When you have a wireless notebook, or even a wireless desktop computer, you need to make sure you’re connecting to the correct router.
Most often, you want to connect to your own router in your house or apartment. Other times, it might be the wireless router in a coffee shop.
Our first type of accidental connection is an automatic connection to an unsecured network. Sometimes, you might want to do that because you’re at the coffee shop and want to use the wireless service they provide.
But, suppose you’re at home and turned on your notebook computer — configured just as it was when you went to the coffee shop?
You’ll probably connect to one of the unsecured routers in your neighborhood. And, you’ll wonder why your connection is so slow, why you can’t print, why you can’t access the other computer(s) on your home network.
The answer is easy — you didn’t connect to your network, you connected to someone else’s wireless network.
Windows XP will show you the wireless networks that Windows and your wireless card (or wireless USB adapter) finds available. Your first step is to double-click on the small wireless icon in the Windows XP status bar. You can also get to the same dialog box via the Control Panel.
Notice the small number of data packets. That’s because I’m also connected by Ethernet to the network to which the wireless router is connected — and my computer is using the wired connection.
Click on the View Wirelss Networks button to open the Wireless Network Connecion dialog box, where you can see the networks that your computer found.
At this point, you can find out about the networks that you can reach. Notice the signal strength indicators. These will give you a hint if you and others have the same wireless network SSID (of course, you should set your wireless SSID o something that is more unique — so you can make sure you’re connecting to your router).
In this particular example we can see:
- there are three wireless networks available,
- two of them are using routers (sometimes called an "infrastructure" network)and one is a computer-to-computer network (an "ad-hoc network" or a "peer-to-peer" network),
- one is encrypted using WPA, while the other two use unsecured (unencrypted) transmissions
- we’re connected to one of them
You can click on any of these networks to see a little more description. It’s a generic description, though, not something that will help you identify whose network it is.
Now, we can set our preferred networks. In other words, we can tell Windows which networks to which we want it to connect.
In the Wireless Network Connnection Properties dialog box, we can set the priority in which they would be connected if more than one is available. And, finally, we can set individual Preferred Networks to connect automatically (if available) or connect manually.
In this case, you can see that I have the wireless network SSID "linksys" set to be a manual connection. Linksys is the default SSID for Linksys wireless routers. I don’t want to connect to someone else’s router accidentally.