Wireless and Networking - The Basics and More!

A few years back, in order to network a few computers, you'd need to run miles of cables and then connect them to a server or massive router. You could then share printers and a broadband connection.

Now all this can be done at home - now all without wires flying about. Not only are wires a pain to lay and hide, they can also be a safety hazard, with a child potentially tripping over them, or they could even possibly overheat.

So, now that Summer is arriving wouldn't it be nice to browse the net wirelessly in the garden in the fresh air?

In practice, if the world was as perfect as that, everything would be great. Installation guides which are impossible to understand, error messages, buying and setting up all the right equipment, security, and disappearing signals are all problems but over the next few months we will show you how to get round all these problems and more!

We have information ranging from beginners to advanced professionals, whether this is your first network or you are trying to sort out problems with your existing network - you'll be bound to find something of use here - and if not, you can post your problem as a comment an we can even help to  to solve your problem.

This column isn't just about wireless networks, we will help you chose between wired and wireless and post about both.

Things you'll need to know:
  • There are different types of wireless standards - A, B, G and N. The best one to use at the moment is G, as it offers good transfer speed and a wide network range. N is the fastest but not all devices support it yet.
  • All adapters you buy and routers should be of the same standard to avoid problems and to diagnose them easier.
  • You may also want to buy all networking kit from the same manufacturer as some are incompatible with other brands.
  • Most new laptops will not require any extra hardware to connect to a wireless network.
  • Traffic travels through ports from your computer to the internet or to another device on the network on both wired and wireless networks.
  • Not only computers can connect wirelessly, Nintendo Wiis, Playstation 3s, mobile phones and more can be added to a network and can communicate with each other and/or the internet.
  • It is fairly common for you to have to plug in wireless devices to a router with cables, and then set them up to use them wirelessly, though this is not always the case.
Don't worry if this sounds tricky we will offer advice for all of the above through the upcoming weeks.
  • Laptops can be used wirelessly, but so can desktop PCs, with the introduction of PCI cards and USB dongles.
  • You can either buy a wireless router which is essentially a combined router and wireless access point, or if you already have a wired broadband network which is working via an Ethernet cable, you can add a wireless access point ' this extends your wired network to a wireless one.
Usually, there is no need to buy a wireless router or extra hardware when changing from one ISP to another, as you can often get a free wireless router. ISPs that currently offer a free wireless router all ready for you to use are:
  • AOL
  • Be
  • Orange
  • Possibly others, but I don't have time to research all.
Next week: Getting a good signal, the basics of file sharing and going wireless.


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