Router alternative

Reader Celia Méndez seeks a simpler networking path. She writes:

I have two computers: a PowerBook G4 and a new Mac Pro tower. What is the easiest, cheapest, and best way to connect them up into one cable modem so they can both access the Internet?

I was told that a router was the answer, so I bought a Logitech router and discovered that it doesn’t work on a Mac. All the Apple Store products are for wireless, which I don’t need, and they all seem very expensive. I am just one person freelancing so I don’t need a huge network or anything fancy. Do I even need a router at all?

If you have AirPort cards in each Mac, no. You can simply jack the cable modem into the Mac Pro’s Ethernet port, share the Internet connection on the Mac Pro, and your PowerBook can jump on the Mac Pro’s connection. Specifically, you set up the latest version of OS X this way:

Your cable modem will be plugged into your Mac Pro’s Ethernet port. Configure the Mac Pro to access the Internet via the cable modem. Open System Preferences, click Sharing, and then click the Internet tab. Choose Built-in Ethernet from the Share Your Connection From pop-up menu and enable the AirPort option in the To Computers Using list. If you want to password-protect the wireless network you’re about to create, click AirPort Options, enable the Enable Encryption (Using WEP) option in the sheet that appears, enter and confirm a password for your network, and click OK to dismiss the sheet.

Click Start. (If you’ve turned on the firewall in the Firewall area of this same system preference you’ll need to enable Personal Web Sharing in the Firewall so any connected computers can share the Mac Pro’s Internet connection.)

If you’ve enabled the AirPort icon in the menu bar (which you do via the Show AirPort Status in Menu Bar option that appears within the AirPort area of the Network system preference) your AirPort icon will show an arrow pointing up.

Move to the PowerBook and, from its AirPort menu bar menu, choose the Mac Pro. Your PowerBook is now connected to the Internet via the Mac Pro’s Ethernet connection to the cable modem.

However, if your Macs don’t have AirPort cards, adding them isn’t cheap. You can’t simply add an AirPort card to a Mac Pro — an Apple authorized service provider must provide and add the proprietary part. And if your PowerBook G4 requires the original AirPort card, you’ll find that Apple no longer sells them. They’re available from third-party vendors for around $79.

In this case, a router is the way to go. If you don’t need wireless, a wired router from a company such as Linksys or D-Link will set you back around $30 to $40. Setup isn’t as breezy as it is with Apple’s AirPort gear, but, in this case of ease-of-use, you get what you pay for.

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