Wireless Basics: A Leaf on the Wind

Many of our customers are confused about wireless basics. The term wireless means many different things to people. To most average computer users it is a mystery. It is that thing that seems to be everywhere you are until you really need it and then you can’t find it or anyone to help you find it… much like the socks in your dryer.

FreeImages.com/Rob Rosenhamer

I’m going to be adding some posts about wireless basics - what wireless is and isn’t and tips on improving your connectivity. I’ll try to take some of the frustration and pain out of dealing with a wireless network setup in your home. But for now…..let’s start with the basics.

Wireless Basics: “Just the facts, mam.”

Make sure your computers are equipped for wireless. Since the early 2000’s all laptops have built-in wireless connections as they are meant to be mobile. Desktops, on the other hand, don’t usually have wireless cards since they are meant to be kept stationary and wired in place. If your PC isn’t equipped for wireless, you will need a wireless adapter which is inexpensive and easy to install. A good choice for an adapter is the CNet Wireless-N PicoUSB Dongle. For less than $30 you can be logged onto your network’s wireless signal within minutes. The other option for making a desktop wireless is to add a PCI adapter to your motherboard. This is usually not a good first-time DIY project.

Next, in order for your laptop or desktop to receive its wireless signal, you will need a wireless router. This router will take the internet signal from your home’s modem and send it wirelessly through your home. When thinking of how this signal is broadcast, imagine a pebble dropped in a pond. The wireless signal from your router travels the same way. So when walls and large appliances and furniture get in the way, it weakens the signal. If you have a large home or multi-storied home, you may need a second access point to leap frog the signal to the farther reaches of the home. I’ll talk more about second access points in a later post.

Try to limit the number of users for each access point or router. If you have four PCs running in your home and an Xbox One, this is almost like having 20 users on your router at the same time. Xbox One is notorious for hogging wireless. If you have multiple users that are heavy on bandwidth usage, such as video downloads or gaming, you will see a noticeable weakening of signal.

Finally, an important rule of wireless basics: secure your wireless router! Outsiders can slow your wireless down significantly and they can use your wireless for illegal purposes.

Never leave your router open without a password. Data encryption should also be in place. There is also an option for SSID broadcasting. Your SSID is the name of your router for example “Ted’s WiFi”. When your SSID is broadcast, everyone in your neighborhood will see your router listed when they search for available networks. If you choose not to broadcast your SSID, it won’t show up in their searches.

These are just the basics to networking and wireless. As mentioned earlier, I will go into each of these categories with more information in upcoming posts.

This article was originally posted in March 2014 on our Binary Aether Blog which is slowly being migrated here to our website.

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