How to Restrict Access to Your Wireless Network in Windows XP - dummies

How to Restrict Access to Your Wireless Network in Windows XP

By Dan Gookin

One major weakness of wireless networking is security. Your best move is to apply a good, solid network password. A better option is to restrict access to only those computers known to the wireless router or base station. That way, only computers you authorize can use the network, even when the network password is known.

How the technique works depends on the router. It may be called a wireless MAC filter, MAC address filter, network filter, or restricted MAC access. The idea is to supply the router with a list of MAC addresses. It works because every wireless NIC has a unique MAC address. The result is that only those PCs whose MAC addresses are known can access the wireless network.

After enabling MAC address filtering for your router, you need to enter the list of MAC addresses from the PCs that use that network.

Follow these steps to discover the wireless NIC’s MAC address in Windows XP:

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

  2. Open the Wireless Network Connection icon.

  3. Click the Support tab in the connection’s Status window.

  4. Click the Details button.

    Lots of information is listed in the Details dialog box, including the MAC address, which is listed in the Property column as Physical Address.

  5. Close the various windows and dialog boxes.

After you know the MAC address for a computer (or gizmo), you can access the wireless router and input that MAC address into the list of authorized computers. Yes, doing it is a pain, but the benefit is that only those computers you authorize can use the network. Considering that you need to input the MAC address only once for each computer, the security trade-off is probably worth it.

  • Every NIC has a unique MAC address.

  • MAC stands for Media Access Control. It’s a Scottish thing.

  • The MAC address is a series of six values separated by hyphens. The values include the numbers 0 through 9 and letters A through F.