Why have a Wireless Network?
By using a wireless network, you can share your Internet connection between computers that are not in the same room, without running wires from one room to another or from one end of the house to another.
Wireless Networking Flavors
- 802.11b – 11 Mbit/second, the original "consumer" wireless. This is the most common variety.
- 802.11a – 11 Mbit/second, but on a different frequency for better penetration of walls.
- 802.11g – 54 Mbit/second, compatible with 802.11b, but one person with a "b" card can slow entire network
Wireless Networking – Distances
The nominal maximum distance for 802.11b (the 11 megabit/second version) is 100’ indoors. In practice, this is a function of where you place the router, how many walls & how much glass the signal has to go through, metal window frames and ductwork between the router and the wireless client and whether you’re using the default antennas or optional hi-power versions. If you want to maximize the distance, you should place the router on a high shelf or in another high position.
However, a directional antenna can change all that — a 21 dB Yagi directional antenna can give a usable distance of 14 kilometers. Also, there are simple fabrication directions on the Internet. In other words, distance from you neighbor isn’t enough.
Getting your wireless network set up is often not much more difficult than setting up a wired network. The easiest and best approach is to have Windows XP (either Home or Professional, but I prefer Professional) on the computer(s). Windows XP is much more robust on networking than any earlier version of Windows. XP handles many updates and changes without requiring reboots, also.
Basically, for your initial wireless setup, you hook your computer to the router using an Ethernet cable. This ensures that you maintain your connection as you make changes (change a wireless security setting, and then you would be locked out!).
To have a network, sharing files and printers, the easiest way is to use a “Windows Workgroup” — pick a name other than the default MSHOME for your network — that network name is part of your security settings against others who might be wired to the same router or running off the same wireless router. If you have not had a local network before, use the Windows Network Wizard to set it up. The wizard will offer to make a diskette of settings that you can carry to other Windows machines on your network.
Similarly to the workgroup for actual file sharing, there is an SSID for an individual router. You can set this to anything you want, as long as your router and your computer both use the same name for the SSID. The SSID is required whether you plan to secure your network or not (you should).
You will also have to tell your router which channel (1-11 in the U.S.) to use, and have your computer listen on that channel.
All these settings have defaults in Windows and in the drivers for your wireless cards and in your wireless router. Your system should work right out of the box. If your wireless notebook can talk to the Internet, but can’t talk to the other computer in the house, you know it has something to do with the “networking” settings, not the “wireless” settings. The Windows Firewall or your other firewall (ZoneAlarm, Sunbelt Kerio, Norton Internet Security, TrendMicro’s PC-cillin Internet Security, etc. may be the problem if you can’t share files — you have to “trust” the other computer. Each program has its own way of specifying which computers to trust.
See my Wireless Security page for more information on setting up your wireless system properly to have a secure network.
More Wireless Networking Articles (click here for the full list of Wireless Articles
- Security versus the Open Wireless Network
- Improving Your Wireless Security
- Switching to WPA2 Wireless Encryption
- Wireless Internet Gateway Problems
- Accidental Wireless Connections
- Another Accidental Wireless Connection
- Wireless Networking
- Getting a New Wireless Router
- Home Networking Basics
- Wireless Security
- Adding a Wireless Router to a Network
- Wireless Router and Wireless Card Recommendations
- Get a Wireless Keyboard & Wireless Mouse
- Wi-Fi Hotspots and Computer Security
- Wireless Networking Problems & Wireless Networking Security
- Wireless Networking Difficulties
- Wireless Connections at HotSpots
- How to Fry a Wireless Router or Two
- How Can One Cable Modem Work With Two Wireless Routers?
- Low Signal Strength on Wireless Network
- Low Signal on Wireless Network — Feedback from Users
- Router Choice — Wireless or Wired?
- Malware Silently Alters Router Settings – Change Your Router Passwords