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How to Find a Wireless Network Using Windows XP

The first problem you encounter when trying to make the wireless network connection is finding the network. Not all wireless networks show up at first blush.

Remember that physical objects around you affect the signal: walls, bookcases, large partitions made from lead, and superheroes. Those things readily block the wireless signal. Move around. Sometimes, moving the laptop just a few feet in one direction improves signal reception. Remember that if you cannot see the wireless hub directly, odds are good that you won’t get a solid signal.

Some wireless networks don’t send out their SSIDs. Although the wireless NIC still picks up the signal, no name is given for the access point. You have to supply the name.

In Windows XP, supply the SSID by following these steps:

  1. Open the Network Connections icon in the Control Panel.

  2. Right-click the Wireless Network Connection icon.

  3. Choose Properties from the shortcut menu.

  4. Click the Wireless Networks tab in the Wireless Network Connection Properties dialog box.

  5. Click the Add button.

    It’s found near the bottom of the dialog box.

  6. Type the SSID into the Network Name (SSID) text box in the Wireless Network Properties dialog box.

  7. If required, type the Network Key — twice.

  8. Click OK.

    You’re not connected at this point, but the network should now show up in the list of available networks. Connect to the network as you normally would.

Another cause of a dropped connection may be a timeout. For example, some for-pay wireless services give you only a limited amount of access time. After that time expires, you’re no longer connected or you may see the Pay Up home page rather than the Internet.

Finally, the connection problem may simply be that the password is incorrect. A dialog box warns you about it, but keep in mind that any wireless network passwords you stored in your PC might be changed by the various networks you access.

  • You can check the connection strength by pointing the mouse at the wee connection icon in the notification area.

  • In Windows Vista, the wireless connection strength is also displayed beneath the network’s information area in the Network and Connection Sharing window.

  • If you’re using Windows 7 or Windows Vista, you can install various wireless networking gadgets for the Sidebar. Most display the wireless network’s name, signal strength, and IP address.

  • Third-party utilities can also be used to gauge signal strength, such as the wireless networking tool shown earlier. Various war driver utilities, used to find wireless signals, can also be used to discover signal strength. The NetStumbler is a popular choice and can be downloaded from the web.

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