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How Laptop WiFi and Home Wireless Systems Work

written by: George Garza•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 8/26/2011

A laptop WiFi system allows a mobile laptop to connect to any network regardless of the location. It could be home, or at work, or at a retail outlet, like Starbucks. A home WiFi system works only at home. Here are some important features regarding a laptop WiFii vs a home wireless system.

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    The Laptop WiFi System

    WiFi stands for wireless fidelity. Wi-Fi is a brand name developed by the Wi-Fi Alliance of Austin, Texas. It provides standards and a guarantee that there will be technological compatibility among products, which use and communicate in a wireless format via the IEEE 802.11 specification. Can any laptop become a WiFi system? Yes, it can. However, not so fast. It is necessary to address some hardware issues first.

    WIFI Logo 

    For your laptop to become a WiFi laptop, it must recognize the radio waves transmitted by the router. The router sends out the signals that the laptop must pick up. The laptop must have a wireless network card to pick up the signal. This card goes by the name NIC card, or a PCMCIA card.

    wireless-network card 

    Installing the wireless card for your laptop is easy if you are using Windows. It will ask you to set up a unique id for the laptop. If you have multiple laptops or PCs on your network, each must have their own unique identifier. Every laptop will identify and recognize the other computers on the WiFi network. Then all of the normal operations that transpire on a network will be available to you. It is not very difficult and when the configuration is complete, you have a wireless Internet laptop.

    One of the other ways that you can create the WiFi laptop is to use USB wireless cards. These are now available that will attach to the USB port. These are inexpensive and easy to use on the system.

    USB-Wireless Card 

    To view different wireless cards see Wirefly.

    Wireless Card Types 

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    The Home Wireless System

    The Laptop WiFi system, created earlier with the PCMCIA card, is also available to PCs to create your Home Wireless Network. Therefore, for that step to take place, the next thing that you need is a router that will create an access point. This will issue a wireless signal that has the frequencies for the wireless connection. This router has a hookup to a high-speed Internet connection. The connection then goes back to the ISP, which delivers the Internet packets to the home. This is the cable or DSL connection provided by AT&T, or Comcast, or any number of Internet Providers.

    LinkSys - Access Point Router 

    In most instances, you can connect multiple PCs or laptops to your home wireless system. All will have access to the local network, i.e. your home network. The one feature that can be a problem is security.

    In a home wireless system, your connection can be open, and not secure. In this case, as you are sending items across the network to print, for example, your tax forms; these tax forms may be compromised by marauders that pick up the signal, and download your information. Then your personal information is in their hands.

    To avoid this danger, wireless systems have some security features. One possibility is to encrypt the connection to the laptop or PC and the wireless system with a WEP key. This means that as you send information over the wire, you avoid sending it in clear text, which anyone can pick up and read. Encryption changes the appearance of the words before they go over the wire and are decrypted at the receiving end.

    WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy. A WEP key brings a security feature to WiFi networks. It is a code set, for example1A648C9FE2, that allow a group of PCs and or laptops on a local network to exchange encrypted messages with each other while hiding the contents of the messages from outsiders.

    There are other security elements available such as WPA, TKIP, EAP, LEAP, and PEAP. They are variations of WEP, but usually they are more secure.

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    Compare the WiFi System: Laptop vs Home

    The practical feature of a laptop WiFi system is the mobility that comes with it. Once you have set up the laptop to work at home, it is easy to use it in any other environment. The only problem, of course, is the security, or insecurity, that will follow you from location to location.

    Wireless - Network 

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    The Home Wireless system offers convenience to the user. Cat-5 cables (the wires that connect your PC or Laptop) do not restrict you to your ISP router. You are able to place the computer anywhere in your house or apartment; as long as your router can send, the signal and your computer can receive it. This will not be a problem in most cases because the router has a range of 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors.

    If your home is larger than that, you can create multiple access points by having another router that can send a WiFi signal.

    MultiPoint - Access Points 

    In this image, there are two access points, which distribute a signal to the Wireless network. The overlap range of the access points should be about 10%. The total range of the WiFi network is now greater than 150 feet. This makes the WiFi system more practical.

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    Summary

    A WiFi laptop system is the first requirement to use a wireless home network. You need a wireless NIC attached to the PC or Laptop to create a WiFi computer. You also need to have a security protocol such as WEP to secure the transmissions from the computer to the wireless router. The wireless router can connect other computers in your network, and it can be used to access the Internet. The wireless router has an access point that allows the router to send signals to computers and receive signals from the computers on the network.

    WiFi systems are convenient to use, but there is a 150 feet restriction that can be expanded with multiple access points on the network if necessary.

References