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How to Build a Wireless Network for Your Laptop

3 of 14 in Series: The Essentials of Networking with Your Laptop with Windows Vista

The process of putting together a wireless network is mostly a matter of configuring devices to work with your laptop. There are, by definition, no wires that need to be strung along the floor or through the walls; in many systems the only wires are a connection to a network router or a broadband modem, and a source of power.

  • If you already have a wired network in place, all you may need to add is a wireless access point. This box connects at one end to an existing Ethernet hub and terminates at the other end with an antenna that broadcasts and receives signals.

  • If you don’t have a wired network, or if you want to extend and expand an existing one, the hardware you need is a wireless router. This box contains a port that connects to your broadband modem or to a port on an existing wired router and also includes its own router and Ethernet hub as well as an antenna to send and receive WiFi signals.

Depending on the design of your home or office, you may be able to install a single WiFi access point or wireless router and reach everywhere you want to send the signal. Or you may have to find a way to extend the reach of your wireless signal by bringing an Ethernet cable to another part of the structure and installing the wireless router there or by adding a WiFi range extender or repeater. A repeater does exactly what its name suggests: it receives wireless signals (incoming or outgoing) and then rebroadcasts them in an amplified form.

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