Does this help? How to Network Two Computers
Question: How do I establish a link between two computers using a NetGear switch? Or USB? Or LAN cables (crossover, etc.)? - Joseph F.
Answer: As you already seem to know, there are a number of different ways you can connect two Windows computers to transfer files and perform other networking tasks. The least expensive way is probably to use an Ethernet network cable labeled a "crossover" cable (so named because the wires are "crossed over" so that the two ends are different from one another. You can even make your own, see:
This works okay as long as only two computers need to be networked. Each computer needs an Ethernet adapter (also called a Network Interface Card or NIC). This can be a PCI card, or if you don't want to open the case, it can be a USB Ethernet adapter. For laptops that don't have an Ethernet connector built in, you can use a PCMCIA (PC card) adapter. One end of the cable plugs into each computer's Ethernet adapter.
If you want three or more systems on the network, you should buy a hub or switch. The hub is less expensive, but the switch is more efficient. Plug an Ethernet cable (not a crossover) into each computer's NIC, and plug the other end into a port on the hub or switch. You'll then need to configure the networking properties for each computer. In Control Panel | Network Connections, right click the Local Area Connection and select Properties. Ensure that Client for Microsoft Networks, File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks and TCP/IP are installed and their checkboxes checked in the scrolling text box.