Living the Wireless Life: Wireless Home Networking

Installing a wireless card on a laptop
  1. Power down the laptop.
  2. Slide your network card into a free expansion slot located on the outside edge of the computer base.
  3. Turn the laptop on.
  4. Ninety-nine percent of the time, your computer will automatically detect the new card. You will likely be prompted to insert the installation disk that came with the card, and then you'll be walked through the wizard.
  5. Once the software is installed, the card will start searching for a signal. You may be prompted to do a restart after the software installation.

Installing a wireless card in a PDA
  1. Turn the PDA off.
  2. Slide the wireless card into the expansion slot, generally located on the back of the PDA.
  3. Power the PDA back up. Install and configure the card's software.
  4. Move within range of your wireless router, and start surfing.

Staying secure
Now that you're up and running, anyone within a 300-foot radius will be able to pick up your network signal. People accessing your network can not only use your Internet connection for free, but also potentially access the information that travels across the network. If the idea of your Wi-Fi network being accessible to others makes you nervous, there are two simple ways you can keep unauthorized users out, according to Randall.

Use a password: While you're setting up your wireless router, the wizard will guide you to a security screen. In order to take advantage of your wireless router's encryption (or lock), you'll have to create a password (or key). Protecting your connection with a password will keep anyone out who doesn't have the key. If you decide you'd like to add a password to your setup later, you can access the security screen through the main menu.

Create an access list: Each wireless card is given a unique ID number, just like every person has a fingerprint. Use your wireless router's setup wizard or main menu features to navigate to the security screen. Once you find the screen, type in the ID numbers for all the wireless cards that you want to allow on your network. It's like creating a guest list for an exclusive club. Anyone who's not on the list won't get in

What you need to know before you go

You'll need to decipher a small amount of gobbledygook to make sure you get the equipment you need. As stated above, you have to select a protocol for your wireless router and wireless card. The other feature to be aware of is security. Each wireless router device comes with a preinstalled security lock, known as encryption. The chart below can help you make the best protocol and security decisions for your individual setup.

Also, you'll need a cable to connect your wireless router to your high-speed modem. Some wireless routers use Ethernet cables, while others use USB. Ask your salesperson which kind of cable the wireless router requires and whether the cable is included. If it's not, be sure to buy the right cable while you're at the store.

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