Wi-Fi/Setting up a hotspot

This page provides general information about configuring a wireless hotspot.



Wireless networks require hardware, and to a lesser degree, software.



At a minimum, the following are needed:

  • A router — This typically connects to a high-speed internet connection and manages the network's communication with the Internet. If you're dealing with a network not connected to the Internet (Rare), a switch or hub may be used. If you're only connecting two computers to each other (An "Ad Hoc" network), only adapters are needed.
  • Adapters for each machine on the network — These will be expansion cards for desktop computer and PCMCIA cards for laptops.

If you have a large area to cover, separate antennas and/or access points may be needed.



All computers on the network need to have an operating system version (Windows, Mac OS, Linux, etc) that can deal with wireless networking.

  • All Windows from 98 on have some degree of ability in this field. 98, ME and 2000 require additional software and drivers. XP with the latest updates from Microsoft will work automatically with many network cards, Vista will work natively.
  • Mac OS 9 has some wireless networking ability, 10 will work natively.
  • Most recent Linux kernels have built-in wireless networking capability.



Most wireless routers also have 4 Ethernet (Hardwired, conventional networking) ports on them. If you have a machine that you don't or can't put on the new network, consider locating it and the router close together so it can get on the network by a cable.

Both adapters, routers and other ancillary parts can range in price from 20 USD up to several hundred. A good advice is to go with a well known brand, the currently dominant three are D-link, Linksys and Netgear.

Hardware setup


Assuming a basic router-and-clients setup, the following hardware will be needed:

  1. At least one router
  2. A wireless adapter for each machine that doesn't already have one (Some laptops have built in antennas)
  3. A cable and adapter for each machine that will be wired into the network
  4. Depending on the layout of your house and devices, you may need some repeaters. The following section will explain this.

Location of equipment


Most likely your router will have to connect to your modem (If you don't have an Internet connection, you can disregard this). If this is in a central location for your planned uses, then you will likely not need anything beyond the router and adapters. If you're installing the modem and are planning to have wireless networking, consider installing it in a central location.

If not, you can run more wiring in your house to get it to the router, or accept a weaker signal in the parts of the house farther from the router. If this is an issue, you may want to invest in a repeater that can bring your wireless signal to the far corners of your house.

As discussed previously, wireless signal strength is of significant importance. Some points of information about signals and permeability:

  • Wireless signals can pass through drywall relatively easily, but if it must pass through a significant number of walls the signal will degrade rapidly.
  • Wireless signals do not travel well through cinder block walls.
  • Wireless signals can be disrupted by ducts of a climate control system.
  • Water can greatly distort wireless signals. Take into account aquariums, sinks, and water pipes. Remember, the human body is 66% water, so locations with a high density of people can distort wireless signals. This also includes rain or humidity, so consider bath/shower rooms or other regularly wet areas.

If you want coverage outdoors (which can be very nice during good weather with a laptop!), consider locating the router or a repeater near a window facing the direction you want to cover. An upper floor can be an excellent place for a router or signal propagator for coverage around the outside of the building, and possibly inside as well.

Wiring up the router


Most residential routers are fairly simple to set up and have standardized markings. The usual setup is this:

  1. Plug the Ethernet (data) cable from your cable or DSL modem into the "WAN" port (If your modem has USB and Ethernet ports, use the Ethernet port and don't connect anything to the USB port).
  2. Plug any computers you wish to hard-wire to your router to one of the "LAN" ports. If every computer is to connect wirelessly, skip this step.
  3. If possible, disconnect the antenna, or shield it from transmission.
  4. Shut off/unplug your modem for about 15 seconds
  5. Restore power to your modem
  6. Plug in your router

The above steps may or may not cause the router to obtain an internet connection from the modem. These are VERY generic steps, which will sometimes work if the user's Internet Service Provider uses DHCP. If not, the router must be manually configured, and only the physical connections listed here will be of use to the user.

After a few seconds (At most), the router should start up with the default settings. Leave the antenna disconnected/blocked until you've had a chance to change the wireless security settings, as router defaults are notoriously insecure.

Router configuration


The vast majority of residential routers are configured by a "web-based interface" (A webpage which you can view with Firefox or IE or whatever you use to surf the web).

To access this webpage, a special address (called an IP address) is used. This is normally detailed in the users manual or "quick start guide". The username and password to be used are also listed. If a "quick start wizard" comes up, you can follow it through or dismiss it. The rest of this guide assumes that it didn't appear or was dismissed.

Once logged in to the router, the first steps should be to strengthen the security. See below...

Expansion cards should be installed with the computer turned off. PCMCIA cards for laptops can be inserted at any time. If the operating system doesn't automatically detect and set up the new networking hardware, try using the disc that came with it.

Default access point names

Access Point Default SSID Default IP Default Password
Netgear WGR614 netgear
Belkin F5D763* belkin54g
D-Link DSL-G604* G604_WIRELESS
Most Linksys Models linksys admin
Linksys WCG200 linksys admin