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Setup a wireless network

Step-by-step guide to networking without wires

Without resources to create an elaborate network infrastructure, many small offices choose wireless networking because it's flexible, inexpensive - and easy to install and maintain.

1. Getting started

Networking your small business so you can easily share internet connections, files and printers doesn't require a major commitment of time or expense. A wireless network requires two main components:

Base station (also called a router or gateway)

Network adapter for each computer on your network

In a wireless network, radio waves are used to communicate between each networked computer's wireless adapter and the wireless base station. The base stations and adapters follow one of the 802.11 radio transmission standards developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The most popular versions of these standards are often referred to as Wi-Fi.

You can purchase base stations and network adapters from major computer retailers and simply follow the instructions to set them up. Once you've done so, you can start configuring your network. The steps that follow describe setting up workgroups and file and print sharing, and apply to both wireless and wired networking.

2. Establishing workgroups

One benefit of networking computers in your small office is that everyone can use certain files, folders and a printer. This happens when the owner of a computer makes files, folders or a connected printer available to others on the network through a process called "sharing." Once files, folders or a printer are shared, others on the network can then access them.

To facilitate this multi-user access, all of the computers that are sharing or accessing shared resources must first be members of the same workgroup.

Once a workgroup has been created, it is visible when you open My Network Places. (Click the My Network Places icon on your desktop.) The ability to see a whole workgroup simplifies the viewing and accessing of shared resources.

To specify a computer's workgroup in Windows XP operating system:


Click Start, click Control Panel, and then double-click System. If you don't see a System icon, click Performance and Maintenance, and then click System.


Click the Computer Name tab.


Click Change, and then in the Workgroup box, enter the name of the workgroup you want to join or create.

Naming conventions are important to keep in mind when you set up or add computers to workgroups. A workgroup name must be:

The same for all computers in the workgroup

Different from any computer name in the workgroup

Computer names, meanwhile, must be unique:

No other computer in the workgroup can have the same name

The computer name must also be different from the workgroup name

3. Sharing files, folders or drives

Sharing resources is configured from the computer that contains the files and folders you want to share. You can share an entire drive so that all the files and folders on that drive become available to the other computers, or you can share just specific folders.

To share a file, folder or drive using Windows XP:


Enable file sharing on your computer if you haven't already done so by running the Network Setup Wizard. Click Start, click Control Panel, click Network and Internet Connections, click Network Setup Wizard. You only need to do this once on your computer.
Note: You must have administrative privileges on your computer to share files and folders in Windows XP.


Open My Computer.


Browse to the folder that contains the files that you want to make available to other computers, and then select it.


On the File menu, click Sharing and Security.


Click Share this Folder on the Network tab. By default, the folder is made available to all of the other computers on your network, and everyone has read-only access. To give everyone read-write access, select Allow Network Users to Change My Files.

For shared files to be available to others, the computer with the files must be turned on and logged on to the network. Use My Network Places (Microsoft Windows XP) or Network Neighborhood (Windows 2000 and Windows 98) to navigate to and access shared files and folders on your network.

You can avoid having to navigate to a shared resource using My Network Places when you "map" your computer to the resource. When you map to a shared folder or drive to a drive letter on your computer, you can use My Computer or Windows Explorer to view it.

To map a shared folder or drive to a drive letter:


In Windows Explorer or My Computer, click the Tools menu, and then click Map Network Drive.


Browse to the location of the network resource you want to map, and then click OK.


Select a drive letter and then click Finish.

4. Sharing a printer or scanner

There are two types of shared printers:

Network printers are connected directly to a network, usually to a device called a print server rather than to a particular computer.

Local printers, which you're more likely to use, are attached to a single computer on a network. By setting up printer sharing, you can share a local printer with the other computers on the network.

After you have added a computer to a workgroup, you can share any printers that are connected to it. To share a printer, open the Printers control panel by clicking Start, pointing to Settings (or Control Panel) and then clicking Printers (or Printers and Faxes). Select the printer you want to share and on the File menu, click Sharing, or click Properties and then click the Sharing tab. In the Sharing dialog box, choose to share or not to share the printer.

You can also share new printers that you install on any of your networked computers. If the Add Printer Wizard detects that your computer is on a network, the wizard will give you the option to share the printer when you install it.

If you cannot access the Sharing option, or if you see a message stating that file and printer sharing is not turned on, you must enable the File and Printer Sharing component in Windows. In Windows XP you can do that through the Properties page for your network connection. In other Windows operating systems, you can use the network control panel.

Here are some other things to know about sharing printers and scanners:

Naming a shared printer. When you choose to share a printer, you'll assign it a name in the Sharing dialog box to identify it to the entire workgroup. The name should be different from any other device name in the workgroup, and should not be the same as the workgroup name. Use a name that helps you easily identify it, such as the location or brand and model.

Setting up other computers to use a shared printer. To use a shared printer, each computer must have the printer driver installed that works correctly with its operating system. You can install the printer drivers by using Add Printers in the Printers control panel to install the printer on every computer that is going to use it. Install the printer as you would install any other printer, and select A network printer, or a printer that is attached to another computer option during the set up. You can then browse to the shared printer - provided that it and the computer it is attached to are turned on and accessible on the network - and then complete the installation.

On computers running Windows XP and Windows 2000, you can also install the drivers for other operating systems when you first share the printer. To do so, click Additional Drivers in the Sharing dialog box. You do not need to install the drivers in the other computers.

After the shared printer is set up, you can send print jobs from any of the computers in the workgroup exactly as you would print to a local printer.

5. Setting rules and security

If you are sharing files over a wireless network or with computers that are connected to the internet, security is an important consideration. If you don't take steps to help protect your network, it is possible for internet intruders or wireless eavesdroppers to access your shared files.

You can help protect computers on your wireless network from unauthorised access in several ways:

Install a firewall between the internet and your network. Software-based firewalls, such as Windows Internet Connection Firewall (ICF), might interfere with file sharing over the local network. Instead, use wired and wireless base stations with a built-in hardware firewall that helps provide security while allowing unrestricted file sharing over the local network.

Enable Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) or 128-bit wired equivalent privacy (WEP) to help prevent eavesdroppers from accessing your shared files.

Assign passwords to folders you want to protect by using Windows share-level access control, also known as "permissions."

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Quick Tips

Share individual files and folders from your Windows XP computer by dragging them or copying them to your Shared Documents folder.

You cannot share your copy of most software programs with others on your network although you can share files created by the programs.

When naming a printer on a computer not running Windows XP, avoid potential problems by using fewer than 31 characters in the name and no spaces or special characters.