Wireless Network Hardware in Windows 8 - dummies

Wireless Network Hardware in Windows 8

By Mark L. Chambers

After you install your wireless base station or WAP for your Windows 8 network, you’re ready to configure your PC for use on your network.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Petar Chernaev]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/Petar Chernaev

Before you install of an internal adapter card

Before you begin the installation of an internal adapter card, make sure that you

  • Read the manual. Even if you already installed an adapter card in your PC, take a few minutes to check the documentation that shipped with the card.

  • Gather the Big Four. Find a Phillips screwdriver, a plastic bowl to hold any spare parts, a good light source, and some sort of static-free cover for your work surface. (Newspaper always works well if I’m away from my workbench.)

  • Ground yourself. After you remove the cover from your PC, touch the metal chassis of your computer to dissipate any static electricity that’s stowing away on your body before it can cause damage to the card.

All manufacturers of wireless adapter cards (for desktops) and wireless PC Cards (for laptops) include their own installation and setup programs — which also create the necessary wireless connection automatically within Windows.

After the installation of new wireless hardware

During the setup of new hardware (or the configuration of built-in hardware), keep these points in mind:

  • Choose between ad hoc and infrastructure. You might be prompted to choose between ad hoc and infrastructure mode. You want to choose infrastructure mode (where your laptop and PC workstations connect by using a base station or wireless access point) rather than ad hoc (where the devices talk directly to each other on a specific channel number that you determine, without a base station or WAP).

    Note: If you’re trying to connect your wireless device to your existing wired network, you must use infrastructure mode.

  • Check your WPA/WPA2 encryption. When prompted for WPA/WPA2 information, use the highest level that the PC card supports. WPA2 is designed to automatically fall back to the encryption level used by your base station or WAP.

  • Assign your own passwords! Base stations, wireless routers, and WAPs use an administrator name and password to identify you, and often this information even allows remote control. (Read that term as hacker banquet.) Therefore, you should always assign your own administrator name and password while configuring your wireless network!

  • Check your SSID. You need an SSID (short for Service Set Identifier) that matches the SSID used by your base station or WAP. Remember: Change the SSID to the unique value that you used on your base station or WAP. For the best level of security, don’t use the default SSID!

  • Keep your drivers and firmware current. Check for the latest drivers and firmware updates from the manufacturer’s website every time you install new hardware — including wireless networking hardware.

Make the connection

Microsoft recommends that your wireless base station or WAP broadcast the SSID, as long as you’re using WPA/WPA2 encryption in infrastructure mode. This makes everything easier and more automatic, as long as you select an SSID of your own. (Don’t use the default SSID, or else you’ll leave a security hole in your wireless network.)

With a broadcasted SSID, connecting is as easy as plugging your wireless network card into your laptop — of course, with built-in wireless hardware, you don’t need to do a thing. Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 automatically search for and connect to your network. (The first time you connect, you’ll be prompted to choose your network and provide the proper password.)

If you’re using a desktop PC with a wireless card, this same process occurs when you log in to Windows. You see on the taskbar a notification icon letting you know that the connection has been made as well as how strong the signal is.