Setting up a Wireless Network at Home

by Ellis Davidson
    A wireless router lets you use the Internet and access files on your other home computers.

    A wireless router lets you use the Internet and access files on your other home computers.

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    A home wireless network is not difficult to set up with the right planning. Most homes only need to add a wireless router to the incoming Internet connection, although some households with older computers may need to upgrade them with wireless adapters to join the network. If you don't already have a home Internet connection, consider sharing the connection from a 3G or 4G cellular network to connect your home.

    Wireless Routers

    The center of your home wireless network is the wireless router, which you locate near your incoming Internet connection. Use an Ethernet cable to connect your cable, FiOS or DSL modem to the incoming Ethernet port of your wireless router. The router will automatically connect the Internet over its wireless antennas to other computers and wireless devices in your home. If you wish, you may want to use additional Ethernet cables to connect your router to your work computers and peripherals, as wired network connections will be faster than wireless for file transfers and other network activity. For Internet browsing, however, the wireless network is fast enough to provide the same network speed to all devices regardless of their connection type. Purchase an 802.11n router for the highest possible network speed, or an 802.11g router to save on the cost of the device.

    3G and 4G Routers

    Use a wireless 3G or 4G router to connect your home network to a cellular data connection, either to make the most of your existing 3G or 4G data plan, or when wired home Internet is unavailable or undesirable in your area. 3G and 4G cellular routers make use of two wireless technologies: the first is the signal sent by your cell-phone provider to your router; the second is the wireless network you set up at home to share the incoming signal. 3G and 4G wireless connections are otherwise similar to wired connections, but be sure that your service plan includes enough monthly bandwidth to meet your home Internet needs.

    Computer and Device Compatibility

    Most computers and tablets already have the necessary electronics to connect to a wireless network interface controller built into their components. For older computers, you can add wireless capabilities with the use of a wireless adapter NIC. These come in three varieties: cards that you permanently install into a desktop PC, internal PC cards that slide into the slot of a laptop computer or USB dongles that can be used with either a desktop or laptop computer. Match the 802.11 type (g or n) to the router you purchase for the best possible speeds from your network.

    Wireless Signal and Bridges

    After the wireless router is attached, follow the instructions in the router manual or use the included software to run the initial setup process. In most cases, your router will be preinstalled with all of the settings you will need to have your network running out of the box. Be sure to set a wireless password for your router, to want to restrict Internet access only to your own computers -- and prevent someone outside your house from accessing your network. Most routers have enough power to reach most rooms of the house if the router is centrally located. Check the wireless signal on each of your computers and laptop devices to be sure that the signal can reach. Don't worry if you don't see full signal strength; performance will be degraded only if the signal is very weak or nonexistent. Larger houses, or houses with heavy construction, may require range extenders to pick up the router signal and relay it throughout the house. Try out your router first without using these extenders, then add range extenders from the same device manufacturer if you find that some computers can't find the original signal.

    About the Author

    Ellis Davidson has been a self-employed Internet and technology consultant, entrepreneur and author since 1993. He has written a book about self-employment for recent college graduates and is a regular contributor to "Macworld" and the TidBITS technology newsletter. He is completing a book on self-employment options during a recession. Davidson holds a Bachelor of Arts in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.

    Photo Credits

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