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Home wireless network rules

Establishing a wireless network in your home requires a small investment and simple steps to secure the network. The convenience of accessing the Internet from multiple locations is worth the effort.

To make use of wireless access to the Internet, there must be receiving capability in the computer, an access point and connection with an Internet Service Provider. New laptops include wireless. Most desktops, due to their lack of portability, do not have wireless. Wireless can be added to desktops and older laptops through internal installation or an external adapter.

In your home, a wireless router or access point must be within range to receive a wireless signal. The access point connects (possibly through a wired router) with the ISP to whom you pay a monthly fee. This network also creates access to shared data on other computers in the network, printers and other devices. When connecting to wireless, you may see other wireless networks that are within range, which may or may not be secured.

To prevent unauthorized usage, secure your wireless network through the configuration of your access point. Select a WPA encryption method, which is preferred over WEP. Provide the requested password, which will be required when accessing your network.

Wireless was introduced for mainstream use as Wireless B in the year 2000. Like a Dewey Decimal number, 802.11 is the classification given for this category of wireless communication by the IEEE International Standards Committee (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). Wireless G, introduced in 2003, increased the data transfer rate from a maximum of 11 Mbps (megabits per second) to a maximum of 54 Mbps.

The standard for Wireless N was released in October 2009, establishing the official guidelines for the manufacture of Wireless N equipment, which has been available for use since 2007. Both Wireless B and G can experience interference problems from devices that use the 2.4GHz band, including cordless phones, Bluetooth devices and microwave ovens. Wireless N avoids that interference, and has a maximum transfer rate of 600 Mbps.

Current data transfer speeds available from local internet providers are roughly 40 to 50 Mbps. While Wireless N is capable of transfer speeds up to 600 Mbps, this currently can only be realized with data transfer within a Local Area Network. A laptop with Wireless N does receive a better signal when farther away from the access point, since Wireless N has about twice the range of Wireless G.

To improve the range or signal strength of your wireless network, move your access point to a higher location. For a more significant enhancement, install a Range Extender or an additional Access Point at a second location in your home. A high gain antenna can also be installed on the wireless router for increased range. Other options include bridges and uni-directional antennas.

For Internet use away from home, wireless hot spots are available to the public at many public buildings, restaurants and hotels. Find free wireless hot spots at www.

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277.