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The Five things to get right before you but your wireless network

5 Things You Must Do Before You Buy Any Wireless Equipment.

Before you buy any wireless equipment, you need to be sure about what you’re doing. There’s nothing worse than having everything there and finding that it doesn’t work in your house, or with your computers, or over the distances you need. Here’s a handy checklist of the things that you really ought to do before you go out and spend any of your hard-earned cash on wireless networking equipment.

1.0 Check What Your Walls are Made Of.

Wireless can, in theory, pass through walls and other partitions easily. In practice, though, some walls are more solid than others, which means that they are more likely to block some of the signal. Note that it’s only your interior partitions that matter, not the exterior ones. This does, however, include your floors, if you want the connection to work between levels.

Wireless does well with partitions made from: drywall, plywood, other wood (including doors), glass.

Wireless has trouble with: brick, plaster, cement, metal, stone, double-glazed glass.

Basically, it’s all to do with how porous the materials are — ones that let more of other things through also let more of your wireless signal through.

If you have a wall made of one of the ‘bad’ materials, it’s not the end of the world. It just means that your wireless connection might have a slower speed or a shorter range. You may want to spend more than you otherwise would to get better equipment and overcome this problem.

Check for Possible Interference.

While it won’t stop a wireless network from working altogether, interference in its frequency range can slow it down significantly, as well as reducing its range. If something is causing interference, the first thing you’ll know about it is when your connection stops working — unless you know what to look for.

There are two very common causes of wireless interference: wireless phones and microwave ovens. 2.4Ghz, the most common wireless networking frequency, is also a commonly-used wireless phone frequency. It is possible, though, to find phones that use other frequencies. Microwave ovens, on the other hand, operate at around 2.4Ghz by definition. It should be alright to have devices like these in your house, but certainly not in the same room as any computer that you plan to use a wireless connection with.

Decide Your Budget.

You need to stand back, take a look at your needs, and decide how much you’re going to spend. Do you have long distances to cover? Do you want your connection to go through stone walls? Each factor will help you decide how much you should be looking to spend — remember that the more problems you have, the more power you will need. On the other hand, if you live in a small wooden house, you can probably just go for the cheapest thing you can find.

Read Other People’s Reviews.

It’s well worth searching a site like for wireless equipment, and taking a look at people’s reviews to see what the different brands out there are like, and what you can get for your money. It is always a very bad idea to buy something without getting a second, third and fourth opinion, especially if you’re buying it online. If you can, try to get to a computer shop and see some wireless networking equipment in action before you commit yourself.

Install and Update Windows XP.

Finally, your wireless life will really be improved if you have the latest version of Windows whether XP, Vista or 7. Because wireless is such a new technology, it wasn’t really around in any significant way back when Windows 98, ME and 2000 were released, and support for them wasn’t built in to the system. You’ll have a lot more trouble getting wireless to work on systems like these than you would on Windows XP I know when I first set up wireless on my laptop (old Windows) I had a devil of a job to get it to work – you need to be able to allow windows to manage the wireless connection transparently an not have to worry about Windows Zero Configuration (WZC) and all that. Also normally you do not have to worry about installing specific software for the router or USB wireless – this is all taken care of. To get around this I upgraded the operating system to Xp and the installation of wireless was done in five minutes!

Even if you’ve got Windows XP, though, that doesn’t solve the problem entirely. Windows XP Service Pack 2 (an updated version of Windows XP) contains much easier-to-use tools for configuring and using wireless than the un-updated versions do. If you’ve been using your copy of Windows for a while without updating it, you should really make sure you’ve got all the latest updates from before you go any further.


Ports and Cards: How to Tell What You Need to Get Started with Wireless

Ports and Cards: How to Tell What You Need.

There are all sorts of different devices you can buy that will give your computer wireless networking capabilities. If you’ve taken a look around, though, you might have been confused by all the kinds of equipment being offered — how things that look so dissimilar do the same task?

Essentially, the main difference between wireless devices is in how they connect to your computer. There are three main connection methods: PCI, PCMCIA and USB.

Desktops: PCI Cards.

PCI stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect. It is an old and established way of installing new equipment in a desktop computer. If you find a wireless card that looks like a green rectangle with something sticking out of the end, then what you’ve got is a PCI card.

To install a PCI card, you need to — horror of horrors — actually unscrew your computer, take the cover of, and plug the card in inside it. Scary as that might sound, it is designed to be very easy, and once it’s done your computer will have internal wireless networking capabilities for the rest of its life.

You should go for this option, then, if you own a desktop computer, and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty (perhaps literally — I’ve seen years worth of dust in those things) by installing it yourself. Or, of course, if you’re willing to pay someone to do the installation for you.

Laptops: PCMCIA Cards.

PCMCIA stands for Personal Computer Memory Card International Association. A PCMCIA slot is a small slot in your laptop that allows you to insert these cards and so add functions to your laptop quickly and easily. They were originally for memory expansion, but are now more often used for networking.

Almost all laptops have PCMCIA slots. If you’re not sure whether yours does, take a look at the side of the machine — you should see a slot there, probably near the CD drive. Even if you do have a slot, you need to make sure it’s free, by pressing the button to eject anything that might be in there. If it’s an Ethernet card then, well, not to worry, as you can just replace that, but if it’s anything else then you might want to consider using USB instead.

For 99% of laptop owners, at least, it’s best to use PCMCIA — the only reason some go with USB is because they didn’t know they had an alternative.

The Third Way: USB.

Whether you’re using a desktop computer or a laptop, you can use USB (Universal Serial Bus). USB ports look like very small slots, and could be almost anywhere on your computer — but it will help you to locate them if you remember that they very rarely appear in groups of less than two. Computers have come with these USB ports for years now, and newer computers often come with four or even more. If you need more space, you can buy a splitter (a USB hub) that allows you to use more devices than you have ports for.

So where’s the problem? Well, you wanted a wireless network, right? With USB, your network won’t be entirely wireless, as there will still be a small wire between your computer and the USB device — it might not sound like much, but it makes USB wireless on laptops a bit of a joke.

Another factor is that small USB devices are very easy to break — when I used to use USB wireless, I went through three new receivers inside a year. This is offset, of course, by the fact that USB wireless cards are usually the cheapest ones, and are far simpler to install than PCI.

Essentially, if you’re a laptop user without a free PCMCIA slot, or you’re a desktop user who doesn’t relish the prospect of opening up your PC, then USB is a good ‘third way’ for you.

If you do go the USB route, however, and you have a reasonably new computer, you should check whether the device you’re buying supports USB2. Most newer computers have USB2 ports, and using specially-designed USB2 devices with them can give you a significant speed boost.