BOOT CAMP 390 (16/08/05)
Wireless Networking, part 4
You should by now have
your main PC, with a working broadband connection, hooked up to a Wi-Fi router.
This week we’ll put the final parts of the jigsaw in place by setting up the
wireless adaptors on the PCs in your network. In the final part of this series
we’ll run through file and printer sharing, accessing wireless ‘Hotspots’, plus
some basic troubleshooting tips.
So let’s get started.
Read the instructions that came with your USB Wi-Fi dongle or PC card to
determine the installation procedure, which will be to either load the CD and
run the setup program or plug in the adaptor then when Windows recognises the
new hardware, load the installation disc. Either way two things will happen,
Windows will install the necessary drivers for the adaptor and load a Wi-Fi
configuration utility, which will appear on the desktop or in the System Tray,
(next to the clock on the Taskbar).
When the installation is
complete you should be asked to reboot the PC, even if you are not you should
still do so as this will ensure that everything is properly registered with
Windows. The configuration method varies but usually the first step is to
double-click the Wi-Fi utility icon and this will display a tabbed dialogue box
Look for the ‘Status’, ‘Site Survey’ or ‘Signal Strength’ tab and this will show
all of the available wireless networks in the vicinity.
Hopefully there will be
just one, yours, but it is quite possible that the adaptor will pick up signals
from other nearby networks, in which case you need to determine which one is
yours and this should be apparent from the name. Click on it and select Connect.
If you have any doubts about which one to use you can find out by disconnecting
the power to the Wi-Fi router and see which one disappears from the
If you don’t see any
networks listed then you need to check that the router is switched on and
working and the adaptor is correctly installed. Check also that the PC is within
range of the router (see this week’s Top Tip).
When you are satisfied
that you have a good signal you can now run the Windows XP Network Configuration
Wizard, which you will find in Control Panel. You can opt to set up the
connection manually but this is best left to advanced users. You will be asked
to specify the type of Internet connection you will be using (select the second
option ‘This computer connects to the Internet through another computer on my
network or a gateway’), then let Windows XP determine the ‘appropriate’
connection. If you select ‘Let me choose’ you will need to select your wireless
adaptor, you can stick with the default computer and Workgroup names for now but
it is a good idea to change these as this will help avoid complications if other
networks have been left on their default settings.
When the Wizard has
finished you can check that it is working by opening your Internet browser and
you should be able to access and browse web pages as
At this point your
network is unprotected and you need to enable WEP encryption. You will need to
access the router’s configuration utility from your main PC (see part 3 or refer
to the router’s instructions) and go to the Security or Privacy menu. In most
cases you will be asked to select an encryption mode and this will generate a
WEP code, which consists of a long string of digits and letters.
For most users 64 or 128 bit encryption is adequate but
note that higher levels can impose speed restrictions on the connection. Once
the code has been generated make a note of it and return to your Wi-Fi enabled
‘Client’ PC. Select the configuration utility, switch on WEP encryption and
enter the code. You have to reboot the whole system for the settings to take
effect, so start by switching everything off then restart the router and your
main or Server PC. Once they are up and running you can start the Client PC and
the new encrypted connection should be enabled. If all’s well you should once
again be able to access the Internet.
Next Week -- Wireless Networking, part 5
Wi-Fi configuration tool that displays the identity of all
wireless networks in the vicinity
Wired Equivalent Privacy, 40, 64, 128 or 256-bit ‘key’
encryption systems used to secure data on wireless networks, theoretically
providing the same level of security as a cabled network connection
Simple helper program used to configure an item or hardware or a software application
TIP OF THE WEEK
The range of a Wi-Fi network is determined by the
surroundings and will generally be between 25 and 50 metres inside a building
and 100 metres in the open. It is often possible to improve signal quality, and
eliminate dead spots by replacing the short ‘rubber duck’ aerials fitted to most
routers with a specially designed ‘high-gain’ antenna. Ideally these should be
mounted high up on a wall or ceiling, well away from the router and any metal
objects, such as filing cabinets etc. Some wireless adaptors can be fitted with
external antennas and several manufacturers market high-performance Wi-Fi
adaptors with extended range.