Now that you have both the AP and NIC installed, you must configure them to work together. This isn’t as tricky as it sounds. Most wireless equipment is designed to work almost without configuration. The only things you need to configure are customization settings (name, network address, etc.) and security settings.
Windows XP includes software to automatically configure a wireless connection and it installs this software automatically when you install a wireless NIC. The first time you reboot after the installation of the NIC, you will see a screen like the one shown in Figure …… This is the Windows wireless configuration screen. From this screen, you can see any available wireless networks and configure how a computer connects to them. You can also configure several of the properties for how this wireless NIC connects to a particular wireless network:
Use Windows to Configure My Wireless Settings. This check box determines whether or not Windows XP will configure the wireless settings. When it’s unchecked, Windows XP will need an external program to configure how it connects to a wireless network, as is the case with some wireless NICs that have their own software program for this purpose. It is usually best to let Windows XP manage your wireless settings.
Available Networks This list shows of all the wireless networks within range. The networks are listed by their SSID. From this list, you can choose which network you wish to connect to and you can configure how your workstation connects by clicking the Configure button. If you don’t see the wireless network you are looking for and you are in range, click the Refresh button.
Preferred Networks This list details any wireless networks you have connected to before and want to connect to again automatically. If there is more than one wireless network in range, this list determines the order in which the workstation will try to connect to them. You can change this order using the Move Up and Move Down buttons.
In addition to the general configuration, you may have to configure the encryption for the connection (if the wireless connection you are using requires it). To set up how your workstation use encryption for a particular connection, from the screen shown in Figure click the SSID of the wireless network you want to configure, and then click Configure. You will then see the screen shown in Figure.
From this screen, you can configure several parameters for the specific connection:
Network Name If for some reason the SSID of the WAP changes, you can change the name of the WAP our are connecting to in this field. Just delete the old one and type in the new name.
Wireless Network Key (WEP) This section contains all the parameters for configuring encryption for this connection. If the network you are connection to uses WEP encryption, this is the section where you will click the check boxes and configure how the wireless connection uses WEP, the key it uses, and what type of key it is. The following parameters are in this section:
Data Encryption (WEP Enabled) If the network uses a key to encrypt data sent over the network, you should make sure this box is checked (it is checked by default). You will then need to specify the key in the box labeled Network Key. You will also need to specify what type of key it is (ASCII or hex) by selecting the appropriate item from the drop-down list.
Network Authentication (Shared Mode) If your WAP uses shared mode authentication, you must check this box to ensure that your workstation will authenticate to the WAP using the shared key. Often, the key is provided automatically by the WAP during the response to the initial request. If this is the case, you must check the checkbox labeled The Key is Provided for Me Automatically (the default). Otherwise, uncheck it and enter the key and related information in the appropriate boxes.
This Computer Is a Computer-to-Computer (Ad Hoc) Network Check this box if you are connecting to another computer instead of an access point.
Once you have changed any settings you need to, click OK to save the changes and finish the configuration.
In addition to configuring the workstation (s), you must configure the WAP. There are literally hundreds of different WAPs out there, and each uses a different method to configure its internal software. But, for the most part, they follow some general patterns.
First of al, out of the box, the WAP should come configured with an IP address (usually something similar to 192. 168.11; check the documentation that comes with the AP to be sure). You can take the WAP out of its box, plug it into a power outlet, and connect it to your network. But, in order for it to work, you’ve got to configure its IP address scheme to match your network’s to do that, you’ve usually got to do a little sleight of hand. Start by configuring a workstation on the wired network with an IP address (192.168.1.2 or similar) and subnet mask on the same subnet as the WAP’s. You should then be able to connect to the AP to begin the configuration progress. Usually this is done either with a web browser or with a manufacturer-supplied configuration program.
Once you have successfully connected to the WAP, you can configure its parameters. The following are a few parameters common to WAPs that must be configured at a minimum for the AP to work properly.
SSID As discussed earlier, this is the name of wireless network that this AP will advertise. It this new WAP is to be part of an existing wireless network, it should be configured with the same SSID as the existing network. In a network with only on WAP, you can think of the SSID as the “name” of the AP.