BOOT CAMP 458 (09/01/07)

Wireless Networking, part 4


Now we’ve got all of the theory out of the way it is time to set up your home or small office wireless network. We’ll begin with the easy part and that’s the wireless router. This has to be connected by an Ethernet LAN cable to a PC, normally the one with the broadband Internet connection, though you will still need to do this even if you are using a combination modem/router or ‘home hub’, which operates independently of a PC.


The first job is to access the router’s configuration menu and set your network’s ‘name’ or SSID Service Side Identifier) and enable WEP or WPA encryption (see last week’s Boot Camp). If you are installing a combi modem/router you should set up the broadband modem first and make sure that you have a working connection to the Internet.


Virtually all wireless routers (and combi devices) use what is effectively an online setup system. It is accessed through your Internet browser and works just like website except the ‘pages’ you see are generated by the router. The router will have its own ‘private’ network address, usually something like: http://; you will find this in the setup section of the router’s instruction manual.


Enter the router’s address into the browser press Return and in most cases the first thing you see is a Username and Password request box. This will still be on the default setting (see your router’s manual again) and it is usually something like ‘Admin’ and ‘1234’ etc. Incidentally, you should change this to something less obvious at your earliest opportunity otherwise anyone with access to your network will be able to tinker with vital settings and quite possibly disable your security settings.  


After the Password dialogue box you will see what looks like a web page with various menu options. Refer to the setup manual for any specialised instructions but normally all you have to do at this stage is set the SSID, make sure the router is set to ‘Infrastructure’ mode.


Changing the SSID from the default name is important because there is a very fair chance that someone else living close by will have the same make of wireless router as yours and if you are both using the same SSID it can cause connection problems, not to say confusion if you are trying to log on to your own network.


Save the settings and exit the setup menu. If you are happy that everything is working properly it is a good idea to reboot the PC and router and check that your Internet connection is still live.


We are now ready to set up your first wireless ‘client’ PC and we’ll look at the two most common scenarios, which are a laptop with a built-in wireless adaptor, or a laptop or desktop PC with a PCI adaptor, wireless card or USB ‘dongle’ (see part 1)


Laptops with built-in adaptors usually come with their own Wi-Fi configuration software pre-installed and it is best allow it to set up the connection. With the wireless router or hub up and running boot up the PC then check the System Tray (next to the clock) for the wireless manager icon. Double click on it to open the configuration utility and it should display the SSIDs and possibly the relative signal strengths of the Wi-Fi networks within range of your PC, one of which should be yours.


The exact procedure varies but usually you simply select your router’s SSID from the list and click the Connect button. A few moments later a connection conformation message should appear. Open your web browser and if all is well you will have Internet access.


In the second example begin by installing or plugging in your adaptor or dongle and follow the prompts to install any drivers and connection management software. After a reboot the adaptor should be recognised by Windows and you can open the adaptor’s configuration utility and follow the same procedure already outlined for laptops with built in Wi-Fi. Incidentally, this is also the method used to log on to a wireless ‘hotspot’. Windows has it’s own Wi-Fi management utilities (see this week’s Top Tip), but in most cases it is safest to use the one that came with your PC or adaptor.


All that remains is to enable encryption and we’ll be dealing with that next week, along with some basic troubleshooting tips.


Next Week -- Wireless Networking, part 5





Local Area Network -- a computer network



Devices connected to local and wide-area networks (e.g. the Internet) have a unique numeric address made up of four groups of three digits. Addresses beginning 169, 172 and 198 are only used on local area networks and are therefore ‘private’



Wired Equivalent Privacy/Wi-Fi Protected Access, wireless networking encryption systems




Prior to the release of Service Pack 2 (SP2) configuring a wireless connection in Windows XP was relatively straightforward but in an effort to persuade users to enable encryption SP2 contains a number of enhancements, including WPA support and a new Wireless Connection Setup Wizard. Once a Wi-Fi adaptor has been installed clicking the Windows Wireless Connection icon in the System Tray displays basic information including the SSID and signal strength of the current connection. Clicking the View Wireless Networks button may display a list of nearby networks. This utility can be used instead of the one supplied with the adaptor (or the PC) but it may involve enabling the Windows ‘Wireless Zero Configuration Service’. However, this can lead to all sorts of problems so it is best avoided unless you know what you are doing. For more information about SP2 Wireless security and enabling the Zero Configuration Service see MS Knowledgebase articles 815485 and 871122



 © R. Maybury 2006, 2712

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