Tips for Setting Up a Wireless Network

Home networks are efficient and convenient, but the mess of wires and cables involved can hold you captive to a few locations in your home. Setting up a wireless network is easy and economical. Simply use these DYI tips and use your Windows Wireless Network Setup Wizard.


Get Your Equipment Together

We will assume that you already have a small (wired) network set up or are at least familiar with the networking terms discussed in this article. We'll also assume you're running Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) or higher. Begin building your wireless network with components below.

Wireless Router
A device that broadcasts high-speed internet access wirelessly throughout your home or office.
Approximately $50-$100.

Wireless Network Adapter or Card
The means through which your computers connect to the router. They come in PCI format (desktops), PCMCIA format (laptops) and USB. You need one for each computer you wish to connect to the router.Most new computers have this built-in technology labeled Bluetooth or AirPort.
Approximately $40-$100.

Cable or DSL Modem
A broadband connection to the internet that is provided by your service provider.
Approximately $60 to buy your own, not including monthly subscription cost

We assume you already have a broadband connection to the Internet (if you don't, you'll need to set one up). Also, keep in mind that most new laptops come with wireless network adapters, so check yours before making your shopping list.


Setup Your Network Hardware

  1. Check that your cable or DSL modem is installed correctly.
  2. Install the wireless network adapters (if needed) in each computer as instructed by the manufacturer.
  3. Install the wireless router by connecting your cable or DSL modem to the WAN (wide area network) port of your router. If you leave one of your computers "wired," you can connect its ethernet cable to one of the router's other ports. If you have multiple floors in your home or office, we recommend putting the router on the middle floor for maximum signal strength. Keep in mind, though, that if you choose to keep one of your computers wired, you need to keep the router near that computer.
  4. Turn on the router and wait for its diagnostic lights to remain stable.
  5. To test connectivity, open a browser window on one of your systems and enter the router's default IP address (provided in its documentation). If you've configured everything correctly, you should end up at your router's configuration screen.

Know Your Wireless Security

This wizard also helps you secure your network so no one else can gain access to the private intelligence on your systems. Below are available security features to implement.

SSID (Service Set Identifier)
All wireless devices in your network must specify a password or SSID. We strongly recommend a unique, obscure combination of letters and numbers that you can recall easily as your password.

WEP Security (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
A security protocol for wireless networks designed to provide the same security as a wired network, WEP encrypts data as it’s transmitted radio waves.

WPA Security (Wireless Protected Access)
A security protocol designed with stronger data encryption and user authentication, WPA is relatively new and more secure than WEP.


Configure Your Network on Windows XP

  1. Click the Start button and choose All Programs → Accessories→ Communications→ Wireless Network Setup Wizard.
  2. On the wizard’s first screen, click Next.
  3. In the Network Name (SSID) text box, type a unique name for your network. Be sure to use a combination of letters and numbers. Make sure you give your network a name you'll remember, but one that others can't guess.
    create network name
  4. Select the Automatically Assign a Network Key (Recommended) so that Windows assigns a secure key of random letters and numbers to your network.
  5. To assign WPA encryption rather than the default WEP encryption, select the “Use WPA Encryption.” However, before you select this option, check your wireless devices' documentation to ensure they work with WPA.
  6. Click Next to advance to the wizard’s next screen.

Transfer Your Settings to the Router

The next series of wizard screens helps you transfer your wireless network settings to the other computers and devices in your network. You can also configure your wireless network without a Flash drive by entering security values generated by the Wireless Network Setup Wizard into the other systems in your network and your router.

  1. Select Use a USB Flash Drive (Recommended) to use your Flash drive and click Next.
    setup wireless network
  2. Insert your Flash drive into your computer’s USB port, as shown below. Its drive letter appears in the Flash drive drop-down list along the bottom of the wizard window. The wizard then writes the wireless network settings as XML files on the Flash drive.
    save wireless settings to flash drive
  3. Follow the wizard’s on-screen directions and plug your Flash drive into the router. The router's lights will blink three times to indicate it has configured itself with the wireless network settings stored on the Flash drive.
    transfer wireless settings

Transfer Your Settings to Other Computers

  1. Plug your Flash drive into each of the other computers in your wireless network. The Status light on each computer’s wireless adapter will blink three times to indicate that the system has accepted the network settings.
  2. When asked if you want to join the wireless network, click Accept. Your computers are now connected to your wireless network.

Finalize the Network Setup

  1. Plug the Flash drive back into the computer on which you're running the Wireless Network Setup Wizard.
  2. Click Next in the wizard screen.
  3. On the wizard’s final screen, you'll see a list of the wireless computers and devices you've successfully configured. To remove the network settings from your Flash drive, select the For Security Reasons, Remove the Network Settings from My Flash Drive check box. If you expect to use your Flash drive to configure additional wireless computers or devices in the future, leave this check box deselected.
  4. Click Finish to exit the Wireless Network Setup Wizard.

Agents recommend that you reconfigure your wireless network's strong key (WEP or WPA) every few months to keep out potential eavesdroppers. Simply run the wizard and it assigns a new set of strong keys automatically.


Let Us Do It All For You

If this seems too complex for you or you just don’t have the time, Chat with an Agent to help you get everything going. Or make it easy on yourself with our Wireless Networking service.