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WiFi Setup Guide On Windows XP

Microsoft's most recent operating system, Windows XP, provides both wireless adapter drivers and client software, making it theoretically possible to plug in a wireless adapter and begin surfing right away. The operating system includes drivers for a number of popular wireless adapters, and client software included with Windows XP provides an interface to your wireless network. You can try the plug-and-play approach by simply connecting a wireless adapter (PC card or USB) to your computer while it's running. If Windows recognizes the new device, you can use the client software to find and join a network. If the Found New Hardware wizard does not greet you, however, you can easily install driver software for your adapter. The procedure is the same for Windows XP and Windows 2000.

Even if you're pretty sure that XP will recognize your wireless adapter, it's best to install the software supplied with the card or that you have downloaded from the vendor's Web site. Chances are that the vendor's software is more recent than the XP-bundled version.

To get started, locate the driver software for your adapter and install it. Do this before you connect or install the hardware, the next step. If you're adding a PCI or ISA-based wireless adapter to a desktop PC, be sure to shut down your computer before installing the card, otherwise you could damage the card or your system. If your adapter is a PC card or USB adapter, simply connect the device to your computer once the driver software has been installed.

The process of configuring networking settings in Windows XP is identical to the steps described on the Windows 2000/98/Me section of this guide. Follow the Windows 2000 instructions for creating and configuring a network connection, then read the steps below to set up Windows XP's wireless client software.

  1. With your wireless adapter drivers installed and the adapter connected or installed, start your PC. When your primary network connection appears, you will see a balloon announcing it pop up from the taskbar.
  2. Right-click on the Network Connection icon to which the balloon points. If the balloon disappears before you have a chance to click, move the cursor over the icon, using the tooltip to choose the wireless connection, rather than another network icon, say for an Ethernet connection, that may be on the Taskbar.
  3. Choose View Available Wireless Networks from the menu.
  4. You will see a list of all wireless networks in the upper portion of the window . Click a network to select it. If the network has a WEP encryption key, type and confirm it in the Network key fields and click Connect.

Ad-Hoc Networking

You can use Windows XP client software to create a peer-to-peer wireless network. The software also allows you to set up an Internet gateway, giving other members of the network access to the Internet via your computer's own connection.

To set up an ad-hoc network in Windows XP, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the icon for your wireless network in the System Tray and select Choose Available Networks.
  2. Click Advanced.
  3. If networks are listed in the Preferred Networks pane in the lower portion of the window, select each and remove it. This prevents an accidental connection from being made while you're creating your new network.
  4. Click the Computer-to-computer (ad-hoc) networks only button.
  5. Uncheck the Automatically connect to non-preferred networks checkbox if it's checked and then click Close.
  6. Click Add under the Preferred Networks label. The wireless Network Properties window opens.
  7. Type a name (an SSID) for your network.
  8. Leave WEP Encryption disabled until you've had a chance to test the network. Click OK.

In order for wireless computers on a network to communicate, their IP addresses must be on the same subnet. An IP subnet is a range of numbers that create boundaries for your local network. When your network is managed by a wireless gateway, the gateway's DHCP server typically hands out addresses within the same subnet to all members of the network.

Since your ad-hoc network does not have a server to provide addresses, you will need to create a static IP address for each device on the network. Using a private IP subnet, you can assign addresses that are valid only within the local network. For example, start by assigning the computer that hosts your network an IP address of 192.168.0.1, and give each client computer an address in that range (i.e. 192.168.0.2 through 192.168.0.254).
On each networked computer, use a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 and be sure that the gateway address field of each is empty. Once you're satisfied that the network works, you can return to the Wireless Network Connection Properties window to create a key. Then reconnect each client to the network, using the key.