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What do I need to create a Wireless network?

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 5/29/2009

All those 802.11 b/g stickers and Ethernet ratings got you down? We try to simplify the process of building your own network by selecting some basic components and explaining what they all do.

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    Putting it All Together

    Wireless networks are quickly becoming a standard in those homes with high-speed DSL or cable connections. So, why should you miss out on the party? It’s time to talk about what you actually need to establish a wireless network and what the best options are for the beginner user.

    The Router

    Linksys WRT54GL or D-Link DIR-655

    The Linksys WRT54GL is a marvel of engineering – this is a router that is, at this point, nearly 4 years old and it still receives top honors regularly as a cheap alternative to most other routers. Without getting overly technical, this is an amazing router because of its ability to install the DD-WRT firmware that allows full control over the router’s features. However, this is a good choice for you because it’s a simple, easy to configure router that takes a no-nonsense approach to wireless networking. You get full b/g coverage and 54 Mbps speeds as well as WPA2 protection at a smaller cost than most other routers in its class. Considering that most wireless-capable laptops and PCs right now operate off wireless G, you’re in good hands with this as a starting router.

    On the other hand, if you’re a high-roller, big-spender kind of person and you need to have the best, the DIR-655 is a considerable advance on-top of the WRT54G. The 655 offers the N network standard, which is probably what computers of the future will be working off. Furthermore, N-networks are MUCH, MUCH better for streaming HD video over your network from your server – if you’re looking to hook up all the media in your house to a single server solution, then look no further for a great router.

    Wireless USB/Cards

    Linksys WUSB300N or D-Link DWA-130

    There will be conflicting opinions on this, but again, I just go by what I’ve seen out in the field with the various wireless networks I’ve worked on, but you can use either adapter for either router. There are some people out there that will swear that using the D-Link on the Linksys network will not work, but I’ve done this for a number of years, and everything is fine.

    The adapter serves the main purpose of bridging the connection between your PC and the router. The part that seems to complicate the whole process for people is the fact that N and G are both backwards compatible with older, B-networks. So, if you decide to buy either one of these N adapters, not only will you be able to connect to the traditional G networks, but also the newer N networks.

    Cables and Connectors

    One or two longer Cat5e cables with the RJ-45 connector should be fine, these can be found anywhere, just walk into any BestBuy store and you’ll bump into a ton of them.

    Why the cables? Because the router will probably come with a cable to connect it to the modem where your broadband is, but keeping a few RJ-45 wires around is something that is essential to the troubleshooting of your router. Simply put, if something goes wrong (which is more often than you’d like), you’ll want to be able to hard-wire into the router with a laptop or desktop and be able to reconfigure and assess any problems. Of course, if you don’t think technology is foolproof, go ahead and skip this step. However, if your network does go down, you’ll wish you had bought the little $5 cable that could easily and quickly fix the problem in the Wi-Fi antenna.