Setting up a wireless network is the preference of many people these days, mainly because it allows them to access the Internet on their laptop computers while in any room of their homes. Before setting up your wireless network you must first learn to set up a wireless router; otherwise, you would not have the freedom of which I just spoke. Obviously, any computer owner knows how important Internet security is and using a wireless router requires that same security.
How to setup a secure wireless network in your home:
- Select a hardware vendor of your choice. This is probably one of the single most important steps as you want to avoid vendors who "end of life" products fairly often - that is, ones who create unnecessary upgrades that require purchasing ever-more-expensive equipment. For home-based networking, Linksys does a great job of providing almost all of the features one might need in a wireless router/access point. Your internet or cable provider may also offer hardware to subscribers.
- Conduct a wireless survey. Before setting up your wireless router/access point, survey the airwaves to find the best setting for your network. A lot of times neighbors' wireless devices (access points, phones, etc.) can slow your network to a crawl if channels overlap. Along with your laptop or desktop equipped with a wireless card, use a tool like Net Stumbler to survey the area. Pay specific attention to the channels that wireless networks and devices are accessing, if your neighbor is using channel 6 (most common), a safe bet is to choose channel 11.
- Update the router/access point. One key feature that most networking devices have is their ability to upgrade with a readily available firmware download that is usually available through the manufacturer's website. The updates only take a few minutes and can alleviate many problems that you might run into with your device, especially when it comes to compatibility issues.
- Define your network space. Many people telecommute these days and need to have access to their corporate network with a company provided laptop. Access to your network may be unobtainable if you skip this step. Ask your network administrator the network address you should utilize for your home network. If you do not connect to an office network, the default network space configured with your router will work and no changes will be necessary.
- Setup the hardware. Unbox your router/AP, hook up the WAN ethernet using a Category 5/6 ethernet cable that probably came with your Cable/DSL modem, use another ethernet cable (provided usually by the hardware manufacturer) to your laptop or desktop computer and, finally, apply power to the router.
- Check to see if you have a live Internet connection. Open your web browser and make sure you can get online. If not, you may have to manually configure your Internet settings, e.g. the IP address and/or username and password provided by your Internet Service Provider.
- Log in and configure your router/access point. Locate the manual. The setup information that you need to get started resides at the beginning of the manual. Find the default IP address for the unit as well as the administration username and password. Open your web browser and type in the IP address of the router, nine times out of ten it is '192.168.0.1'. Enter the user credentials, again nine times out of ten the username is 'admin' with a password of 'password'. Once you are logged in, change the password and write it down somewhere safe. Find the wireless settings and change the channel of the router/AP to the predetermined channel (probably 11).
- Setting up security. Depending on your operating system, you may have the option to be selective on the level of wireless security that you choose. There are three generally used wireless encryption protocols that are used in home networking: WEP, WPA, and WPA2. If you can, keep away from WEP as it can easily be cracked using freely available software. However, if you have to use WEP, do so. Some security is better than none. Try to use at least WPA or WPA2 (preferred). Again find the wireless settings and point to security. You will have the option of selecting the encryption type and a passphrase. Use the most cryptic string of characters that you can stand and, again, write this down somewhere safe. Also, a good rule is to type it into a text file so you can copy/paste it into your connection string when you connect. This also comes in handy for guests who need to access the network. Save your changes and disconnect from the router/AP.
- Connect to the network. Assuming all goes as planned you should have had a pop-up stating that a new wireless network has been found. If this is the case, select "connect to the network" and enter your passphrase -- you are set!
If not, you will need to manually configure the connection. This, depending on your system settings, is usually available as a widget in the system tray. Depending on your hardware, you may use the built-in Windows wireless configuration module; other third party vendors like Intel or Linksys will usually have an icon located in the system tray as well. If you are on a Mac, look in your file menu in the upper right and look for the three parallel bars, you should be able to find the wireless connection through there.
If you're still having problems, you can always ask for help with your computer or wireless connectivity.
Other things to consider:
Placement of your router/AP can have a significant affect on the performance device. Try to keep the device away from microwaves, avoid hiding it in a metal desk/closet, and keep in mind that older homes with thick plaster walls can sometimes inhibit the use of a single wireless access point in your home (especially if it is a very large house). Look into adding repeaters or other access points if this becomes a problem.