In this guide
Getting online has never been easier and as more gadgets start to utilise your home broadband connection, often wirelessly, installation is also becoming more straightforward. However, getting everything to work together may take a little bit of work, or extra cash.
Windows laptops and tablet PCs
Unless your machine is very old indeed, you shouldn’t have a problem getting online with a Windows-based machine. So long as you have at least Windows 7, internet access should be easy and safe. Older versions such as Windows 98, Windows XP and Windows Vista will work but are not recommended as they are no longer supported by Microsoft and vulnerable to security flaws.
If you’re not sure which version of Windows you’re running, right click the ‘Start’ icon on the desktop and click ‘Properties’ or 'System' – this should tell you.
If you do have an older version of Windows you should still be able to get online, however we strongly advise that you upgrade to Windows 7, 8 or 10, or you will find your internet experience much less enjoyable due to various compatibility problems and security concerns.
If you need a wired connection, as long as your computer has an network socket in the back (all desktop computers and most laptops should have a connection built in as standard), you will be able to plug in a Local Area Network (LAN) cable - these are normally supplied with your router - and get online. If you have a computer which does not have a network port you will need to buy a network adaptor or card: adaptors usually plug into one of your USB ports, while cards need to be installed inside the computer.
Wireless broadband is a little different. While laptops, netbooks and tablets have a wireless adaptor built in as standard, many desktop PCs won't have Wi-Fi support. If you want to get online wirelessly with your home PC you’ll probably have to pick up a USB wireless adaptor or wireless card. Please refer to our wireless set-up guide for more details.
Apple Macs, MacBooks, iPads and Linux systems
Getting online with an Apple computer or a computer running a version of the Linux operating system (such as Ubuntu, Redhat and Mandriva) isn’t always as straightforward as it is with a Windows PC, but you shouldn’t come across any compatibility problems.
Support for these platforms is hit and miss with internet service providers, although Mac will fair better than Linux users. The software provided is often Windows compatible only, but the instruction manuals normally have advice to help get Apple Mac users online. Sadly, the same is rare for Linux users.
Luckily, both platforms have dedicated and friendly communities that should be able to help get you online in no time. For Linux, you can try sites such as Linux Format and Linux.co.uk, while Mac users can head to the official Apple website or a site such as Macworld.
If you’re using Linux on a PC or laptop, please see the PC and Windows section above for possible hardware problems. If you’ve got a Mac, you’ll need to make sure you have all the appropriate hardware in place to get online: speak to your nearest Apple dealer if you’re unsure about setting up a wireless or wired broadband connection.
PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, plus other consoles and handhelds
The console makers were quick to jump on the online gaming bandwagon, and all modern machines can be played online – a lot of them also have support for web browsing and email too.
The PlayStation 4 (PS4) has built in wireless, so if you’ve got a wireless modem you can get online simply by following the instructions. If you need to connect with a wired connection, you’ll need to get a network cable - there are sockets on the back of the PS4, so you simply plug one end into your console and the other into your router.
Nintendo Switch owners have wireless broadband connectivity built in, but will have to buy a USB LAN adaptor for wired connectivity. This is also the same for the Wii U.
Microsoft Xbox One users have wireless and wired networking built in as standard. The older Xbox 360 may or may not have wireless support built in depending on which model you own, but all of them include a wired network port.
If you have a hand-held Nintendo 3DS/2DS, Wii or Sony PSP/Vita you can connect these to the internet too, as long as you have a wireless connection – set up is quick and easy. However, both have little quirks. With the PSP, you have to get online via its internet browser first, before being able to use online modes.
The original DS may have trouble with more recent wireless routers, as it does not support routers that use WPA security, only the older (and very insecure) WEP standard. There is a Wireless USB connector you can buy separately, but seeing as the Nintendo DSi doesn't have this problem, they're becoming pretty scarce - you may have to plough through eBay to get one.
Older consoles such as the Sony Playstation 2, Xbox and Nintendo Gamecube are no longer supported online.
If you're looking to find out more read our dedicated guide to gaming broadband.
Note: We realise that compatibility in the computer and console world moves pretty quickly, so if you spot any inaccuracies in this guide please let us know via our feedback email address.