24 Dec 05
Once you have your modem online, hook your router to it. With the power to the router unplugged, attach an ethernet cord (which looks like a phone cord but much bigger) from the ethernet port on your modem to the "Internet" or "WAN" port on the back of your router. Unplug the the power to the modem for about 5 seconds and the plug it back in. Give it time to come back online, then plug the power to your router in.
Next, hook a computer up to your router with an ethernet wire. It is important to start with a wired connection so we can get the wireless connection set up properly. Wait until the router is online, turn your computer on. Open up an internet browser and browse to the router's LAN IP address by typing it into the address bar. This address varies by manufacturer, so check your documentation. It is usually 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1. There are some great instructions on portforward.com if you need help. If you have misplaced your documentation, it should be available online on your manufacturer's web site.
Find the default username and password in your router's documentation and login. After you login, you should see your router's administrative interface. This will allow you to make changes to the way the router works. The administration page looks different for every type of router, so you may have to tinker a little to find everything. Check your router's documentation if you get lost.
The first thing we need to do is change the default password of your router to keep people from changing your setup once you are done with it. Look for the "Administration" or "Security" tab. Once you get there, you should see an option to change your router's default login password. After you set the new password and save your settings, it will kick you out of the administrative interface and you will have to log in with the new password.
Next, look for the wireless settings. Usually, there is a tab that says "Wireless." Start in the general settings. Look for the field that says "SSID". This is the name of your wireless network. Replace the default setting with something unique. Something like "davesnetwork" or anything that is unique and easy to remember will work just fine. Leaving this setting as the default ("linksys", "netgear", or "ConnectionPoint") or having something that identifies you or your location is a security risk.
Next, look for a setting that says "SSID Broadcast" or something to that effect. This setting determines whether or not your router will broadcast your SSID, letting other wireless devices know that there is a network here. If you are running a public network such as a wireless HotSpot, leave this on. Otherwise, I recommend that you turn it off. Turning it off makes it much more difficult for people who you don't want on your network to find your network. The only downside is that it may take your computers slightly longer (a few seconds) to find the wireless network if they ever lose their connection.
MAC Address restrictions
Our next stop is "Wireless Network Access". Again, it may be called something different or may have it's own tab, so check your documentation and screen shots. In this section, you can limit the devices that are allowed to connect to your network. Usually, there are three choices. You can allow all devices to connect, allow all devices except the ones you list to connect, or you can block all devices except the one's you list.
If you have a public network, then allow all. If you have a home network, select "block all except those listed". You will then need to list every device you want to connect to the wireless network. On each wireless adapter you plan to connect to your network, there should be a MAC Address. This address uniquely identifies this particular device. It should be listed on the device itself, usually on a sticker. It may also be listed (and easier to read) on the packaging your adapter came in. Add each MAC Address to the list of allowed devices. Now, if someone happens to stumble onto your network, they won't be able to connect to it.
If your wireless adapter is already installed in your computer, here is any easy way to find you MAC Address (thanks to Jim from Kodanja.net for the tip.)
For Windows XP/2000:
Click on Start, then Run. Type "cmd" and the click on ok. At the prompt, type "ipconfig /all". This will list all of your network adapters, along with their MAC Address. The MAC Address will be called "Physical Address" in this window.
For Windows 98/ME:
Click on Start, then Run. Type "winipcfg" and then click ok. Select your wireless adapter from the drop down box. Your MAC Address should be listed as "Adapter Address."
A motivated person could still monitor the traffic on your network and gather your personal data. To prevent this, there is one more setting we need to change. Find the "Wireless Security" setting or equivalent We are looking for WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption or WPA (WiFi Protected Access).
If you have both, then you will have to decided which you want to use. If all the devices in your network are capable of WPA, then I recommend you use it. If you can use WPA2, that's is all the better. If there are any devices in your network that don't support WPA, then I suggest you use WEP. Although most routers are capable of supporting both at the same time, it can cause major headaches trying to keep things working. Also, mixed networks aren't much more secure than WEP only networks, so save yourself the extra effort.
Once you decide which encryption you want, enable it and set it to "128 bit". Set the authentication to "Open". Next, we need an encryption key. For WPA, you need to enter a pass phrase of at least 8 numbers and letters. For WEP, enter a 26 digit hexadecimal (0-9 and A-F) random number. Make sure you choose a good password, and be sure to write it down. We will need it to configure your computers. For WPA2, this might be called a "pre-shared key."
24 Sept 07