL ports. Switches are smart and sends the packet only to the port it needs to. I explained this above in an older post. Reading on you start describing a router, but call it a switch.

If you are using Windows 7 then just simply creating a workgroup and making all the other machines connect to that workgroup then technically it all should be good and okay without really needing to mess around with the IP/DHCP/DNS settings.... It would be an idea to try and get a hub/switch/router that doesn't have an in-built firewall, to make it much easier to connect to eachother without something getting blocked, but if if does, go into the router/switch/hub settings itself, you'd type an ip address in your browser window to connect to it, and basically just go into the protection side of things like either firewall/security and you'll want to enable "DMZ" mode, which makes your hub/router/switch run without enabling its firewall (which shouldn't matter anyway as all this is going to be offline anyway) and you dont have connection issues while trying to join matches.... Games like Unreal tournament and Battlefield, can have issues with routers especially because of firewalls... Dont do port-forwarding you wont need to if you enable DMZ mode and if you use a network hub you wont need to port forward anyway.....

HUBs and switches do not have built-in firewalls. Enabling the DMZ port does absolutely nothing except expose a computer to the outside world if he was on the internet. That's a really bad idea since you just practically told him to disable the firewall. All the games should be fine because it is just a LAN game. I would not expect him needing to port forward because he is NOT going to use DMZ. You can't port forward on a HUB.

Bare in mind haven't done this for awhile so typing this from memory for the most part just to sort of guide you in the right direction.... Only thing not 100% on was the DHCP, i think thats right, but that could be the subnet mask number for XP also......

#15 Edited by VACkillers (1066 posts) -

DMZ mode is a work-around for port forwarding, I never stated that you needed to do both port forwarding and DMZ......... and as HE STATED!!!!! this is sole for OFFLINE use so DMZ mode is PERFECTLY fine for not connecting to the internet for a ROUTER!!! and i already stated I was not SURE if a HUB/SWITCH had firewalls.... Learn to read before tearing peoples posts up... it PAYS TO READ before bitching....... MY LAST sentance I stated all this was from MEMORY!!! as well and haven't messed around with LAN only setups for quite some time now.... ITS NOT miss information either, and I already STATED in MY LAST SENTANCE the DHCP could be the subnet mask AS WELL....... As for the comment about hubs, network switches allow you to switch from networking, to internet....... thats why its called a SWITCH!!! If he has absolutely no intent on connecting to the internet AT ALL!!!!!! then a network hub! can save you $$ as switches are more expensive!!!

As for the comment about describing a router, and calling it a switch, errr.. WTF are you on? I was describing if he went down the router route, enabling DMZ might be the easiest way to set it up as there is no port-forwarding needed, IF HE WENT WITH A ROUTER!!!!! no idea where on earth you got where I called it a switch??? and I wasn't sure if hubs/switches had firewalls in them these days, i mean think about it, what DOESNT have a firewall in it now? even some crappy ass modem has a firewall in them these days and cable boxes... Already stated I haven't used this type of setup for awhile and what I wrote was a GUIDE LINE!!! you may think your hot shit, and you may be really fucking good a making networks and know what your talking about, but you dont have to be a fucking cunt about it either TyCobb...

I wasn't wrong in what i wrote... you got your opinion, I have mine, either way, its up to him to decide what he wants to use and how he wants to setup his network....

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.