What Do You Need for Wireless Internet?

By Shea Laverty

When setting up a wireless Internet connection in your home, you need a wireless router and/or modem and network cards or adapters for your computers.

Setting up a wireless Internet connection in your home primarily requires a wireless router and a means for your computer to connect to it. The specific equipment you need depends largely on your computer and your modem.

Wireless Network Card or Adapter

Before you can connect to wireless Internet, your computer needs to be wireless capable. Many modern laptops and even some desktops feature a built-in wireless network card, so in most cases you're ready to go right out of the box. If your computer doesn't have a wireless card, you can use a USB wireless adapter like those sold by DLink, Netgear and Linksys. To install a USB adapter, all you need to do is connect it to a USB port on your computer, run the bundled driver installation software, and you're wireless-ready.

Wireless Router or Modem

The next requirement for connecting to wireless Internet is having a wireless network available in your home. Whether you need extra equipment depends on your modem: Some feature built-in wireless routers, meaning they're ready to go as soon as you hook them up. Others require that you purchase a wireless router and connect the modem to it using an Ethernet cable. In these cases, connect the Ethernet cable from the port on your modem to the WAN or Internet port on your router.

Network SSID and Security Key

Once your equipment is set up, it's time to connect to the Internet. In order to connect, you need to know the SSID of your modem/router and the security key to access the network. Usually the default information for both the SSID and the security key is included in the user manual or on a sticker attached to the router/modem. If your SSID or security key has been changed by your network's administrator, you'll have to ask for the information.

Connecting to Wireless Internet

  1. Click the Network icon in the System Tray.
  2. Find your network's SSID in the list and click it.
  3. Select Connect. Check Connect automatically first if you want your computer to always connect to this network on startup.
  4. Enter the security key when prompted.

Wireless Internet Benefits

With wireless Internet, you don't need to route cables through your house to use the Internet on your computer in any room, and the speeds are usually sufficient to easily handle tasks like Web browsing, video streaming and online gaming. Having wireless Internet also makes it possible to connect your mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to the Internet at home, without using your cellular data.

Wireless Internet Drawbacks

Wireless Internet is almost always slower and less stable than a direct, wired connection to your modem/router. The layout of your home and arrangement of your electronic appliances can also cause interference between your computer and the wireless signal, which diminishes your connection's performance. If your computers aren't outfitted with built-in network cards, you have to buy a wireless adapter for each computer, which can be expensive if you have more than one or two computers to connect.