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How to set up a wireless router

Jen Wolfe lives in Scottsdale, AZ.

Go wireless!

Wireless means there are no cables connecting your computer to your modem. In short, a wireless router beams a signal to your computer (or wireless printer) that can be picked up from almost any place in your house – or even sometimes from your backyard. This means you keep the router and modem discreetly out of the way and have the freedom to move your computer to whatever location is convenient, especially if you have a laptop.

Woman with wireless connectionStep 1: Buy a router

The first step is to purchase a wireless router from any electronics or computer store. The good news is that wireless routers can be used with either PC or Mac operating systems so you don't have to worry about compatibility. You really have two choices for connection or bandwidth (802.11 b/g or 802.11n). The difference is that 802.11 b/g devices have a maximum bandwidth of 56Mbp (megabits per second) and 802.11n routers have a maximum bandwidth of 600Mbps. The one down side to 802.11n is that it is not backward compatible with 802.11b/g devices such as many wireless printers, older laptops, and desktops. Currently you may purchase 802.11n routers that also support 802.11b/g standards, but you will only get the 56Mbps bandwidth rate of the 802.11b/g devices and peripherals. You must also make sure that your computer has wireless capability; most of the computers made in the last two to three years do. In addition, wireless routers only work with high speed connections like cable or DSL so, if you have dialup, a wireless option is not your best choice.

Step 2: Install the software

Once you purchase the router, install the software that comes with it on your computer. Once the software is installed, connect the cables from your modem to your router. The best place to put the router is high on a shelf so that the signal is broadcast or beamed all over your home and isn't bouncing down into the floor. Then, following the instructions provided with your router, login to the router from your computer and set up your secure network. You can create an open network, but your computer is more vulnerable to being hacked if you don't have a secure or encrypted network. To create that network, you need to create a security password.

Step 3: Set your password

Your password should be a mixture of letters and numbers, roughly eight characters in length, and not something obvious like your birthday or your last name. You don't want someone guessing your password and hacking into your system. A good suggestion is to substitute certain letters with characters. For example, "Before Time" could become B4Tyme!.

Step 4: Get connected

Once the router connection is created, you can have your computer find the wireless connection. It should automatically acquire it. If you are having difficulties, there should be instructions that come with the router that will help you troubleshoot most problems.

Quick TipIf all this sounds too technical and scary, then places like Best Buy have a Geek Squad on staff that can install the system for you.

More computer how-tos

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