A network can be one computer connected to the Internet, or two or more computers connected to each other (and possibly to the Internet as well). In a wireless (Wi‑Fi) network, the computers are connected by radio signals instead of wires or cables. Advantages of wireless networks include mobility and the absence of unsightly wires. Disadvantages can include a slower connection speed than a wired network and interference from other wireless devices, such as cordless phones.
Here are answers to some common questions about wireless networks.
Currently, there are four options: 802.11b,
802.11a, 802.11g, and 802.11n. The tables below compare these technologies.
The transfer times listed are under ideal conditions. They're not necessarily achievable under normal circumstances because of differences in hardware, web servers, network traffic conditions, and so on.
Up to 11 megabits per second (Mbps)
Has good signal range
Has the slowest transmission speed
Allows for fewer simultaneous users
Uses the 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) frequency (the same as many microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other appliances), which can cause interference
Up to 54 Mbps
Allows for more simultaneous users
Uses the 5 GHz frequency, which limits interference from other devices
Has a shorter signal range, which is more easily obstructed by walls and other obstacles
Is not compatible with 802.11b network adapters, routers, and access points
Has a transmission speed comparable to 802.11a under optimal conditions
Allows for more simultaneous users
Has good signal range and isn't easily obstructed
Is compatible with 802.11b network adapters, routers, and access points
Uses the 2.4 GHz frequency so it has the same interference problems as 802.11b
Depending upon the number of data streams the hardware supports, 802.11n can transmit data at up to 150 Mbps, 300 Mbps, 450 Mbps, or 600 Mbps
Has the fastest speed
Uses multiple signals and antennas for better speed
Has the best signal range and isn't easily obstructed
Is resistant to interference from other devices
Can use either the 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz frequency
If using 2.4 GHz frequency, it's compatible with 802.11g network adapters, routers, and access points
If using the 2.4 GHz frequency, it can have the same interference problems as 802.11b
This protocol is still being finalized, and some requirements could change
If you have more than one wireless network adapter in your computer or if your adapter uses more than one standard, you can specify which adapter or standard to use for each network connection. For example, if you have a computer that you use for streaming media to other computers on your network, you should set it up to use an 802.11a or 802.11n connection, if available, because you'll get a faster data transfer rate when you watch videos or listen to music.
Your computer needs an internal or external wireless network adapter. To see if your computer has a wireless network adapter, do the following:
Open Network Connections by clicking the Start button , and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type adapter, and then, under Network and Sharing Center, click View network connections.
The adapters installed in your computer are listed here.
Open Connect to a Network by clicking the network icon ( or ) in the notification area.
Public wireless networks are convenient, but if they're not properly secured, connecting to one might be risky. Whenever possible, only connect to wireless networks that require a network security key or have some other form of security, such as a certificate. The information sent over such networks is encrypted, which can help protect your computer from unauthorized access. In the list of available wireless networks, each unsecured network is labeled. If you do connect to a network that's not secure, be aware that someone with the right tools can see everything that you do, including the websites you visit, the files you send and receive, and the user names and passwords you use. You should not send and receive documents or visit websites that contain personal information, such as your bank records, while you're connected to an unsecured network.
If you've connected to the network before, make sure your computer is within range of the network, the router or access point is turned on (if you have access to the router or access point), and the wireless switch on your computer is turned on. (Not all computers have a switch; if yours does, it's typically located on the front or side of the computer.) If you haven't connected to the network, broadcasting might be turned off and you might have to manually add the network. To add a network that isn't broadcasting, follow these steps:
Open Manage Wireless Networks by clicking the Start button , and then clicking Control Panel. In the search box, type wireless, and then click Manage wireless networks.
Click Add, and then click Manually create a network profile.
Type the network information.
If you want Windows to automatically connect when the network is in range, select the Start this connection automatically check box.
Select the Connect even if the network is not broadcasting check box, click Next, and then click Close.
If you select this option, your computer's privacy might be at risk. Having no hidden networks configured prevents your computer from broadcasting its location, and this improves your computer's security.
The network will be added to your list of networks and will be available to connect to when your computer is in range of the network. To connect to the network, follow these steps:
Click Unnamed Network, and then type the network information.
The network is added to your list of networks and is available to connect to in the future when your computer is in range.
The other computers and devices on your network need to know how to communicate with the wireless router so they can send and receive information on the network. Each computer or device needs settings such as the network name and the network security key so that it can communicate with the router.
Yes. Even though automatic wireless network configuration is enabled by default in Windows, you can disable it by installing and using a different program. Many network adapters come with their own wireless management software. If you're using another program to manage your wireless network connections and you want to use Windows instead, follow these steps:
Turn off or disable the other program.
Open the Command Prompt window by clicking the Start button . In the search box, type Command Prompt, and then, in the list of results, click Command Prompt.
Type netsh wlan show settings.
If automatic wireless network configuration is turned off, you'll see Auto configuration logic is disabled on interface "Interface name".
To enable auto configuration, type set autoconfig enabled=yes interface="Interface name".
See A Support Guide for Wireless Diagnostics and Troubleshooting.