A Simple Guide to Wireless Networking
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Most folks want that laptop for work, school, or college. Most laptops these
days are Wi-Fi enabled. That means that they have the wireless hardware and
software built into the computer. To the average consumer, wireless is a form of
magic. You turn it on and it works, right? Not always. Understanding the basics
to wireless will help avoid frustration and headaches.
First, before we get into the basics of wireless networking, I have a few
opinions to express.
It seems that everybody wants to go wireless with their laptops and desktop
PC’s. Wireless for laptops makes sense, since they get moved around between
work and home and points in between. You can always connect using the Wi-Fi
network at work or steal bandwidth from someone else. There are hotspots all
over. There are ethical questions involved with “borrowing” your
neighbor’s signal. Let your conscience be your guide.
Wireless for desktops is an open subject. Since most of us usually set our
desktops up on our home or office workstations, they tend not to move around.
The only benefit of having a wireless desktop is that you don’t have the
expense and trouble of running Ethernet cable around your house. If you are not
a DYI’er, an Ethernet cable installation is an extra outlay. If you’re lucky,
your present PC is only a few feet away from your Broadband Modem. I personally
prefer to have all my stationary PC’s hooked up with Cat 5 Ethernet cables.
That way I don’t load up the wireless bandwidth on the router. We’ll talk
more on bandwidth later.
There are hardware requirements to wireless networking. These are the things you
need to communicate.
At home you need:
- (1) a Broadband internet connection (Cable or DSL modem),
- (2) a router to broadcast the wireless signal,
- (3) a wireless enabled computer.
You cannot set up a wireless network using a Dial-Up connection. Period.
I recommend that you power off your Broadband Modem and any existing computer
systems before you begin the installation of the wireless router. The computing
equipment will start to negotiate with your router automatically on start up.
This will get you on the network without confusion.
The router and existing PC’s should not need any further configuration. The
default or current settings should work. Your PC should already be set to DHCP
in your Network Connections TCP/IP properties window. If it weren’t you would
not have been able to connect to your ISP. This is a default setting of your PC.
The Broadband internet connection gear should already be present. That’s the
Cable or DSL Modem that your Internet Service Provider installed when you got
their service. It’s connected to the Cable or DSL filter connection coming
from your wall. The Modem has two connectors as a rule. One for the Cable or DSL
data into the Modem, and one RJ45 connector you probably have connected to the
computer you have in service now.
You’ll need to unplug the Ethernet cable between the computer and the Modem.
Reconnect that cable to your wireless router. It goes into a RJ45 connector
usually labeled “WAN” for Wide Area Network. The only other connection you
will need to make is to connect another Ethernet cable between from one of the
wired ports on the back of the router to your PC. There are usually 4 of them.
Any one will do to reconnect your existing PC so it’s on the network. The
existing PC will get it’s internet connection through this port. Your
router’s default settings should allow you to start connecting to your Wi-Fi
If all the cables are correctly placed, you should now be able to get on the
Internet from you existing computers and your wireless computers.
Some quick notes of interest:
- (A) Your Wi-Fi router is transmitting and receiving in the 2.4MHZ range.
So are your Wi-Fi enabled computers. This is the same frequency range of a
number of cordless telephones. You may have interference on your cordless
phones once the Wi-Fi network is installed. If this occurs you’ll need to
get 5.8 MHZ phones or put up with the noise.
- (B) One of the most common questions I get is “I bought a
wireless laptop and I can’t get on the internet. Why not?” If
your wireless router is installed properly, then your wireless laptop may
need configuration. Go to your Network Places or Network Neighborhood for a
wizard to help you set up your computer for wireless.
- (C) Bandwidth is the volume of traffic you can sustain through your
network. The more devices using the Wi-Fi network, the slower the network
uploads/downloads will be.
Remember, your wireless network works a lot like your cordless phone system. You
need a transmitter/receiver at each end. Think of the router as the base station
and the wireless PC as the handset. You can’t talk on your cordless phone if
the base station is unplugged. So without a wireless router in service, you
can’t communicate with the Internet. Hotspots are just spillover signal from
someone’s wireless router.