A network can be one computer connected to the Internet, or two or more computers connected to each other (and possibly to the Internet as well). In a wireless (Wi‑Fi) network, the computers are connected by radio signals instead of wires or cables. Advantages of wireless networks include mobility and the absence of unsightly wires. Disadvantages can include a slower connection speed than a wired network and interference from other wireless devices, such as cordless phones.
What are the different types of wireless network technologies?
Currently, there are four options: 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, and 802.11n. The tables below compare these technologies.
The transfer times listed are under ideal conditions. They're not necessarily achievable under normal circumstances because of differences in hardware, web servers, network traffic conditions, and so on.
Speed: Up to 11 megabits per second (Mbps)
Pros: Has good signal range
Cons: Has the slowest transmission speed,Allows for fewer simultaneous users, Uses the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) frequency (the same as many microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other appliances), which can cause interference
Speed: Up to 54 Mbps
Pros: Allows for more simultaneous users, Uses the 5 GHz frequency, which limits interference from other devices
Cons: Has a shorter signal range, which is more easily obstructed by walls and other obstacles, Is not compatible with 802.11b network adapters, routers, and access points
Speed: Up to 54 Mbps
Pros: Has a transmission speed comparable to 802.11a under optimal conditions, Allows for more simultaneous users, Has good signal range and isn't easily obstructed, Is compatible with 802.11b network adapters, routers, and access points
Cons: Uses the 2.4 GHz frequency so it has the same interference problems as 802.11b
Speed: Depending upon the number of data streams the hardware supports, 802.11n can transmit data at up to 150 Mbps, 300 Mbps, 450 Mbps, or 600 Mbps
Pros: Has the fastest speed, Uses multiple signals and antennas for better speed, Allows for more simultaneous users, Has the best signal range and isn't easily obstructed, Is resistant to interference from other devices, Can use either the 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz frequency, If using 2.4 GHz frequency, it's compatible with 802.11g network adapters, routers, and access points
Cons: If using the 2.4 GHz frequency, it can have the same interference problems as 802.11b, This protocol is still being finalized, and some requirements could change
If you have more than one wireless network adapter in your computer or if your adapter uses more than one standard, you can specify which adapter or standard to use for each network connection. For example, if you have a computer that you use for streaming media to other computers on your network, you should set it up to use an 802.11a or 802.11n connection, if available, because you'll get a faster data transfer rate when you watch videos or listen to music.
What hardware does my computer need to be on a wireless network?
Your computer needs an internal or external wireless network adapter. To see if your computer has a wireless network adapter, do the following:
- Click to open Network Connections.
- The adapters installed in your computer are listed here.
In the list of available wireless networks, you'll see a symbol Picture of the wireless network signal strength icon that shows the wireless signal strength for each network. The more bars, the stronger the signal. A strong signal (five bars) usually means that the wireless network is close or there's no interference. For best performance, connect to the wireless network with the strongest signal. However, if an unsecured network has a stronger signal than a security-enabled one, it's safer for your data if you connect to the security-enabled network (but you must be an authorized user of that network to do so). To improve the signal strength, you can move your computer closer to the wireless router or access point, or move the router or access point so it's not close to sources of interference, such as brick walls or walls that contain metal support beams. To view a list of available wireless networks, do the following: Click to open Connect to a Network.
What are the risks of connecting to a public wireless network?
Public wireless networks are convenient, but if they're not properly secured, connecting to one might be risky. Whenever possible, only connect to wireless networks that require a network security key or have some other form of security, such as a certificate. The information sent over such networks is encrypted, which can help protect your computer from unauthorized access. In the list of available wireless networks, each unsecured network is labeled. If you do connect to a network that's not secure, be aware that someone with the right tools can see everything that you do, including the websites you visit, the files you send and receive, and the user names and passwords you use. You should not send and receive documents or visit websites that contain personal information, such as your bank records, while you're connected to an unsecured network.
How do I find a wireless network that's not on the list of available networks?
If you've connected to the network before, make sure your computer is within range of the network, the router or access point is turned on (if you have access to the router or access point), and the wireless switch on your computer is turned on. (Not all computers have a switch; if yours does, it's typically located on the front or side of the computer.) If you haven't connected to the network, broadcasting might be turned off and you might have to manually add the network. To add a network that isn't broadcasting, follow these steps:
- Click to open Manage Wireless Networks.
- Click Add, and then click Manually create a network profile.
- Type the network information.
- If you want Windows to automatically connect when the network is in range, select the Start this connection automatically check box.
- Select the Connect even if the network is not broadcasting check box, click Next, and then click Close.
If you select this option, your computer's privacy might be at risk. Having no hidden networks configured prevents your computer from broadcasting its location, and this improves your computer's security.
The network will be added to your list of networks and will be available to connect to when your computer is in range of the network. To connect to the network, follow these steps:
- Click to open Connect to a Network.
- Click Unnamed Network, and then type the network information.
- The network is added to your list of networks and is available to connect to in the future when your computer is in range.
The other computers and devices on your network need to know how to communicate with the wireless router so they can send and receive information on the network. Each computer or device needs settings such as the network name and the network security key so that it can communicate with the router.
Can I use software other than Windows to manage my wireless network connections?
Yes. Even though automatic wireless network configuration is enabled by default in Windows, you can disable it by installing and using a different program. Many network adapters come with their own wireless management software. If you're using another program to manage your wireless network connections and you want to use Windows instead, follow these steps:
- Turn off or disable the other program.
- Click to open Command Prompt.
- Type netsh wlan show settings.
- If automatic wireless network configuration is turned off, you'll see Auto configuration logic is disabled on interface "Interface name."
- To enable auto configuration, type set autoconfig enabled=yes interface="Interface name.
Source: Windows Help & Support