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Setting up a wireless network

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Computer Studies wireless router

The router connects to the internet via a cable or DSL modem giving internet access to all the computers on the network, you can also enable file and printer sharing for all the computers throughout the network. Care should be taken in selecting the best place to set up the modem and router, normally a central position to give the best signal coverage for the wireless throughout the building where the network is going to be set up. After selecting the best place to set up the modem and router you need to connect them to each other, you will also need to reset the appliances in order for them to communicate with each other correctly.

You may need to install wireless network cards to the computers on the network that don't already have wireless functionality this can be done by inserting PCI or PCIe network cards or external USB connectors for desktop computers, with laptop computers if the wireless functionality is not already built into the computer you can use PC card, Cardbus or Express cards inserted in to a external expansion slot. Remember to install the drivers for any of the network cards first before installing the cards into the computer this enables the computer to recognise the new hardware and assists in making the correct configurations, it's usually best to read the manual that comes with the device to check for the correct installation procedure and it's recommended that you check the manufacturers web site for any driver updates and make sure you've made a backup of the existing drivers before installing the upgrade.

Configuring the router

After connecting the router to the modem you need to configure the router this requires you to open internet explorer or whatever network browser you use and typing in the routers IP address this is usually 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 and you should arrive at the routers login screen, the user name and password are usually admin by default which you will need to change for security reasons, there will be various screens and different tabs to give you access to the various configurations that need to be made to the router depending on the make and model but the basic setup procedure should be similar on all makes of routers.

The SSID Service set identification is the name of the wireless network, the wireless router will have a default name and will be enabled to broadcast the name for security purposes it's best to change the name of the SSID and to disable it from broadcasting the name, you should also use MAC filtering which allows only specific MAC addresses to connect to the network. Check the mode setting this will be governed by the network cards on the computers that are going to be networked; a modern network would most likely be the IEEE 802.11g or 802.11n standards. You will also need to set the channel these are numbered from 1 to 14 and most routers are normally set to channel 1, 6 and 11 because these frequencies don't overlap but on most modern routers this is auto-configured to scan for other network channels that are broadcasting nearby.

If your equipment can only use WEP encryption you will need to set the security mode WEP (Wired equivalent privacy), for more on WEP wikipedia.org this uses 40 bit and 104 bit encryption but uses a static shared key this is now regarded has low security and easy break into so it's recommended not to use it, modern wireless networks should be set to WPA personal or WPA2 (Wi-Fi protected access), for more on WPA wikipedia.org encryption improving wireless security this is also known as PSK or PSK2 in some routers, there is also a setting for the cipher type TKIP (Temporal key integrity protocol) or AES (Advanced encryption standard), AES being more secure but this would depend on whether the wireless card supports this, for more on AES wikipedia.org

There is a setting to set a pre-shared key this can use 8 - 63 ASCII characters and it is definitely worth using the full 63 random characters to be secure, this can be done by typing upper and lower case letters, numbers into a word program such as notepad etc and copying and pasting the key into all the other computers on the network this word file can be put on a USB flash drive to achieve this, on most good routers there is a feature that updates the key which basically scrambles this key every few seconds making it impossible for hackers using sniffing tools to break the password.

Make sure the time and date settings are setup correctly this will help when you setup any access restrictions this is normally done by a wizard that guides you through the steps and you can then set up a access policy putting internet restrictions on any of the computers on the network. You might need to input the computers Mac address you can find this from the command prompt by selecting start - run and type in cmd and pressing enter this should open the command prompt where you need to type in the command ipconfig /all and press enter and if you look in the list you should see a group of hexadecimal numbers and letters corresponding with the physical address this is the computers Mac address.

To setup the wireless network in Windows you will need to access network connections this can be accessed by either right clicking on the wireless connection icon in the system tray or from the start menu by either selecting network connections or from the control panel and selecting the network and sharing centre icon and selecting the manage network connections, then select the icon for the wireless network and right click on the icon and select properties then highlight internet protocol version 4 or Internet protocol TCP/IP and select properties and make sure the obtain IP address automatically as well as the obtain DNS server address automatically boxes are ticked, The DHCP server should then assign these addresses automatically.

To setup file and printer sharing you first need to disable the software firewalls on the computers you going to use on the network, this will be enabled again after the network as been configured you have the protection of a hardware firewall that's built into the router so you should still have protection. Right click on my computer and select properties to change the name of the computer and the select the membership to workgroup, first is file and folder sharing to check that everything is setup and running correctly right click on a file or folder you wish to share and select sharing and security and follow the wizard to share the file or folder over the network once this is successful you have a good idea you network is working properly.

The next task is to make sure your printer is connected and working properly select start printers and faxes select the printer you wish to network right click on it and select share, you need to check that there are no protocols other than the network protocol added to the printer and file sharing as this can prevent the printer from working properly, this can be changed in network connections under the advanced menu and then advanced settings.

Troubleshooting wireless networks interference can be a problem using wireless, microwave ovens, fluorescent lights, cordless telephones, high power sources can all course interference with the signal, there are some commands that can be used netstat /e in Windows and netstat i in Linux, all of the devices on your network should be using the same encryption TKIP (Temporal key integrity protocol) or AES (Advanced encryption standard) WPA2 uses a pre-shared key (PSK) for authentication.

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