What is the Internet? || What is the Web? || How to Connect
Surfing for the First Time || Troubleshooting || Other Features
Links || Glossary || The 'Net Around the World


How to Connect to the Internet
and World Wide Web

In this section...

Before you can connect to the Internet and access the World Wide Web, you need to have certain equipment. In brief, you must have a computer (preferably running an up-to-date operating system); a modem and access to a telephone line or a local area network (LAN) that is in turn connected to the Internet; and connection software that will allow you to establish an account with a service provider and access the Internet.

A modem is not needed when accessing the Internet through a LAN.

The Right Hardware

To operate most of the current Web browsers and on-line services, you should have an IBM PC/PC equivalent, UNIX workstation, or Apple Macintosh computer with at least 8 megabytes (MB) of random access memory (RAM) and 10 MB of free disk space. If you are unsure of how much RAM and disk space your computer has, consult your user's manual.

NOTE: Although the capacities of both are measured in megabytes, RAM and disk space are NOT the same thing! RAM refers to the electronic microchips in your computer that store data for relatively brief periods, and that give your computer the active capacity to run programs and access data. Disk space refers to space on the magnetic hard disk inside (or connected to) your computer that stores data over the long term.

For best results, use a PC with a 486 or Pentium microprocessor; or a Macintosh with an 030, 040 or PowerPC microprocessor.

It is possible to connect to the Internet using a computer other than an IBM PC, Macintosh or UNIX workstation, though the access software available for such machines is limited.

If you are accessing the Internet outside of a LAN environment, you will need a modem that will connect you with other computers and interpret the data being sent back and forth. Most any modem that is compatible with your computer will do, though the higher the kilobits per second (kbps) rate of your modem, the faster it will transmit data. Modem speed is an important consideration when accessing sites on the Web that contain lots of digitized data. In general, your modem should transmit data at 14.4 kbps or faster to give you optimum performance on the Web. If you are looking to purchase a modem, buy the fastest model you can afford.

You must also have access to a live telephone line. Most modems accept the same jacks as do ordinary household telephones, allowing you to connect your modem to a wall jack using standard phone cord. Some cable TV providers have begun offering Internet connections via cable. Such connections provide much faster transmission speeds than standard phone lines, though you will need a special modem that allows you to link your computer with the cable. If you are interested in a cable Internet connection, contact your local cable operator to see if the service is available in your area.

You can also connect to the Internet through a LAN with Internet access. If you are unsure as to the capacities of your LAN to do this, contact your site's systems administrator.

Go to Top

The Right Software

For best results, make sure that your computer is running the most up-to-date operating system that it can handle. If you have an IBM PC/PC compatible computer, it should be running Microsoft Windows version 3.1, Windows NT, Windows 95 or OS/2. If you have a Macintosh, it should be running System 7 or higher.

To make your connection complete, you will need connection software that allows your computer to dial into an Internet access provider, establish an account, and work with the data in a straightforward manner. Many access providers will give you software that will allow you to access their systems using an all-in-one custom interface. Others may give you a collection of separate software packages that can be used together. But whatever software they provide, be sure that it is compatible with your computer and operating system before attempting to use it.

Some Internet access providers may allow you to establish a serial line interface protocol (SLIP) or point-to-point protocol (PPP) connection, either of which essentially makes your computer a part of the Internet. Unlike many standard dial-up software packages, a SLIP/PPP connection allows you to run independent software packages such as Web browsers, either one at a time or simultaneously.

Go to Top

The Browser

As you surf the Web, you will come across sites that state, "This site is best viewed with…" and then name a particular browser. Many will even provide a link to a site where you can download the specified browser.

Sites make these recommendations because some browsers use special protocols, allowing site creators to offer extra features beyond the standard capabilities of hypertext markup language (HTML). Chief among these browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Your Internet service provider will most likely give you a choice of browsers (if you have a SLIP/PPP account, you may use any browser you wish), so try out a couple, and use the browser that best suits your needs.

Go to Top


The Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers allow for the use of plug-ins, or extra software applications that run as if they were an integral part of the browser. To see which plug-ins are currently available for Netscape, go to: To see the plug-ins for Internet Explorer, go to:

Browsers also use helper applications that, while not as integral as plug-ins, enhance the browser's capabilities by launching when needed. Helper applications allow your browser to play sound and video files, display animation and other graphic formats, or access special Internet features such as TELNET. Most Web sites that require the use of helper applications will provide links to sites where you can download the necessary software.

For more information on plug-ins and helper applications, go to the "Useful Links" section.

Go to Top

Connection Options

Until recently, the two primary methods of accessing the Internet were through a network connection, allowing users of local area networks (LANs) to go online through their school or workplace systems, and dial-up connections through a modem and phone line. However, new connection options allow for greater speeds and flexibility, while keeping costs to a minimum.

The following are some of the newer connection options that you might want to investigate:

Go to Top

Locating Internet Access Providers

If you already have Internet access but wish to learn about other access providers, go to TAG Online ( or Mecklermedia's "The List" (, where you will be able to search databases of U.S. and international access providers by name, geographic location and area code.

If you do not already have Internet access, you can learn about Internet services that are available in your area by contacting your local library or telephone company for recommendations, or by consulting a local computer publication or computer store.

For information about international Internet access, see the section "The 'Net Around the World."

Go to Top

What to Look for in an Access Provider

Access providers vary widely in the services and capabilities they offer. The providers listed at the beginning of this chapter offer local access throughout most of the United States; however, you might find that a smaller, local provider is more suited to your needs.

Before committing to a service of any kind, be aware of the following variables:

For information about international Internet access, see the section "The 'Net Around the World."

Continue to next section

Go to...
What is the Internet? || What is the Web? || How to Connect
Surfing for the First Time || Troubleshooting || Other Features
Links || Glossary || The 'Net Around the World


CenterSpan home
Copyright © 2001 CenterSpan
This site developed and maintained by SLACK Incorporated
Questions or comments? E-mail the Webmaster

Please be aware that medical advice, diagnoses and physician references cannot be obtained from this site.