Posted 05 April 2011 - 10:18 AM
My first advice is to keep working with the people on this site. It is one of the best places to learn I've ever found on the internet. The pro's here (and, I'm NOT one of the pro's!) will guide you through whatever you are trying to set up. Just be patient. Since it's all volunteer, your answers may not arrive as quickly as you may like but, you can be sure that you will rarely be misled from the members on BC.
As far as setting up a relatively safe wireless network in your home, it's really not as complicated as it may seem. What I have learned it to spend a little extra money on my wireless router and my wireless network adapters. I am connected to the internet via DSL. Mine is provided by AT&T in my area. It is a high-speed DSL but, it is not U-Verse. So, what I have is a DSL filter (adapter) which has two outlet ports on one end and a standard phone plug on the other. That's plugged into my standard phone jack on my wall. Your DSL service provider will send some of these filters out with their router. You can also buy them from almost any electronics store. One of the two ports accepts a standard phone cord which is then plugged into a DSL modem/router. The other outlet is for pluggging in a standart telephone (or fax machine, etc). You will then need a similar filter which has only one outlet port for each phone jack in the house that is being used by a phone, fax machine, answering machine, etc.
I did not like the modem/wireless routers provided by AT&T with their service (at $4.00/month!) so, I went to Fry's and bought a standard Motorola DSL modem for about $50.00. It is not wireless. It's just a modem. It has a standard phone jack on the back to accept the other end of the phone cord coming from the filter attached to the wall jack. It also has a USB port and an ethernet port (it accepts an RJ-45 plug that looks like a big standrd phone connection) on the back. I plugged one end of an ethernet cord (bought at WalMart or Home Depot, I think. They're sold everywhere in varying lengths) into the ethernet connection on the back of the modem and the other end into the Input port on the back of a good wireless router (once I had the right router!). The key is to buy a good wireless router. Some people like Linksys (by Cisco). Others like D-Link. There are plenty of others. You'll spend about $75.00 or more on this router, depending on features.
Here's the important part for me. If you can afford it, get a Wireless-N300 Dual Channel router. At minimum, be sure you get a Wireless-N300 router. (Again, watch the brand name! If it's only $29.95 when the supposedly comparable D-Link or Linksys is over $70, there's a reason!) Then, make sure your internal wireless cards in all of your computers are Wireless-N300 or better. The older internal cards are wireles-G (or wireless-B for even older stuff). The security of your network depends greatly on the type of security these devices allow you to use! As long as all of your wireless adapters (whether USB or internal) and your wireless router are Wireless-N300 or better, the security features your network will support will be technologically current.
Internal wireless cards are going the way of the dinosaur for desktop computers. Wireless USB adapters are the most common adapters for desktops now. They are also more convenient, at least for me. If your desktop system is sitting down low in the cubby-hole of a computer desk (the one made to get your CPU tower out of your way) and you use an internal wireless card, then the antenna sticking out of the back of your system is not in a good location to pick up a signal. You can spend money on high-gain antennas for your wireless card which will help, but ONLY if your wireless card has an interchangable antenna. With a decent Wireless-N300 USB adapter, you will plug a cord into a USB port on the back (or front) of your system and the antenna can sit on top of your desk. Some can even be wall-mounted above your desk. Your connections strength becomes much better.
As far as your security goes, Wireless-N 300 supports WPA2 level security. I don't know what it stands for. I just know, and I'm going on what I've been told and what little reading I've done 'cause I'm certainly no expert, it's currently the strongest wireless security. When you install your wireless router on your computer (pick one desktop to install it on), you will need to name your network or you can accept the default name that the router firmware suggests. For security reasons, I made up a random name that is not even a word for my network. That way, anyone within range who picks up the signal doesn't see a name that may give a clue as to the owner of the network. That name is called an SSID (again, don't know what it stands for). That is the name the router broadcasts to say "hey, I'm an available wireless network". The most important part of the set-up is to select the WPA2 level security a create a strong password. Here is the place I went crazy. This is my access point to my home computers and my business computers! Forget about 6 & 8 character, easy to remember passwords. Make it long, make it random, write it down and DON'T LOSE IT! A strong password (called a passphrase) for a WPA2 protected wireless network will look something like this:
Up to 22 characters is not a bad idea. Intersperse with capital letters and symbols just like you see above. Don't worry abut remembering the thing. You should only have to use it again if your network goes completely down and your router resets. Hasn't happened to me yet. As far as setting up your other computers, have a flash drive handy when you install your wireless router on your desktop computer and your router will create a wireless setup file to load onto your other computers.
Bottom line: Buy decent, CURRENT router and adapters, read and follow the instructions and you will have a secure wireless network for your home.
Just Remember "To Err Is Human" (To REALLY Foul Things Up Requires A Computer!)