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Setting up an automatic wireless network

Setting up a automatic wireless network connection is a simple task because of the way Windows XP has integrated wireless technologies into the operating system. From setup to data transfer Windows XP has integrated an easy yet secure method of communications into the networking software.

The first stage of setting up a wireless network is to acquire the hardware. Although a review of hardware appliances is beyond the scope of this book, all wireless networks consist of hosting access points and client network cards that are installed in desktop and mobile computers. The only exception to this is in the case of Ad Hoc networks in which two computers communicate directly with each other through wireless devices attached to the computer. Currently, there are several brands of wireless network devices on the market, all of which communicate at about the same speed (max 11mbs) over a 2.4 gigahertz connection using the same technology as the typical 900 mhz (.9 gigahertz) phone.

TIP

Before purchasing any hardware to use with Windows XP you should check to be sure it is on the compatibility list provided on the CD or at http://www.microsoft.com/hcl/default.asp.

In addition to compatible hardware, there are a few other requirements that must be met in order to use Windows XP's Wireless Connection settings. These include the following:

  • You must be logged in to the computer as Administrator

  • The wireless adapter must support the Wireless Zero Configuration service. To verify this, check with your equipment representative or with the network adapter's manufacturer.

Once acceptable equipment is correctly installed on the computer using Windows XP, and all other requirements are met, it is time to make the connection and to configure the network settings.

  1. Go to Start

  2. Right click on My Network Places and select Properties from the menu

  3. Right-click the Wireless Network Connection and select Properties

  4. Select the Wireless Network tab

    • Check the Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings box to enable automatic wireless network configuration.

      With automatic wireless network configuration enabled you get:

      • Ability to connect to an existing wireless network

      • Ability to change wireless network connection settings

      • Ability to configure a new wireless network connection

      • Ability to setup preferred wireless networks

    • Clear the Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings box to disable automatic wireless network configuration. This option should be used if you are using third party configuration software (e.g. WAP11 Configuration Software provided by Linksys with the Wireless Access point) or an unsupported network adapter.

Connecting to an existing wireless network

TIP

At any time, click the Refresh button to reset the list of wireless networks within the range of your computer.

Access Point Infrastructure and Ad Hoc Infrastructure:

  1. Click Configure under Available Networks

  2. Under Wireless Network Properties, denote the wireless network key settings, or select The key is provided for me automatically if the network adapter contains the settings. If there is any question about these settings, contact your network administrator or the wireless network adapters manufacture.

Access Point Special Note: In the case that a network does not broadcast its name (i.e. DNS, WINS, and NetBIOS is not installed) the name will not appear under Available networks. To connect to a network that is available but not readily apparent, click Add under Preferred networks. In the Wireless Network Properties, enter the network name (Service Set Identifier) and the WEP settings.

Ad Hoc Special Note: In the case that both a computer-to-computer (ad hoc) network and access point network (infrastructure) network are located within range of your computer and you wish to use the Ad Hoc connection exclusively, select Advanced and click the Computer-to-computer (ad hoc) networks only check box.

Changing the wireless connection setting

  1. Select the wireless network listed in Preferred networks that you wish to adjust

  2. Click Properties and alter the settings

Configuring a new wireless connection

  1. Under Wireless Network Properties, enter the Service Set Identifier in as the network name, and, if necessary the WEP settings.

  2. If the new network is a computer-to-computer (ad hoc) network, check the This is a computer-to-computer (ad hoc) network; wireless access points are not used check box.

  3. To enable your computer to automatically connect to networks within range that are not included on the Preferred networks list, select Advanced and then check Automatically connect to non-preferred networks box.

Adjusting the preferred wireless connection

  1. To adjust the preferred network list, click the wireless network you want to adjust, click Properties and update the settings as required.

  2. To delete a wireless network from the preferred network list, select the wireless network that you want to remove under Preferred networks, and click the Remove button.

The previous instructions will set up your wireless network under the 802.11 authentication method. To further secure your network, use the 802.1x authentication provided with Windows XP. The following segment will discuss this method in more detail.

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