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Wireless Network Setup Guide

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Introduction and FAQ


Interested in setting up your own wireless network? Don't know how? Have some questions? If so, this guide should hold answers to some of the more common questions and enable you to set up and configure your wireless network.


Why do I need a wireless network?

Maybe you have a laptop that you want to be able to use in the kitchen and in the living room, but don't want to run lengthy and unsightly cables. Maybe you have that situation already or several computers and gaming consoles online. Maybe you're borrowing your neighbor's connection and realize it's time to set your ways right.


What is an ethernet cable?

If you're used to dial-up Internet and aren't sure what an ethernet cable is, it's basically an oversized phone cable. These are used to transmit data from a cable modem to a router, and from a router to any network device.


How much is all this going to cost me?

You need to buy the router for your home network. Those can cost from $40 to $100, depending on how fancy you want it. You may also need wireless cards for laptops, desktops, or gaming consoles, if you wish. You can expect to pay $30 or so for each of these.


What's this speedbooster stuff about?

You'll often see products that advertise a faster speed because of a special "speedbooster" technology. There are a few things to note here. 1) You probably don't need to pay extra for it. Most networks are fast enough for the average user without this. 2) To make use of it, you will probably need to pay extra not only for the router, but for other wireless cards with the same technology as well. In a nutshell: You don't need it.




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The Equipment


We'll start from the top and explain a few terms and pieces of equipment before moving on. These are all based on the images above. Just follow the lines.

*Note: This guide assumes you have a cable Internet connection from your local cable company. This guide does not change much if you are using a service such as DSL, you simply have a different box to start from. Everything from the router on remains essentially the same.


Coaxial Cable

This is crazy, right? You use this on your TV, how on earth does it work for your Internet, too? Is it different somehow? Nope, not really! Think of your coaxial cable as your radio. You can change the radio frequency and tune into a different station. well, coaxial cable is the same way. Your TV signals come in on various frequencies, different from that of the Internet. When you want Internet, you hook up to a cable modem which chooses all the right frequencies for you.


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Cable Modem

Here's what you plug your coaxial cable into. You may be provided one of these from your local cable company, or may have the option to rent or buy one. I won't go into detail here, but the modem is essentially the conversion from your home network to information that the coaxial line can understand. All the gory details are here: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/cable-modem.htm


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Wireless Router

The name of this device implies exactly what it does. First, it is wireless. All of the transmission is done in open air! The only wires you need for this are power and a network cable from your cable modem, everything else can potentially be done using the wireless signals. Second, it routes things! You can have several devices online at the same time and the router takes care of managing all that for you.


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Steps to convert to a wireless network


Now that we know a little bit about how things work, let's discuss your current network and the steps you need to take to upgrade and secure your new network! I'll assume that you are starting off with the following:

  • Cable Modem
  • Wired Router
  • Messy wires connecting all your devices
Step 1. Get a wireless router

When purchasing a wireless router, you need to keep a few things in mind (in no order):

  • Range
  • Brand
  • Wireless Types
First, the range of the wireless router. Do you live in a 10,000 square foot palace? No? Then this probably isn't a big deal for you. Most home routers will be able to work perfectly within your home...and outside of it! In fact, there are many homes that I have been in (including my own) that can access a wireless network from a neighbor! This can become a problem, but we'll discuss network security a little later. In short, don't worry about the range of your router unless you have an exceptionally large home.


Second, router brand. My personal favorites are Linksys and Netgear. Both companies make excellent routers. Many other brands are good as well, I simply do not have personal experience with them: D-Link, Apple, Belkin, US Robotics.


Finally, wireless types. There's a slew of letters wireless routers throw at you and sometimes more just isn't necessary. You'll probably see the following: A, B, G, and N. What do they all mean? Well, they are all part of a standard called 802.11. The various "lettered standards" are all designed for a specific application.


a ) This technology generally costs more than other types and therefore is used more in business applications. If you're a home user, you don't need this, but it won't hurt you if your router has it available


b ) This technology was created at the same time as 802.11a, but is less expensive. It supports a maximum bandwidth of 11Mbps and was very popular in the earlier stages of wireless networks. Most routers have this available but newer technologies on game consoles and computers will probably not make use of this. You'll commonly see devices that use Wireless b/g.


g ) 802.11g is faster than 802.11b, but a little more expensive. It's basically the standard now so you'll want a router that supports this for sure.


n ) 802.11n is (going to be) the fastest wireless network available when the standards are finished. For now, it's fairly new and probably not necessary to get this unless you are a real techie and for some reason, think that you are going to be able to download things at the speeds this will support (you probably won't).


In short, you're looking for a router that does a/b/g or just plain old b/g. The hardware you use will most likely use the g standard anyways.


Step 2. Upgrade your wireless hardware

In order to connect to a wireless network, you need some wireless cards. Generally, laptops come with wireless built in so you do not need to make an additional purchase. If you have a very old laptop, you will probably need to purchase a PCMCIA card that inserts into a slot in the side of your laptop. This will allow you to connect to a wireless network. Not sure if your laptop can do this? Just ask! There are several ways to check and they all differ based on what kind of computer or operating system you have. The easiest way is just to look on your computer for a WiFi or wireless symbol.


Gaming consoles like the Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii also have wireless built into them. Older consoles like the Xbox or Play Station 2 do not have this functionality by default, but you can usually buy adapters that allow them to connect to a wireless network.


Finally, desktop computers rarely have built in wireless capabilities. The typical setup of a home network includes a computer that is stationed very close to your wireless router. In this case, you can just get a short network cable and plug straight in from your wireless router to your computer. If you have desktop computers that are further away and you would like to give them wireless access, the easiest way to do this is to purchase a USB wireless adapter for that computer. They are easy to configure and install. If you prefer, though, you can buy a PCI card to install into your computer that does not use USB. These are more difficult to install and should only be done if you know what you are doing and are aware that opening your computer can void your warranty.


Step 3. Install your new wireless router

Have all the hardware and knowledge you need? Let's install your wireless router! The install procedure can differ based on the brand you purchase, but you can install all routers the same way. Routers typically come with an install guide, but the following steps will work every time:

  • Unplug your old router and feed it to the dogs
  • Unpack your shiny new wireless router
  • If there are any antennas included, attach them if they do not come attached
  • Find a spot for your new router that is away from other computers and metal surfaces (it can sit at the same desk as another PC)
  • Plug in the router power and the network cable that comes from the cable modem. The network cable has a designated spot on the router, and is usually set apart. If you're not sure which port to use, look for a label called 'In' or 'Internet' or check the manual that came with the router
Step 4. Configure your wireless router's basic settings


*Note: The following steps are very dependent on the router you are using. I cannot tell you what to click on that will take you to the option described, I can only give a general idea.

  • You probably got a CD with your router. This is not necessary, as configuration is fairly easy
  • Connect to your wireless router. If you have a PC very close to the router, you can plug a network cable from one of the OUT ports on the router to your computer. If you are on a wireless network, you will need to connect to the wireless network. It should have a default name in the wireless network list such as "linksys" or "netgear". You should connect using a physical network cable if possible, though. This makes things easier and faster.
  • Look in your router manual for the router IP address. This will be something like or Your numbers should be close, but identical up to the 192.168 part.
  • Look in the router manual for the default login. It will probably be something like User: "admin" Password: "admin" or other simple configuration. You can change this later to your own password.
  • On your computer, open a web browser. On some routers, it will automatically take you to the router configuration page at some URL like routersetup.com. This is OK, but if you do not get this, enter the IP address (that 192.168 number) into the web browser address bar and press the go button. You should now be prompted to log on to your router. At this time, enter the username and password from your router manual.
  • The first thing we should do is configure your router password. If you do not, anyone who connects to your router could log on and change some settings or the password itself. If you do have this problem, you can physically reset the router...however, we want to avoid that and so we should change your router password. To change the password, look around in the router configuration page that we just accessed for things like "General Settings" or "Router Configuration." When you find a place where you can reset your password, follow the instructions on the page to do so. Note that you do not need this password to CONNECT to the router and get online, only to make configuration changes like you are doing now. Note that after changing your password you may have to login again.
  • Now you want to give your router a meaningful name. You could use your address or your pet's name or really whatever you want. Keep personal information out of here because anyone who wants to can see this name. You can probably find this option in a basic "Wireless Configuration" menu. A common alias for your wireless network name is the SSID.
Step 5. Add security to your wireless network

Great! Now we have set up your wireless router with your name and a new password, so we should add security to it! Wireless security means that only people who know the "code" for your network can connect to it and use it. It is important to secure your network, or someone could connect to it and attempt to access your computers...or worse, damage them!


To prevent this, we will be setting up a type of security called WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol). In order to connect to your wireless network, you will have to provide a sequence of 26 letters/numbers (128 bit encryption). Your router (if it is fairly new) probably has other encryption types like 256 bit WEP or AES, but we won't be using those. Look for a "Wireless Security" section in the router configuration page and then select your security type of 128 bit WEP encryption. You should then be prompted to enter your key. The key can contain any combination of the following: 0123456789ABCDEF. Here's an example: 9A0CF0259F098C90AB9FFC9035 (Don't use that one, make up your own!). Once you create this key, you should consider writing it down. Now, keeping passwords written down is not safe, so you do not have to. If you need the key again you can always get it back by physically connecting to the wireless router via ethernet cable and re-accessing this router configuration page.


*Note that if you are connected to this router wirelessly while setting it up, you will be disconnected when you set the WEP key, so make sure you have it handy so you can enter it again.


Step 6. Connect to your wireless network

Now everything is set to go! You have a secure wireless network! You can connect all of your devices to your wireless network now. If you have windows XP, when you connect it will ask you for the WEP key. You will have to enter it twice. Windows Vista will only ask you once. Once you have entered the WEP key for that network, Windows will remember it for you; you will not have to reenter it unless you delete the network on your computer or change certain router settings.




I hope this guide is helpful and answers any questions you have! Please feel free to post if you have any suggestions or changes that I may add. My goal is to help out here and I don't know everything there is to know or claim to have all the best recommendations. Good luck!


Edit 1: Spelling

Edit 2: Speedbooster FAQ

Edited by Y kawika
reset the pictures

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nice go at it.


would suggest steping up to WPA using TKIP or AES unless neccesary support for WEP is present.



great site to generate random high strentgh passphrases.


would suggest a subsection on the G section, that MANY companies are putting out "speedbooster" technologies that require the same brand wireless card to work.


if you decide on a more advanced guide! lol, then definently go into checking and updating to the latest available firmware. usually your routers will ship with an older, less stable firmware.


just some suggestions, but a nice little general guide

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nice go at it.


would suggest steping up to WPA using TKIP or AES unless neccesary support for WEP is present.



great site to generate random high strentgh passphrases.


would suggest a subsection on the G section, that MANY companies are putting out "speedbooster" technologies that require the same brand wireless card to work.


if you decide on a more advanced guide! lol, then definently go into checking and updating to the latest available firmware. usually your routers will ship with an older, less stable firmware.


just some suggestions, but a nice little general guide



WEP is good for me. And it makes things less hassle, like with my Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Wii, PSP and such.


Nice guide though

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Those other encryption techniques might be a little better, but fall outside the range of "basic," so I'll leave them out of this guide. However, I did add a note about speedbooster stuff. Thanks!

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Very nicely written and illustrated. :tup:

Thanks for your effort and expertise.

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