How do I set up a wireless network?

A wireless network can make using your computer more relaxing by letting you take it anywhere in your house—to your couch, your bedroom, or even your backyard. With a wireless network, you don’t have to go out of your way to use the Internet, because it’s everywhere in your home. You also don’t have to be tied to your office to take care of other computer-related tasks—with a wireless network, you’re always connected. You can search the Web for ‘reseed lawn’ and then, while reclining in front of the TV, print out your garden center shopping list on the printer in your home office.

Adding a wireless network to your home is easier than you think. It requires four steps:

  • Choose your wireless equipment
  • Connect your wireless router
  • Configure your wireless router
  • Connect your computers and other devices

Choose your wireless equipment

The first step to setting up a wireless network is to make sure you have the equipment you need. You’ll need at least two network components: a wireless router and a wireless network adapter.

If you’re buying a new router, look for one with the Windows logo. This ensures that the router will work reliably in Windows XP, and if you decide to upgrade, it will work in Windows Vista and Windows 7 as well. Networking in Windows 7 has been simplified and improved. To learn more, see Windows 7 features.

Wireless router. Converts the signals coming across your Internet connection into a wireless broadcast, sort of like a cordless phone base station. Be sure you get a wireless router and not a wireless access point. For more information about choosing a wireless router, read Choosing the type of network to install.

A typical wireless router

Wireless network adapter. Connects your computer to your wireless router. If you have a newer portable computer, you might already have wireless capabilities built in. To find out if you have wireless networking built in, and for more information about buying and installing a network adapter, read Install a wireless network adapter. Make sure you have an adapter for every computer on your network.

A wireless network adapter connected to a desktop computerA wireless network adapter card inserted into a laptop

You can also connect your digital video recorder (DVR) or media extender to your wireless network. If the device has a wired network connection, use a wireless game adapter for a single device or a wireless bridge to connect multiple devices. Wireless game adapters aren’t just for games—they’ll work with anything that has a wired network port. For information about connecting game consoles to your network, read Connect an Xbox or Xbox 360 to your network.

Connect your wireless router

1. Before you go any further, print these instructions. You’ll be temporarily disconnected from the Internet, so while you’re doing the installation, you won’t be able to get to this page to refer to the instructions.
2. Locate your cable modem or DSL modem, and unplug it from its port to turn it off.

If you connect your modem to the wall in a similar way that you connect your TV to your cable television outlet, you probably have a cable modem, and it probably has a coaxial cable connected to it (like the round black or white cable you plug into your TV).
If you connect your modem through the phone lines, you probably have a DSL modem, and it probably has a phone cable connected to it.
3. If you currently use a dial-up connection to connect to the Internet, set up your wireless network using ad hoc Internet sharing.
4. Connect your wireless router to your modem. Your modem should stay connected directly to the Internet. Later, after you’ve hooked everything up, your computer will wirelessly connect to your router, and the router will send communications through your modem to the Internet.

Diagram showing the use of a modem and a wireless router to  connect a laptop and a desktop computer to the InternetTo connect your router to your modem:

If you currently have a computer connected directly to your modem: Unplug the network cable from the back of your computer, and plug it into the port labeled Internet, WAN, or WLAN on the back of your router.
If you don’t currently have a computer connected to the Internet: Plug one end of a network cable (included with your router) into your modem, and the other end of the network cable into the Internet, WAN, or WLAN port on your wireless router.

Inserting network cable into modemInserting network cable into router

5. Plug in your router. After a minute or two, the Internet, WAN, or WLAN light on your router should light up, indicating that it has successfully connected to your modem.

Status indicator lights on router

Configure your wireless router

There are two ways to configure your wireless router: using Windows Connect Now and manually.

If your router supports Windows Connect Now, you don’t need to continue reading this article. You can configure your wireless router and Windows XP computers quickly and easily by following the instructions in Using Windows Connect Now technology.
If you don’t have a router that supports Windows Connect Now, you need to manually configure your router:
1. Using the network cable that came with your wireless router, temporarily connect your computer to one of the wired network ports on your wireless router (any port that isnt labeled Internet, WAN, or WLAN).
2. Turn your computer on; it will automatically connect to your router.

Inserting network cable into routerInserting network cable into computer

3. Open Microsoft Internet Explorer and type in the address to configure your router, as described in your router’s instruction manual.

Internet Explorer address bar

4. Create a password if a prompt appears. The address and password you use will vary depending on what type of router you have, so refer to the instructions included with your router.

Password prompt

TipTip: As a quick reference, this table shows the default addresses, user names, and passwords for some common router manufacturers.

Router Address Username Password
3Com admin Admin
D-Link admin (leave blank)
Linksys admin Admin
Netgear admin password
5. Internet Explorer will show your router’s configuration page. Most of the default settings should be fine, but you should configure three items:

Set your wireless network name (known as the SSID) to something unique that does not identify your name or address.
Enable Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption to help prevent uninvited guests from connecting to your wireless network.

Note: We don’t recommend using WEP. WPA-2 is more secure. If you try WPA-2 and it doesn’t work, we recommend that you upgrade your network adapter to one that works with WPA-2.

Set your administrative password to prevent others from configuring your router.

The exact steps you follow will vary depending on the type of router you have. After each configuration setting (SSID, WEP, and administrative password), be sure you click Save Settings, Apply, or OK to save your changes.

Note: The pictures in this section show Linksys wireless equipment. Equipment from other manufacturers will vary in appearance. For example, to save your settings in Linksys, you click Save Settings. Other equipment may have a different display, and you may have to click Apply or OK.

SSID or naming your network

A service set identifier, or SSID, identifies your network. Choose a unique name that you’re confident none of your neighbors will use, but don’t specify your name or your address. This is not a security tool, so you don’t need to make the SSID complex.

Wireless router Basic Wireless Settings page, including SSID  information

Protecting your wireless network

Help prevent uninvited guests from connecting to your wireless network. To learn how, read Implement WPA2-Personal wireless security on a Windows XP SP2-based computer.

Administrative password

The last configuration change you should make is to the administrative password. Just like any other password, the administrative password should not be a word you can find in the dictionary, and it should be a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Be sure you can remember this password, because you’ll need it if you ever have to change your router’s settings.

TipTip: Write down your passwords on a piece of paper and store them in your home safe if you have one. If you don’t have a home safe, store your passwords with your other important family documents. If you think of your passwords as important documents, you’ll always know where to find them.

Wireless router password page

Now that you have configured your wireless router, named your wireless network, protected it, and assigned an administrative password, you are ready for the last step:

Disconnect the network cable from your computer—you’ll be able to connect wirelessly from now on.

Connect your computers and devices

If your computer does not have wireless network support built in, you can install a wired or a wireless network adapter. Windows XP will automatically detect the new adapter and might prompt you to insert the CD that came with it. The on-screen instructions will guide you through the configuration process.

Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) is not required for wireless networking, but it does make setting one up much easier. SP2 also helps protect you against viruses, worms, and other Internet intruders. To install SP2, visit Microsoft Update. The steps below apply only if you’re using SP2. Windows XP will show an icon with a notification that says it has found wireless networks.

Notification that a wireless network is detected

To connect your computer to your wireless network

1. Right-click the wireless network icon in the lower right corner of your screen, and then click View Available Wireless Networks.

Wireless network shortcut menu with View Available Wireless  Networks selected

Note: If you run into problems, consult the documentation that came with your network adapter. Don’t hesitate to call the manufacturer’s technical support number for help.

2. The Wireless Network Connection window appears and displays your wireless network listed with the SSID you chose. If you don’t see your network, click Refresh network list in the upper left corner. Click your network, and then click Connect in the lower right corner.

Choose a wireless network page in Wireless Network Connection  window

3. Windows XP prompts you to enter a key. Type the encryption key that you wrote down earlier in both the Network key and Confirm network key boxes, and then click Connect.

Wireless Network Connection window network key page

4. Windows XP will show its progress as it connects to your network. If the Wireless Network Connection window continues to show Acquiring Network Address, you may have mistyped the encryption key—click Cancel and return to step 3.

After you’re connected, you can close the Wireless Network Connection window. Now you’re ready to browse the Web wirelessly. You can also create a wireless network in your home that connects your computers, printers, cameras, games, and other accessories for easy access and enjoyment.




  1. Lise Planas

    June 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    nice blog, reminds me I must get around to adding more content on my own blog, kinda neglected them.

  2. Oswaldo Boender

    June 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

    interesting post, pretty much covered it all for me, thanks.

  3. satellite tv for pc

    June 26, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I enjoy keeping up to date on everything original so I’ll definitely be bookmarking this site.

  4. free loans

    August 11, 2010 at 2:37 am

    Good to view you back again. And again having an interesting article.

  5. commercial real estate investing

    September 18, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Hi buddy, your blog’s design is simple and clean and i like it. Your blog posts are superb. Please keep them coming. Greets!!!

  6. Rosetta Stone Hindi

    September 26, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Amazing stuff,Thanks so much for this!This is very useful post for me. This will absolutely going to help me in my projects .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top