What Is A Wireless Network?
A wireless network connects multiple computers and devices (printers, phones, iPod Touch, etc) together, without using cables. The devices "talk" to each other through a central hub — a router. This enables the computers and devices to:
- Share files and documents.
- Connect multiple computers to the one printer.
- Enjoy multi-player gaming.
- Load files from portable wireless devices, such as an iPod Touch.
What Are The Benefits Of Wi-Fi?
Wireless networks do away with messy cables. This leaves you free to wander around the house, while staying connected. New computers have Wi-Fi technology built-in, while older ones will require a USB adaptor.
Connect To The Internet
Most wireless routers come with a modem built into them. This enables all devices connected to the router to be simultaneously connected to the Internet.
Is It Hard To Set Up?
Not at all. The latest generation of networking gear (routers) comes with easy-to-follow wizards that guide you through the process. Simply plug in, follow the prompts and you're away.
What Are "Standards"?
Wireless technology (Wi-Fi) is available in a range of standards. These refer to factors such as the data transfer rate and the operating frequency. The standard you choose ultimately affects your network's speed and its range (distance):
- The top standard today is 802.11n.
- This offers faster transfer rates and more range than the previous 802.11g format.
Important Security Note!
If you do not take the necessary security steps, your network will be left wide open to anyone within range. They could gain access to files on your computers (this could include banking details, tax returns or passwords). They could also download illegal content using your Internet account.
Some, but not all, of the ways to secure your network include:
- Change the default administrator passwords.
- Turn on the encryption to scramble the messages sent over the wireless network.
- MAC (Media Access Control) restricts network access to selected devices.
The Gear You'll Need
Router: The central device that communicates to all connected devices:
- Choose a router with built-in modem for Internet access.
- Also look for built-in firewalls for extra security.
- Ensure it supports the latest 802.11n format.
Network cable: While wireless does away with cables, they offer much faster ADSL transfer speeds, so it's always good to have the option.
Wireless network adapter: Important if the laptop you want to connect doesn't have Wi-Fi capabilities already built into it, or to upgrade your laptop Wi-Fi standards:
- It's important to match the adapter to the standard of the router you're using.
- USB adapters simply plug in, rather than being physically installed inside the computer.
- Network adaptors are backwards compatible. This means an 802.11g device will work with an 802.11b device etc.
Wireless access point: Think of this as a wireless extension cable to give you more range, so you can move further away without the signal being too weak.
Extra range antenna: Makes your router signals more powerful, for extra range.
Network printer: Connects to the network so multiple computers can print from it.
Simple Home Wireless Network Choices
Router: A router with an in-built modem will connect to the Internet.
Standards: Aim for 802.11n.
Security: Make sure you secure your Wi-Fi network to ensure your files are safe.
More range: Use a wireless access point or an extra-range antenna to increase the range of the network.
Network adapters: If your laptop doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi, you can buy a network adapter.