Setting up a home wireless network allows you to take a single Internet connection and broadcast it throughout your house so multiple computers, video-game consoles, cell phones and other devices can get online at the same time. You won't be confined to one room to get online and with a laptop computer you can get online while sitting on the couch or even sitting on your back porch. A wireless network also lets you share files between computers and print without physically connecting to a printer.
What equipment do I need?
A high-speed Internet connection (such as cable or DSL), computers and devices that support wireless networking and a wireless router.
Most new laptop and desktop computers have built-in wireless networking, but if you are using an old computer you may have to buy a wireless network adapter (about $40 to $100). Video-game consoles and devices such as a TiVo or a printer may also have built-in wireless networking or require a wireless networking adapter.
A router (about $40 to $180) is the device that connects to your high-speed Internet connection (usually a modem) and broadcasts, or routes the Internet signal into the air and to connect computers. It also has Ethernet ports so you can share the Internet connection with computers and devices that don't have wireless capability.
How do I know which products to buy?
Wireless routers and products support several different wireless standards, such as 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11n, which are often referred to as simply "Wireless B," "Wireless G" or "Wireless N." Wireless N is the newest and fastest standard, but it's not yet offered in all products. Your router and wireless products do not all have to be the same wireless standard, but the router must be compatible with all of them and it's a good idea to get a router that is as fast as or faster than your fastest product.
Wireless N routers are typically the most expensive, but they send the wireless Internet signal farther and do a better job getting around obstructions. The most popular router brands are Linksys, Netgear, D-Link and Apple. If you can afford it, I would recommend an N router, especially if you plan to do Internet gaming or stream video between your computers.
How do I set the network up?
If you are not tech savvy, follow the instructions that came with your router and use the installation CD. If you have a desktop computer that will always be in the same room as your modem or router, run the CD on that computer. Otherwise run the CD on your newest computer. Not all installation CDs will run on an Apple computer, so you may have to use a Windows computer to run the installation CD or consult the Internet for instructions on manually setting up your network on a Mac.
What about security?
It's a good idea to secure your wireless network with a password, network key or other method, especially if you live in an apartment building. Otherwise, your neighbors and others will be able to connect to your network.
If you aren't prompted to do this while setting up your network, you'll need to connect a computer to your router via an Ethernet cable and enter the IP address for your router in the URL field of a Web browser. The IP address should be listed in the instructions that came with your router, but if not, you can search for it in Google. The default Linksys IP address is 192.168.1.1 for Netgear and D-Link, 192.168.0.1.
If you are asked to enter a username and password and don't know what they are, consult the instructions. There are several levels of security you can add to your network, but one of the most basic is to choose a security setting such as "WEP" or "WPA" and generate network keys. If possible, use WPA.
Write down the security setting and the network keys. You'll also want to give your network a name, or "SSID" so it's easier to identify.
Connecting other computers and devices to your wireless network
Once your network is set up and running, to connect to it from another computer, you'll have to make sure that the computer's wireless connection is turned on or that your adapter has been installed and set up. On Windows computers, look in the Control Panel to enable wireless connectivity and search for available networks. On a Mac, look under "Network" in the System Preferences. Once you see your network listed, click to connect to it. You will be asked to choose the type of security setting (WEP, WPA etc) and enter the network key. Click OK and you should now be connected. On other devices, you'll have to go through a similar setup.
*If you are buying several products, such as adapters and a router, it's a good idea to buy the same brand of products.
*Place your router as centrally as possible in your house and position it up high to provide the best signal. Try to keep your router away from big metal objects such as filing cabinets.
Information from Sentinel research, PC Magazine, Microsoft, Linksys and the Wi-Fi Alliance was used in this report. Etan Horowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5447. To read his blog, visit OrlandoSentinel.com/techblog.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun