Sharing your Internet connection at home can be very useful, especially if you have more than one computer, and if you intend to be able to connect from any room in the house. This is also particularly useful if you have a home office, if each of your family members have computers in their rooms, and if your home entertainment system supports wireless networking. You can always share the broadband connection using LAN cables and a wired router, but the expense and effort of installing wires around the house, and the unsightliness of cables running around the floor and walls would be one argument towards using a wireless network instead.
Most broadband connections these days interface with the computer using a local area network (LAN) cable as a standard. Most wireless routers also use a LAN plug as the standard interface for connecting with your home broadband connection. This pretty much opens you to buy just about any brand of wireless routers. However, be mindful of the technology you will be using, since not all technologies are compatible with each other. These days, the gold standard is still WiFi “G.” which runs at 54 megabits per second. There may be other technologies that are faster, like WiFi N, but not all laptop and desktop wireless cards can support this. While WiFi-N enabled routers are usually backwards compatible, they will also cost more (sometimes double) than standard WiFi-G routers.
Connecting the router. When you’re switching from a single-computer connection to a shared wireless connection, the wireless router takes the place of your computer as the dialer. For DSL, instead of your computer dialing up to the DSL connection using PPP over Ethernet, the wireless router will do this. For cable connections, instead of your computer running on a static IP address, its’ the wireless router that will act as the network interface for the computer.
To setup your router, you first need to plug in the cable or DSL modem into the “broadband” side of the router. Your computer should then be plugged into a free LAN port on the router. You then need to open a web browser and navigate to 192.168.0.1, 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.2.1. The third number will depend on the manufacturer, so it’s best to check with the user’s manual. The router might ask for a password, so you need to check with the user’s manual for the default password.
This opens up the setup screen, which might include several tabs. You will need to enter your PPPoE username and password here, in the case of a DSL connection. For cable connections, you might have to enter the IP address assigned to you. Otherwise, if you are running on a dynamically-assigned IP address, then you don’t need to set anything up. You can setup a name for your network, for easy identification.
Setting up the wireless network. Under the same router setup page, you need to look for the wireless settings. Here, you can set up which technology you will be running the router on—WiFi B, G, or any other supported technology. On this page, you should also set up wireless security. Be sure to choose the technology supported by all your notebook computers or desktop wireless adaptors. For home networking, WPA security will suffice. Older laptops and routers might only support up to WEP, though. You will be asked to key in a password or passphrase, which you will also need to input later on, upon initial setup of your other devices.
Setting up your computers. Once you’ve finished setting up your router, you then need to connect each computer into the network. In most cases, this will be automatic, assuming your wireless card is turned on. On Windows, a message balloon will pop up on the taskbar, informing you that there is a new network detected. Click on the balloon, and when you are prompted, enter your wireless networking key. On the Mac, you need to click on the AirPort icon on the menu bar, and select the name of your new network. You will also be asked to enter the network key.
If your computers are not enabled for wireless networking yet, you need to activate the wireless interface. On Windows, go to Control Panel and then Networking. On the Mac, open System Preferences and then select Network. From there you will find options on how to enable wireless networking, and whether to automatically turn these on every time you open your computer.
WiFi is a convenient and easy way to connect computers and other gadgets at home, especially if you want to share the Internet connection. With the wide range of gadgets that also support wireless networking, having a WiFi network at home can also let you connect cameras, mobile phones, media players, printers, and even TVs, for work or entertainment.