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Wireless Network

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Essay title: Wireless Network

Building a Wireless Network

If you want to take advantage of public WiFi hotspots or start a wireless network in your home, the first thing you'll need to do is make sure your computer has the right wireless gear. Most new laptops and many new desktop computers come with built-in wireless transmitters. If your laptop doesn't, you can buy a wireless adapter that plugs into the PC card slot or USB port. Desktop computers can use USB adapters, or you can buy an adapter that plugs into the PCI slot inside the computer's case. Many of these adapters can use more than one 802.11 standard.

Once you've installed your wireless adapter and the drivers that allow it to operate, your computer should be able to automatically discover existing networks. This means that when you turn your computer on in a WiFi hotspot, the computer will inform you that the network exists and ask whether you want to connect to it. If you have an older computer, you may need to use a software program to detect and connect to a wireless network.

Photo courtesy HowStuffWorks Shopper

A wireless router uses an antenna to send signals to wireless devices and a wire to send signals to the Internet.

Being able to connect to the Internet in public hotspots is extremely convenient. Wireless home networks are convenient as well. They allow you to easily connect multiple computers and to move them from place to place without disconnecting and reconnecting wires.

If you already have several computers networked in your home, you can create a wireless network with a wireless access point. If you have several computers that are not networked, or if you want to replace your Ethernet network, you'll need a wireless router. This is a single unit that contains:

1. A port to connect to your cable or DSL modem

2. A router

3. An Ethernet hub (ethernet.htm)

4. A firewall

5. A wireless access point

A wireless router allows you to use wireless signals or Ethernet cables to connect your computers to one another, to a printer and to the Internet. Most routers provide coverage for about 100 feet (30.5 meters) in all directions, although walls and doors can block the signal. If your home is very large, you can buy inexpensive range extenders or repeaters to increase your router's range.

As with wireless adapters, many routers can use more than one 802.11 standard. 802.11b routers are slightly less expensive, but they're slower than 802.11a or 802.11g routers. Most people select the 802.11g option for its speed and reliability.

Once you plug in your router, it should start working at its default settings. Most routers let you use a Web interface to change your settings. You can select:

* The name of the network, known as its service set identifier (SSID) -- The default setting is usually the manufacturer's name.

* The channel that the router uses -- Most routers use channel 6 by default.

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