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A Quick Guide to Wireless Networking

1. Essential Equipment

Right, let's move right along. The first thing to do in setting up a wireless home network is to get the correct equipment. These are the things you need:

Wireless home networking kit

This is your basic equipment for the network. Typically, these home networking kits come with a firewalled wireless router (e.g. the immensely popular Linksys WRT54G). Some also bundle a wireless PC card for connecting laptops to the network, or a wireless USB adapter for connecting desktop PCs.

Windows installation CDs

These are required sometimes during installation of drivers, so its handy to have them around first.

Ethernet cables

These are required if you intend to mix wired PCs into a wireless network. For example, you can connect an Ethernet cable between the wireless router and a desktop PC.

2. Install the Wireless Router

Install the wireless router according to the manufacturer's instructions. Modern wireless home networking kits make this really easy. Just connect the wireless router to power supply, connect the wireless PC card to your laptop, or USB adapter (or Ethernet cable) to the desktop PC. Then insert the installation CD into one PC and start the software installation process.

As part of the setup process, you usually need to surf to a local IP address, e.g. to setup basic parameters for the router. Most of the options can be left as default, with the exception of SSID (Service Set Identifier) and encryption settings, which are explained below.

3. Choose the Service Set Identifier

Wireless networks require a network identification code called the Service Set Identifier (SSID). When connecting devices to the network, this is the name you use to specify which network you're connecting to. Make sure you set up this parameter using the router setup page or utility.

4. Encrypt Your Wireless Network

Remember an intruder can easily gain access to an unencrypted network without too much trouble. Wireless networks these days usually use the WEP standard to set up encryption. To configure this, go to your router setup page or utility and enter the WEP security key (usually its a 128 bit hexdecimal text entry you need to key in).

Note this WEP key down. Now, go to each PC in your network. Open up the Control Panel | Network Connections and select your wireless network connection. You need to enter the WEP key for the connection - the manufacturer's should have instructions on how to do this.

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