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Set Up and Secure your wireless network


  1. The information on this page was gathered from the good folks at TigerDirect.
  2. All Italicized Links below REQUIRE Internet Access. All other links are internal to this web page.
You can use a wireless network to share Internet access, files, printers, and more. Or you can use it to surf the Web while you're sitting on your couch or in your yard. Plus, it's easier to install than you think. More...

Videos  Click below to view 3 Wireless Networking videos courtesy of TigerDirect.

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3

There are 4 steps to creating a wireless network:

Four Steps

Choose your wireless equipment (back)

First, you need to make sure you have the right equipment to set up your wireless network. The minimum you'll need to accomplish your networking project is a broadband Internet connection, a wireless router and a computer with built-in wireless support. If your computer doesn't have built-in wireless capability, you will need a wireless network adapter. Networking equipment supports three different wireless networking technologies: 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g. We recommend 802.11g, because it offers excellent performance and is compatible with almost everything.

Wireless Router

A wireless router converts the signals coming across your Internet connection into a wireless broadcast. Click here to choose from our excellent selection of superb wireless routers.

Wireless Network Adapter

Network adapters wirelessly connect your computer to your wireless router. If you already have wireless capability built in to your computer, you won't need a network adapter. If you need to purchase an adapter for a desktop computer, buy a USB wireless network adapter. If you have a laptop, buy a PC card-based network adapter. Be sure that you have one adapter for every computer on your network. To choose from a selection of excellent wireless network adapters click here.

Connect your wireless router (back)

First, locate your cable modem or DSL modem and unplug it to turn it off.

Next, connect your wireless router to your modem. Your modem should stay connected directly to the Internet. Later, after you've hooked everything up, your computer will wirelessly connect to your router, and the router will send communications through your modem to the Internet. Next, plug in and turn on your cable or DSL modem. Wait a few minutes to give it time to connect to the Internet, and then plug in and turn on your wireless router. After a minute, the Internet, WAN, or WLAN light on your wireless router should light up, indicating that it has successfully connected to your modem.
The Network

Configure your wireless router (back)

CAT- CablesUsing the network cable that came with your wireless router, you should temporarily connect your computer to one of the open network ports on your wireless router (any port that isn't labeled Internet, WAN, or WLAN). If you need to, turn your computer on. It should automatically connect to your router.

Next, open Internet Explorer and type in the address to configure your router.

You might be prompted for a password. The address and password you use will vary depending on what type of router you have, so refer to the instructions included with your router.

As a quick reference, this table shows the default addresses, usernames, and passwords for some common router manufacturers.

Router Address Username Password
3Com admin admin
D-Link admin  
Linksys admin admin
Microsoft Broadband admin admin
Netgear admin password

Internet Explorer will show your router's configuration page. Most of the default settings should be fine, but you should configure three things:

1. Your wireless network name, known as the SSID. This name identifies your network. You should choose something unique that none of your neighbors will be using.

2. Wireless encryption (WEP) or Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), which help protect your wireless network. For most routers, you will provide a passphrase that your router uses to generate several keys. Make sure your passphrase is unique and long (you don't need to memorize it).

3. Your administrative password, which controls your wireless network. Just like any other password, it should not be a word that you can find in the dictionary, and it should be a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Be sure you can remember this password, because you'll need it if you ever have to change your router's settings.

The exact steps you follow to configure these settings will vary depending on the type of router you have. After each configuration setting, be sure to click Save Settings, Apply, or OK to save your changes.

Now, you should disconnect the network cable from your computer.


If your computer does not have wireless network support built in, plug your network adapter into your USB port, and place the antenna on top of your computer (in the case of a desktop computer), or insert the network adapter into an empty PC card slot (in the case of a laptop). Windows XP will automatically detect the new adapter, and may prompt you to insert the CD that came with your adapter. The on-screen instructions will guide you through the configuration process.

Note: The steps below only apply if you're using Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Windows XP should show an icon with a notification that says it has found a wireless network.

Wireless Connection
Follow these steps to connect your computer to your wireless network:

1. Right-click the wireless network icon in the lower-right corner of your screen, and then click View Available Wireless Networks. If you run into any problems, consult the documentation that came with your network adapter. Don't be afraid to call their tech support.

2. The Wireless Network Connection window should appear and you should see your wireless network listed with the network name you chose. If you don't see your network, click Refresh network list in the upper-left corner. Click your network, and then click Connect in the lower-right corner.

Choose a Connection

3. Windows XP prompts you to enter a key. Type the encryption key that you wrote down earlier in both the Network key and Confirm network key boxes, and then click Connect.

4. Windows XP will show its progress as it connects to your network. After you're connected, you can now close the Wireless Network Connection window. You're done.

Note: If the Wireless Network Connection window continues to show Acquiring Network Address, you may have mistyped the encryption key.

More Info (top)

Although we're constantly hearing about the miracle of wireless technology, we're merely at the dawn of the Wireless Renaissance. From Auckland New Zealand to Mt. Everest, Internet cafes and other wireless hot spots dot our increasingly interconnected globe (yes, there really is an Internet Café at a Mt. Everest base camp), but the best and most ingenious use of this breakthrough innovation is yet to come. For now, the wireless gold standard is 802.11g - - the newest, fastest and most powerful 802.11 radio technology that broadens bandwidths to 125 Mbps within the 2.4 GHz band. Because of backward compatibility, older and slower 802.11b radio cards can interface directly with an 802.11g access point and vice versa at 11Mbps or lower, depending upon range.

It's time to join the wireless revolution! Tens of millions of homes and businesses have more than one computer one, and there are countless advantages to linking these PCs and laptops in a network. With your computers connected, you can:

  • Share a single printer between computers
  • Share a single Internet connection
  • Share files such as images, spreadsheets, documents and even DVD's
  • Play games that allow multiple users at different computers

Wireless networking is fast (data connects at speeds between 11 and 125MBps), reliable and has a long range (5,000 feet in open areas, 250 to 400 ft / 76 to 122 m in closed areas)

For businesses, the benefits of wireless technology are dramatic; we are not using hyperbole when we assure you that it will revolutionize your company. A wireless infrastructure makes it easier for you to adapt your office space as your company evolves. And the productivity gains you will reap dwarf the relatively inexpensive cost of setting up a wireless local area network (LAN). Here are the primary benefits your business will receive by going wireless:

Reduced Installation Costs - It's less expensive to install wireless access points than wiring your office with Ethernet capabilities. Plus, you will not have to knock holes in walls to set up your network.

Flexibility - If your company is growing rapidly and you need to constantly reorganize your space to accommodate ever-changing networking configurations, wireless networking provides rapid transition times, reduced down time and will not cost you as much as you would have to pay to rewire your office space. By setting up a network, you will be able to easily share devices, programs and technology with multiple computers. You can share peripheral devices, programs and technology to streamline your business and make it much more efficient.

Convenient Information Access and Increased Productivity - Wireless delivers information access to anyone on your staff, from anywhere in your office. Most offices that have made the transition from wired networks to wireless systems have experienced remarkable increases in productivity.

It's Not as Complicated as You Think!
Most people think that networking your home or small office can be painful, with lots of wires, connections and other challenges. Plus, you have to make everything talk to each another. Don't fret, because it's not as much of a challenge as you might think. With most people using Microsoft Windows operating systems, networking has been built-in since Windows 3.11. Introduced in Windows 98, "Internet Connection Sharing" is a standard part of the operating system, allowing one computer to share an Internet connection with all computers on the home network. So, if you are running Windows, you can share files, printers and resources across your network without too much of a hassle. Following are 3 easy steps that will allow even a novice to setup a wireless network.

Although you may assume that setting up a wireless network is too complex a task for you to attempt yourself, with some planning and preparation it is possible to set up your own wireless network of PCs and laptops. Our editors have provided three simple steps to help you plan, set up and implement your own wireless network.

1) Planning Your System

Before you dive into the wireless world, make sure you know what lies ahead of you. Make a thorough analysis of your networking needs, what you need to accomplish, and what you expect to receive as a reasonable return on your investment. Assess your networking needs; determine how many workstations you'll need to connect and where you can best utilize them. Also, take an inventory of what upgrades you will have to make to your existing computer equipment and decide what equipment you will need to purchase. These are the types of devices required for your wireless network:

  • Wireless Access Point - This is the "controller" of your wireless network. There are two types of access points - hardware access points and "integrated" access points. Hardware access points are used as an extension of an existing wired network. "Integrated" access points also provide the features of a router, and are connected to a high-speed connection (i.e.: DSL or cable modem. Access points generally can serve at least 50 users, so exceeding the connection limits is rarely an issue. Remember that when you are networking, your connection is shared with all active users. Having an 11, 22, 72, 108 Mbps network connection does not make your Internet connection "faster," however, it will allow faster data transmission between the users on the same wireless network. So, if you are planning on copying a bunch of files from your bedroom computer to the living room computer, or watching a video you recorded in your living room on your bedroom computer, the data transfer speed is great. While surfing the Internet, you may see a decrease in access speed to the Internet if your son is downloading MP3s in his bedroom and you are trying to watch an online video. Your wireless connection speed will vary based upon your location (i.e. out by the pool vs. across the room from the access point), however proper placement of your access point can assist in providing the best service to all areas you intend on using a wireless connection. TigerDirect carries a wide-range of wireless access points, including some which combine a multi-port wired hub so you can utilize one device for both your wired and wireless connections. To see our complete lineup of access points, click here.

  • PCMCIA Wireless Adapter - This is generally used for laptops. A PCMCIA card simply plugs into your notebook PC Card slot, and after configuration with the software provided with the card, will connect to any detected network. Some access points allow for configuration of security so only "allowed" cards are provided access. This will alleviate any problems if your neighbor decides to ride on your Internet service for free once they see you using the Internet out by your pool. Desktop PCs can also be connected to a wireless network by using an inexpensive PCMCIA-to-PCI adapter, which allow for fast, easy connection of a desktop PC through the use of an internal adapter card that the PCMCIA card slides into. Our lineup of PCMCIA cards can be viewed by clicking here.

  • Compact Flash Wireless Network Adapters
    If you have a handheld device, which includes a CF Type II slot, you can connect it to your wireless network using a Compact Flash Wireless Network adapter. Click here.

  • USB Wireless Adapter.
    Great for use with desktop PCs, a USB wireless adapter allows you to
    connect your system to the wireless network without installing any adapter cards or opening your PC whatsoever. These are a convenient and easy way to add wireless networking to an existing PC in your home. Additionally, based on user feedback, an external USB device has better reception than an internal PCMCIA card in the back of your computer, as you can move it around for the best reception. To see a list of currently available USB devices, click here.

  • "Wired" And "Wireless" Together - "You can actually build a network comprised of Integrated access points, for both wired and wireless communications. Why would you want this? Well, let's say that you have the ability to run wire for the systems in your home. The cost is less per computer (an Ethernet NIC runs about $10.00 and the cable anywhere from $5-10) and you may have them easily accessible via cable. There are many mixed-mode devices, or "Gateways" available. For our full selection of Integrated Access Points, click here.
    This device allows you to connect to a high-speed Internet connection (via the WAN port) and up to three wired devices (on the Ethernet ports) and up to 253 devices via the wireless access point built into the unit. This allows you to have standard desktops connecting with roaming notebooks and other devices where wiring is just not possible.
    In summary, if you want to run a network in your home or office, it really isn't that tough! Pick the right parts to your network "puzzle" and get the best deal available. They'll work together and you'll make better use of ALL your resources

2) Setting Up Your System

Now that you have a plan in place that defines exactly what your equipment needs will be, how you will configure your network and what goals you expect to accomplish with wireless technology, it's time to set up your network. Before you take this step (don't worry, it's much easier than it seems), you must develop a good working understanding of the equipment involved in a wireless network. Wireless LAN equipment consists of wireless clients - the notebook computers, printers or handheld devices that can communicate over a wireless LAN - and access points, which are the points that accept the wireless radio signals and then connect the LANs. Your access point is the central communications point for your computers. These

Now it's time to build the wireless LAN! Again, don't panic - you will be amazed how simple it is. Here is what you have to do:

  • Determine how many people will use your network; this will tell you how many access points you will need.
  • Choose a central location for your LAN connection. If possible, this should be in an open environment to maximize your wireless range. Walls, cables, pipe, etc. within your existing environment can compromise your range.
  • Configure your wireless network to work with your network.
  • Test your installation before going live. With link test software you can find out what percent of your data is being sent correctly, how much time it takes to receive a response from the destination device, how the strength of the transmitted signal.
  • Establish a protocol for managing your wireless LAN.

3) Securing Your Wireless Network

Remember, wireless communications transmit through the air rather than over a closed capable. Therefore, maintaining security over your system requires measures that are specific to wireless. Wireless security solutions include Media Access Control (MAC), WEP encryption and Traditional VPN (Virtual Private Network) securities controls. Following are brief summaries of these solutions:

MAC - Media Access Control restricts network access by unauthorized devices by assigning each network card a unique hardware identification number.

WEP Encryption - A software algorithm that scrambles outgoing data and unscrambles it when it is received, maintaining its integrity while en route.

Traditional VPN (Virtual Private Network) security controls - Allows users outside your system to gain access to your network. VPNs encrypt data prior to transmission over a wireless link, ensuring data security even if it is intercepted. VPNs are particularly critical when you are using a public hot spot.

Three simple steps - that's all it takes to join the wireless revolution - along with a relatively small investment in new technology that you will recoup many times with your exponentially improved efficiency and streamlined operation. We have the expertise, incomparable product line and unparalleled pricing to help you become experience all the advantages of benefits of wireless technology.


Choose your wireless equipment Connect your wireless router Configure your wireless router Connect your computers