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Hooking Up a Wireless Router to Your Computer

written by: Percila Jackson•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 9/14/2011

Unravel the mysteries of wireless. Learn how to set up a wireless network and connect computers to it. Then how to secure it with encryption and a firewall. Discover how easy it actually is to get a wireless network up and running!

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    Wireless networking is currently the most convenient way for people on the move to connect to the Internet and it’s very convenient for households with more than one computer. It saves running cable all over the house and enables you to use your PC or laptop wherever you want.

    To be completely accurate, you don’t connect a wireless router to a computer, you hook up your computer to the wireless router. The router is your gateway to the Internet or home network and, once configured, sits there waiting for you to connect.

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    Step-by-Step Instructions

    Many of the instruction manuals that come with routers can be a little confusing, so we will walk through the process step-by-step. We will use the Linksys WRT54GS as the example, but the rules will apply to whatever make of router you have.

    The first thing to do is to connect everything together. Working backwards from the wall, your network should start like this:

    Plug your modem into the wall and connect it via a network cable to your wireless router. Connect your computer to the router via a network cable to begin with. Some routers will allow a USB connection to the computer but this isn’t as fast as a network cable so it should really only be used if you don’t have any cable.

    Switch them all on and give them time to boot up. You should see connection lights on your modem, the router and on the back of the PC where the cable is plugged into the network card. Open your favorite browser and type into it. Your specific router may vary in this, so check your manual for the address, username and password.

    Enter your credentials into the page when prompted and you should see a screen that looks something like this.


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    Network Settings

    You don’t need to change anything here if you’re happy with the default network address range.

    Choose the Wireless tab and ensure wireless is set to On. Set Wireless Network Mode to mixed if you aren’t sure of what to choose for the speed. If you have a new router and computer you should safely be able to select 802.11g, which is the faster connection.

    Modify the SSID or the Wireless Network Name to something you can recognize and select a channel for the wireless to broadcast on.

    Next, select the Wireless Security tab and set the Security Mode to WPA2 Personal if you can. You need to find out if your computer supports it in order to make a connection and select something else if it doesn’t. WPA2 is the most secure encryption available to the home user.

    Wireless Network Security 
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    Connecting Safely

    Now, select a passphrase. Set it as anything you like, but try and make it as complicated as possible. The easier the passphrase is, the quicker a determined hacker can crack it. Note it down somewhere along with the wireless channel you selected.

    Now, minimize or close the browser and open up the Network Connections dialog on your computer. Select the wireless device, right-click and select Properties. At the top of the new window should be your wireless network adapter, select Configure, then the Advanced tab. It is in here that you select the channel you want your wireless device to work on. Set it to the same channel as the router. There should also be the option to add the passphrase. Select the option and add the passphrase you set in the router too.

    Alternatively, you can use the software that came with the wireless adapter to automatically scan for and connect to the wireless router. It will choose the channel, but will request the passphrase and encryption level before it can connect. To test out the connection, remove the network cable from the back of the computer and try to connect using wireless. Once connected, it will attempt to authenticate. Here is where you add the encryption type, WPA2 Personal, if appropriate, and then the passphrase.

    Windows can also do it all for you, using the Wireless Network Connection Wizard. It is a little more hit and miss than manually configuring it or using the adapter software, but is easier to do. All you need to do is answer yes when Windows asks you if you want it to manage and configure your connection.

    You should now be able to connect to the Internet and can start surfing!

    Wireless Network