How to Connect a Wireless LAN

By Christopher Capelle

A wireless LAN (local area network) is a computer network, typically connected to an ISP (Internet service provider), that allows users to share resources, including Internet access, printers and file servers. Although there are scores of different models available, they all adhere to the same universal wireless standards and they are all configured similarly. Despite the name, most wireless networks do include some wired nodes; the most common are printers and file servers, items that typically don't include wireless capabilities.

Things You'll Need

  • Wireless router
  • Ethernet RJ-45 cable

Step 1

Decide which router best fits your needs. The field of wireless routers is extremely crowded, so the things to look for are 802.11 b/g compatibility (which will work with almost every wireless computer), routers with four or more Ethernet ports on the back (to attach any wireless nodes into the network) and price. If you're a home user, there's no need to spend more than $100 on a router, unless you're paying for additional functionality, such as Apple's Time Capsule, which pairs a wireless router with an attached hard drive for automated wireless backups.

Step 2

Attach your router to your modem (DSL or cable) using an Ethernet RJ-11 cable. The router attaches to the "Internet" or "WAN" jack on the router; not one of the numbered jacks. If there was a computer attached directly to the modem, plug that cable into one of the numbered jacks on the back of the router.

Step 3

Reboot the modem, wait 45 seconds and then reboot the router. When both are powered on, connect a computer to one of the numbered ports on the router. If you're installing an Apple AirPort unit, skip ahead to Step 6.

Step 4

Launch a Web browser to configure the router. Consult with your router's documentation to determine what the default address your router uses, as well as the default user name/password.

Step 5

Change the following settings from their defaults:User name and password: Give your router a secure user name and password. Time zone: Set to your current time zone.Router name: Give your router a name that differentiates it from any other devices on the network.Wireless network name: Change the name from the default to a name appropriate for your situation.Wireless network security: Create a password that isn't obvious. Mixing letters (lowercase and caps), numbers and punctuation will give your wireless network greater security. Selecting a WPA personal password is sufficient in most cases. Save, apply or confirm your changes before quitting the browser.

Step 6

Launch AirPort utility if you're configuring an Apple AirPort unit. You'll see your AirPort device in the left portion of the window. Highlight it by clicking on it once, and then select "Manual Setup" to change the required settings (Time zone, AirPort name, wireless network name and wireless security) as described in Step 5.

Step 7

Connect wirelessly to the network. On a Windows computer, click on "Start" and choose "Settings," "Control Panel" and "Network Connections." On a Macintosh, pull down on the AirPort icon in the upper right of the screen and select your network from the pull-down list.

Tips & Warnings

  • AirPort Setup Utility is available for both Macintosh and Windows computers.
  • Holding in the "Reset" button the back of the unit for 45 seconds while the computer is powered on will reset the unit to its original factory settings.
  • If you install repeaters or signal boosters, stick with the same brand as your main router.
  • Losing your admin password and wireless password will necessitate resetting the router to its original factory settings, which means repeating the configuration process again.
  • Lightning strikes and power spikes can fry routers, so use a decent surge protector.