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Home » Computers and Internet » Networking » Wi-Fi 802.11

How To Choose a Wireless Router (Wireless Access Point)

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You walk into your local electronics store. You're going to buy a wireless router. Then you look at the shelf. In fact, it's many shelves. A dozen different wireless routers are staring back at you offering a maze of choices. WAP, WEP-enabled, 802.11b/g, and many more confusing terms. What do they mean?  Don't worry! After reading this article you'll be ready to buy your first wireless access point.

First, the two major manufacturers of wireless routers is Linksys and D-Link. Both companies produce excellent equipment. For the most part, all equipment made by these two companies is reliable and easy to install and configure. You can't go wrong with either one.

Second, you must choose between 802.11b, 802.11a, or 802.11g. Without getting into all the technical reasons, it's best to choose 802.11g simply because it offers fast speeds while being compatible with the older 802.11b standard. Make sure that the specification of your router matches your wireless network card for your laptop. For example, an 802.11g wireless router will not work with an 802.11a laptop card.

Next, decide what you need it for. Do you want to network three or four computers or are you just looking to connect a single computer wirelessly to the Internet? Most wireless routers have three or four Ethernet ports on the back which allow you to connect non-wireless computers directly to the router. If you are installing your system in a small office, this is convenient because you can directly connect your office computers to the wireless router using their Ethernet cards and use several laptops wirelessly. How many wireless users can connect to a single access point? Some will allow up to several hundred simultaneous users! Several hundred? Don't worry. We'll show you how to prevent all your neighbors from freeloading off of your wireless connection.

Securing your wireless router is easy, yet so many people just don't bother to do it. If you don't take the proper precautions, anyone in your neighborhood or simply driving by could access your network and potentially view or delete files on your computer! Most wireless routers are capable of WEP (wired equivalent privacy) which allows you to encrypt communication between your laptop and the wireless router. This makes it much more difficult for someone to intercept your data or log into your network. A new standard, WPA, is rapidly replacing WEP and most 802.11g routers support it. Make sure to activate WEP (or WPA) when you initially configure your wireless router.

Are there any other considerations? Of course! Some wireless routers have two antennas instead of one. Two antennas may offer better range in some circumstances. Also, though almost all have firewalls built in, some models may have Internet content filtering which may be useful for families who want to control what sites younger family members visit.

Well, that's it. Happy surfing (without the wires)!

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