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How do I Set up a Home WLAN?

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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2016
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There are generally three steps for setting up a home Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN). First, you'll need to determine whether you want your home WLAN to connect to the Internet. Next, you'll need to select the wireless standard for your WLAN. Finally, you'll need to set up the access point(s) of your home WLAN and/or connect all the components that you want on your home network.

The first step to setting up your WLAN is to determine whether you want an Internet accessible home WLAN or not. If you don't need Internet access for your WLAN, you'll want an ad hoc WLAN — sometimes referred to as an Independent Basic Service Set (IBSS) or peer-to-peer network. This type of WLAN simply requires the linkage of two or more computers, wirelessly. An infrastructure WLAN, on the other hand, connects one or more computers to the Internet through an access point. For people who want wireless Internet access at home, this access point is often the router which is physically connected to a modem.

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Home WLAN components communicate with each other through a standard — the 802.11 standard. There are four versions of this standard: a, b, g, and n, and components that operate on one standard may not be compatible with components that operate on another standard. For example, since 802.11b and g work on the 2.4 GHz frequency and 802.11a works on the 5.0 GHz frequency, you won't be able to have a 802.11g WLAN with 802.11b components. Only 802.11n works on both frequencies. Determining the standard for your WLAN in light of the components you want to link to your WLAN is an important step in the set up process.

The final step will depend on whether you're setting up an ad hoc home WLAN — one without Internet access, or an infrastructure WLAN — one with Internet access. For an ad hoc WLAN, you'll need to configure your wireless devices to "talk" directly to each other without an access point in between — access points are reserved for infrastructure WLANs. To get the computers to communicate, each will have to have their own wireless adapters which are set to ad hoc mode and the same channel number. Finally, you will name your network, creating a Service Set ID (SSID) that your computers and other devices will connect to.

For an infrastructure home WLAN — one that does connect to the Internet — you'l first want to find a central location for your access point. You'll need to plug in the access point (or router) to the power and then connect it to your modem. Next, you'll need to configure your router which is often easiest by using the web interface offered by the manufacturer of the router. To configure your router, you'll need to select an SSID, set the channel your network will operate on, and set the security options to WPA or WEP or MAC. Each component you want to connect to your WLAN will need to be individually linked via the component itself. Wired devices, like printers, can be connected to WLANs too.

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