Setting up a Wireless Network using a Router

These tips can help you use your wireless router to share your Internet connection.

1. Check your computers' IP addresses. First, confirm that all of your computers have matching, compatible IP addresses. To do this on a Windows PC, open a command prompt by clicking Start > Run. Type cmd into the text field and click OK. After the command-prompt window opens, type ipconfig and hit Enter. A new command prompt appears and above it, a list that includes the IP address and subnet mask for your computer's network adapter. The computers on your network use each other's IP addresses to send and receive data packets. If your networks' addresses are invalid, sent data will have nowhere to go and will ultimately be discarded. The IP addresses of your computer should all be unique, but typically will all start with the same initial nine digits. For example, if your router's address is 192.168.1.1, then the addresses of two of the computers on your network might be 192.168.1.20 and 192.168.1.30.

You should also make sure that all of your computers have the same subnet mask. A subnet mask is used to divide your IP address into two separate addresses: a network address and a node, or individual computer, address. For example, if your subnet mask is 255.255.255.0 and your IP address is 192.168.1.12, then the first three sets of digits, 192.168.1, are your network address, and all of the computers on your network will need IP addresses with these same first three sets of digits. In this case, 12 is the individual computer address on your network, and it shouldn't be repeated for any of the computers on your network.

Finally, write down the IP addresses of all your computers and of your router. You can find your router's IP address through the device's browser-based configuration tool. Now go to one of your computers and ping the router and the other computers to see if you have working IP connections. (You ping another computer by following the instructions above to call up a command prompt and typing ping followed by the IP address of a connected computer at your command prompt. For example: ping 192.168.1.1.) If you see a reply, you know your connection is up and running, and you can get on with the business of setting up Windows file sharing. If your ping request times out, ping your router. If that fails, you may need to reboot and reconfirm that your router and computers are all configured with matching IP address information.

Ping command

2. Set up Windows XP file sharing. Before you set up file sharing, make sure that all of your computers are assigned to the same Windows workgroup. A Windows workgroup is a group of PCs running Windows that are configured to share files and printers. Right-click the My Computer icon on your desktop and select Properties. The PC's workgroup name is listed on the Computer Name tab of the System Properties window. There's also a button on this tab that lets you change the workgroup name. If necessary, change the workgroup assignments on your computers so that they match.

Computer name changes

You can set up file sharing on PCs running Windows XP by right-clicking the folder you want to share, then selecting "Sharing and security." On the Sharing tab, check the box marked "Share this folder on the network." You can also enter a share name for the folder, which is the name the folder will have when it is accessed remotely from other computers. For example, you can share a folder on your computer called My Images and give it a share name of Jill's Images, making it less confusing for those accessing the folder from other computers. You can also choose to let others change files in your shared folder from other computers by checking the box marked "Allow network users to change my files." If you leave this box unchecked, users on other computers will be able to read your files, but they won't be able to change them. When you search the network neighborhood from other computers, you should now see the shared folder.

Note: Allowing file sharing between your Windows PCs creates a new point of entry into the computers on your network. While the risk is nothing to lose sleep over, it is a good idea to use it sparingly. If you're not planning to share files, disable it. If you are planning to share files, limit the number of folders you share. Generally, it is not a good idea to share your entire hard drive.


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