Wireless networking technology is growing ever more popular. More and more people have multiple computers in their homes, these ultimately share an internet connection. No longer do you have to trail wires across your house to achieve this thanks to wireless routers becoming affordable and readily available.
Setting up a wireless network can seem daunting but is not really an overly difficult job. There are two main types of wireless router and you need to ensure you select the correct type for your connection. If you have a cable modem, using NTL or Virgin Media then you need a DSL wireless broadband router. Your existing modem stays in place and the wireless router connects to this and shares your connection wirelessly.
If you use the more common dial up type broadband then you will need to ensure you buy an ADSL wireless router with a built in modem. This will replace any existing modem you may have and connect up to the internet for you and share the internet connection wirelessly.
To get things up and running is relatively simple – for Virgin Media you would run the install CD, plug the cable from your modem to you computer into the wireless router, then the supplied cable back into your computer. This usually will automatically set up the router. You will often be prompted to set up an ID for the router and a password for security – this is essential and I will talk more about this in a moment. Once this has been done you can either leave the wired connection in place or start using the router wirelessly.
For the ADSL modem the steps are similar but you plug you phone line into your computer. You will need to have your user name and password and will also be prompted to set up an ID and a password for security purposes. That’s it!
I think it is important to discuss wireless security at this point. It’s often easy to select the option to set up security later and then never do anything about it. With a wireless router you are sharing your internet connection, you may even be sharing you files and folders on your network. This means that with access to your wireless connection, someone could access your computer.
Your wireless router will give off a signal called an SSID – this identifies your network. Anyone in range will be able to see this, and everyone will be able to see whether your connection is secure or not. Access to your internet connection in just a double click away and with the range of wireless technology increasing, your whole street may be able to pick this up.
So what can be done about this? Well there are several options to protect yourself. The simplest way it to set up the security from the install CD. You will usually have a couple of options.
WEP – Stands for Wired Equivalency privacy – It gives standard security although can be exploited by hackers who know what they are doing. There are usually two options here – 64 bit or 128 bit encryption. This is just a bunch of numbers and letters that you need to input when connecting to the router from your device. The 128bit is more secure but a pain to type out!.You would use WEP if you intend to connect a device, wirelessly, that doesn’t support the following security.
WPA - Stands for Wifi Protected Access – This is much more secure than WEP and is advisable to use. WPA2 is also now available but you need to ensure that your equipment that you intend to connect to the router will support this. Often an option to select both WPA and WPA2 is available so it will use the most suitable for your equipment. Sometimes, though not often these days, you will see WPA-PSK which simply means passkey – this allows you to enter a password to use rather than long unmemorable characters. Generally this will now be a supported function of standard WPA/WPA2.
So you are now transmitting your signal securely – time to connect up your device. Lets assume for this example that you want to connect a laptop to your wireless router so you can use the internet anywhere in your house. If your laptop has wireless functionality built in then ensure the wireless is turned on. This can be a dedicated button or slide switch on or around the side of your laptop, or possible a dedicated function key. In the bottom right hand corner of your screen there is a little icon that represents your wireless connection. If you are unsure, hover over each icon and it will tell you what it is. Most likely you will find that a box will automatically pop up telling you that wireless networks are available.
If you do not have a laptop with wireless functionality then you will need to add this. Wireless can be added by purchasing a wireless USB adapter that plugs into a USB port on your computer.
Within the wireless network interface you will see a list of all the networks available. Within this list should be listed your network – the name you entered on setup (the SSID) will identify which network is yours. Double click this and you will then be prompted to enter your WEP or WPA key (often to be entered twice which is annoying if you have the mega long 128 bit WEP activated!).
That’s it – you are done and you should now be able to connect to the internet – next time you restart your computer you will automatically be connected to the wireless network.
The above is a very basic setup of your wireless router though will be more than adequate for the average user as well as being adequately secure. should you wish to see what others functions are available then you can generally access the router configuration by typing in an IP address into your browser. Where you could normally type and address such a www.website.com type the IP address of the router. This should be listed with your documents for the router. Belkin for example will almost always be, by default, 192.168.2.1
Within the configuration panel of your router you will find plenty of options to configure your router manually.