Setting Up A Wireless Network

by on June 12, 2007

Q: We are getting a high-speed Internet connection and I would like to know how to set it up so that we can connect to it wirelessly.

A: If you would like to implement wireless networking in your home you need to consider a few things. Even though wireless access points are relatively inexpensive, it is preferable to purchase a multi-port switch that doubles as a Wireless Access Point (WAP). This way you have the best of both worlds; you can plug computers and other network-enabled peripherals directly into the ports on the router via Ethernet cable and devices with wireless adapters (desktops, laptops, hand-held computers, PDAs, and some cellular phones) located in other rooms or more remote locations around your home can connect wirelessly.

You will need to decide where the computers are going to be placed in relation to the high-speed Internet modem and wireless router. If there is a PC that is going to be in the same room as the wireless router it would be most convenient to plug that PC in to the router so that it will get higher data transfer rates. It will also eliminate the need to purchase an additional wireless card.

The computers that will spend most of their time too far away from the wireless router to be plugged in will need to have wireless adapters installed. If any of these PCs are laptops (and some desktops) that have been purchased recently (within the last few years) they may have come with wireless adapters built-in, so you may want to consult the manufacturer’s documentation before proceeding.

You will also need to determine what kind of wireless adapter to buy for the PCs that require them. There are a few kinds of wireless adapters for PCs including PCI, PCI Express, and USB. The advantage of PCI and PCI Express cards is speed. You will be able to transfer data more quickly using these cards than you will with a USB wireless adapter. Your desktop PC’s documentation will tell you what type of ports you have available (PCI or PCI Express) so you can buy the correct type of adapter. If you are uncomfortable opening your desktop and installing hardware, this may not be the best solution for you. USB wireless adapters have the advantage of portability. They can be easily moved from PC to PC, or plugged into older laptops that do not have internal wireless adapters.

Once you have determined what type of router to buy and what types of wireless adapters to purchase for your PCs, you will need to take the time to secure your network. The two easiest methods that you can use to secure your wireless network are disabling the broadcast of your SSID, and enabling wireless encryption on your wireless router. The SSID is essentially the name of your wireless router. If it is broadcast, people in range of your wireless router will be able to see your network and connect to it (if it is not secured).

Not only will they be able to consume your bandwidth but also they may be able to connect to other computers on your network. By disabling the broadcast if your SSID, people within range will not be able to easily stumble upon it. By enabling encryption on your wireless network, you will also be able to protect the information being transmitted among the PCs on your network and the information being transferred to and from the Internet through your router. The combination of these methods will keep the average home user’s wireless transmissions secure.

All wireless routers have different interfaces, so you will need to consult the documentation of the router you purchase to find out how to secure it. The documentation accompanying wireless adapters will also explain how to connect them to your wireless network once the router is up and running.

In order to get the best prices possible on wireless routers and adapters, make sure to shop around. If you go to your local Electronics store’s Computer department (Best Buy, Circuit City, Fry’s, CompUSA, TigerDirect), the people who work there will be able to give you an idea of what type of wireless adapters and router you will need to set up your network. Ask plenty of questions and research the equipment and prices online before you purchase anything. You can also contact your Internet provider to see if they have any recommendations for wireless networking equipment as many have home networking options now that come with wireless routers.