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Making a Wireless Router an Access Point

written by: Tolga BALCI•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/19/2011

Setting up a wireless router and making it act as an access point is far easier than many people suspect. You just need to understand some some basic terminology, some easy steps, and you will be going on in no time.

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    Setting up a wired or wireless network for your home or office is not difficult. There are only a couple of points that need to be understood, and then you can apply the basic principles. Here we will discuss the issue from scratch, as if we have nothing on hand.

    First we need to do some shopping. Any corner shop that sells electronics is fine for us. We will not populate our list with too many items, but we must have the basics.

    We start with looking at our proposed network. How many computers we will connect? Do we want wired capability in addition to wireless? What is the area that we need to cover? Do we already have a wired connection?

    For a small network, say with less than 200 computers, all we need is one (yes, one) wireless router. Nowadays you will see “G", “Super G", “N", and “Draft N" labels on the boxes. Technically “G" means that the wireless router is able to operate at 54 Mbits per second and “N" means 600 Mbits per second. If you are a home user and not interested in watching HD movies over your wireless network, then do not consider wireless N. It will not be worth your investment. Go for G. Again, do not consider “Super G" or other variants because these can operate only if they have the same manufacturer’s hardware, for example a US Robotics wireless router and a US Robotics wireless card. If your laptop has Centrino technology or has any other card, then forget Super G, you will only be able to operate at standard G.

    You can also find standard, non-wirelesss routers that can create a wired networked only, but with prices starting at about $60 for hybrid - both wired and wireless - routers, the hybrid routers are the better solution in most cases. They are also handy in a mixed environment - when you have a few local PCs in a wired arrangement, but still need the wireless network so other computers and devices can connect.

    That said, we have narrowed our options some. Now we have to take into account our network. Will we have any wired clients? Do not get confused: anything that gets connected to the network is a client, not only computers. Your Xbox, PS3, and network attached storage are all clients. If we will have wired clients, how many? If 2 or 3 and there is no chance to expand, go for a wireless router that has more than one Ethernet connection. If all clients will work via the wireless connection, go for the basic one, with one Ethernet connection. Whichever model or whatever brand you choose, buy a wireless router with an Ethernet connection, not with only a USB connection. You will thank me later. I will also assume that with a family, you'll want an all wireless network to save you from running cables under the doors.

    We purchased our wireless router, and we are sure that we have an Ethernet cable inside the bag (some manufacturers avoid including one), and that we have an Ethernet port on our computer. (If you have purchased your desktop in 2005 or later, it will most probably have one. If not, it will cost you less than USD 10, plus a little time to plug in to your computer. Again, you will thank me later.)

    Now we are going home.

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    Setting up & Configuration

    Do not plug your router in at the place that you think will look nice. Where to place it depends on your type of Internet connection. If using DSL, you can place the modem and the router near any telephone jack. If using a cable connection, your choices depend on how many jacks or terminations the cable company installed. Satellite Internet is similar. It typically has only one lead-in to the house.

    Bear in mind that objects like walls, wardrobes, etc. between the router and the computer will reduce the signal quality. If you have a house with two floors, it's best to install the wireless router on the first floor.

    After finding the location, unbox your router. Plug the power adapter and the Ethernet cable from your modem into the router, and power the router up first. Than boot up your computer. In the user's manual, look for the router's IP interface address. Often this will be something like Open your web browser and type in the address.

    The router will then prompt you for a user name and password. You can find this information in the user's manual. (Most probably the default will be something like admin/admin.) Enter the username and password and then enter the configuration options. Keep your user's manual nearby!

    Or, your router manufacturer may have included a utility program that assists in setup without using a browser. Some wireless routers even have online setup where you go to the manufacturer's website and use a wizard to step through the setup procedure. (In both cases, the initial setup is done with a Ethernet connection between the PC and the router.) In any case, when you have completed your configuration, your wireless router begins to function as an access point in addition to its routing functions.

    No matter what, after your configuration go into the security management features one by one. Enable MAC-address filtering, enable WPA-2 if your wireless client/operating system supports it. You do not want to have somebody using your wireless network to do some nasty stuff. There are a lot of articles about securing your wireless network in BrightHub, I suggest you to read them and apply what they say. I know this will take time but it will worth your effort.

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