What Do You Need for a Wi-Fi Connection?
By Jody Paterson
Wireless connections are simple to set up as long as you have the right equipment and access to high-speed Internet services in your area. You’ll need a computer or laptop with wireless capability, a broadband Internet connection through your phone or cable service and a wireless router or access point. Temporary “ad hoc” wireless networks are also possible without a router for Microsoft users wanting to share documents at a meeting or connect multiple computers together for gaming.
You’ll need access to high-speed Internet, also known as broadband, for a wireless connection. Broadband connects computers to the web through phone lines (DSL), television cable, wireless broadband or satellite, and is up to 10 times faster than dial-up Internet. Broadband is widely available in the United States through companies providing phone, cable TV and cell phone services, and via satellite in more remote areas.
Wireless capability is a standard feature in many newer-model computers. If you’re not sure whether yours has it, check operating instructions for your system for directions on how to find out. Computers without built-in capability will need a network adapter to go wireless. Microsoft recommends PC users choose a USB wireless adapter for desktop computers and a card-based adapter for laptops. Mac computers use AirPort software for wireless connections.
Routers convert broadband signals for wireless connection. If you already have a broadband connection, the modem that connects your computer to the Internet may have built-in wireless capability. In that case, follow the modem router’s instructions for a wireless connection. Modems without built-in capability require external routers, which start at $40 as of the time of publication. Pick a router with Wireless-G or Wireless-N networking technology for most extensive compatibility. Wireless networks of more than five computers -- businesses, for instance -- require a wireless access point rather than a router.
Computer-to-computer wireless networks that don’t require a router are available for Windows 7, Vista or XP operating systems. All computers participating in the network must have wireless capability, either built-in or through an external adapter. Follow the steps for the specific operating system to set up the network, which can be used for sharing documents at a meeting or playing games. The wireless connection remains until the networked computers log out.
Jody Paterson is a longtime Canadian journalist who has worked for British Columbia newspapers since 1982. A former managing editor of the "Victoria Times Colonist," Paterson continues to write a column for the paper. She launched a small communications business in 2004 and expanded her work to include magazine pieces, newsletters, professional communications and strategy.