Wireless Networks

Wireless Networks Are Easy To Setup

In 1997, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) created the first wireless LAN standard - 802.11. Because it could only support a maximum bandwidth of 2Mbps, 802.11 wireless products are no longer being manufactured. The next wireless version was 802.11b, which supports bandwidths of up to 11Mbps, followed by the creation of 802.11g, which supports bandwidth up to 54Mbps. Here is a brief summary of the two wireless standards used in home networks today.

802.11b Wireless Networks

This technology supports bandwidth up to 11MBps, which is comparable to the speeds of traditional Ethernets. 802.11b uses the same 2.4GHz radio signaling as the original 802.11 standard. Because it is an unregulated frequency, 802.11b devices run the risk of incurring interference from appliances that use the same 2.4 GHz range, such as microwaves and cordless phones. However, if you install 802.11b devices out of range of other appliances, you can avoid the interference.

802.11g Wireless Networks

This technology supports of up to 54 Mbps, uses the 2.4 GHz frequency and is backwards compatible with 802.11b devices. 802.11g supports more simultaneous users, offers the best signal range and is not easily obstructed. The disadvantages of 802.11g are higher cost and possible interference with appliances on the unregulated signal frequency.

Wireless computers and routers use radio waves to communicate. Those waves are sometimes strong enough to carry outside your house. If your network is unprotected, your information could be hacked. Many intruders already know this. They'll drive through neighborhoods searching for stray signals with radio equipment. With the right information, they could access your networked computers and files. They could even borrow your Internet connection. Hackers search for networks that use the default factory settings. Those settings usually include no security. You need to protect your network by reconfiguring your wireless router for security.

Wireless routers are configured through a browser such as Internet Explorer. First, you need to connect your wireless router to a computer with a Network Interface Card (NIC). Connect the router from one of it's LAN ports to your computers Network Interface Card using a RJ-45 cable.

Open your Internet browser. To communicate with the router, you'll need its IP address. You can find this in your manual under a heading like "configuration setup" or "manual configuration." Most routers, for example, have an IP address like Type it directly into your Internet browser's address bar. You'll then be prompted for a user name and password. These will also be listed in your manual.

Now, you'll see your router's configuration tool. It looks like an ordinary Web page. Most new wireless routers have a network configuration wizard. Just follow the steps in the setup wizard. The wizard will detect whether you are using broadband cable or DSL. Each one requires a different configuration, (for example DSL uses PPoE authentication). however the setup wizard will walk though all the steps. It's really that easy.

Wireless routers default settings disregard security. That's because low security makes them easy to install, but you need change your router's settings to add security. Different routers put these settings under different menus. You should be able to find each without trouble. You need to change some of the default settings.

The best way to protect your wireless network is through encryption. Use WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) for your encryption setting. All new wireless routers support this standard. You'll typically see this setting as WPA-PSK (pre-shared key). You'll be prompted to enter a passphrase of eight to 63 characters--letters, numbers and symbols. The router will use your passphrase to build an encryption key. WPA is the latest and safest version of encryption. The only weak point of WPA is your passphrase. So make it as strong as possible. Here are some tips:

Now your router is switched to use WPA encryption. But your computers don't yet know what you've done. You'll have to update them with the new setup. Here's what to do for each computer you've got on the network. For Windows XP follow these steps.

Click Start>>Control Panel. Double-click Network Connections. Right-click Wireless Network Connection. Select Properties from the pop-up menu. Select the Wireless Networks tab. Under "Preferred networks," click the Add button. In the box labeled "Network name (SSID)," enter your network's name.

Under Network Authentication, select WPA-PSK. Under "Data encryption," select TKIP. Under "Network key," enter the same passphrase you used for your router. You'll have to enter it twice to confirm it. Then make sure that the checkbox labeled "The key is provided for me automatically" is not marked. Finally, click OK>>OK.

Windows 98 and Me do not have built-in wireless networking. All of the wireless configurations options are provided by your wireless adapter software. Just make all the previously discussed configuration settings with your wireless adapter's software.

Wireless Networking 

And that's all there is to it. Encryption makes your network a less attractive target for hackers. And if your neighbors were using your Internet service, they've just lost their connection.

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