It's not enough to just plug in your
wireless card the first time you use it -- you need to put in the CD it
came with and install the drivers. If you've already done that and
there's still nothing happening, then you might need to update your
drivers by paying a visit to the manufacturer's website.
Note that the instructions below apply to
Windows XP. If you're determined not to use Windows XP, then what
you need to do next will be different depending on your wireless
equipment's manufacturer -- you should take a look at your manual.
Use the Wireless Network Setup
While it's easy to use Windows to
connect to an existing wireless network, you still need to create the
wireless network to begin with. Don't worry -- once you've created it
once, your whole network will be able to connect to and remember it,
even if the computer you used to create the network is never switched on
The easiest way to open the Wireless
Network Setup Wizard is through the Start Menu: go to All Programs,
Accessories, then Communications, and you'll find it there. If you can't
find it, you might need to visit Microsoft's Windows Update at
http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com to get it.
The first thing to do when the wizard
appears is read the welcome message, and click Next. Type a name for
your network -- anything will do, as long as it's relatively unique to
you. You're allowed up to 32 letters to express yourself, but remember
that your neighbours might get to see this name at some point! If you
bought equipment with WPA (stronger encryption), tick that box.
Click Next again.
Unless you have a USB flash drive (it's
unlikely), choose the option for manual setup. Don't worry -- it's just
a matter of printing out some settings and entering them into your other
computers. If you don't use encryption, you can usually skip this step.
It Still Doesn't Connect
On one of your other computers,
right-click on the wireless icon in the bottom-right corner of your
screen -- it looks like a small computer with two lines on the right of
it. On the menu that appears, click 'View Available Wireless Networks'.
Now, you should see a list of the wireless networks your computer is in
range of. Look for the name of your own network. This will be the name
you typed in the setup wizard earlier or, if you use a router, it will
probably be the name of your wireless equipment's manufacturer.
Note that this is the screen to come to
if you ever want to connect to a wireless network other than your usual
one -- just double click the one you want, wait a while, and it should
The most common problem is to find that
your computer is trying to connect to another network near you, usually
one belonging to your neighbours. If their wireless network has an
unnecessarily wide range, it's not at all unusual for you to be able to
receive their signal in your house -- I sometimes find as many as five
networks in my area available to connect to. Fun as it would be, though,
to go through all their shared files, your priority right now is getting
their wireless network out of the way to let you connect to your own.
Getting on Your Network
To make sure Windows knows which
network is yours, you need to click 'Change the order of preferred
networks' on the left of the available networks screen. You should click
the 'Add' button to add the name of your network to this list, and use
'Remove' to take away any that aren't yours.
When you've highlighted your network,
click Properties, and then go to the Connection section. Make sure
'Connect when this network is in range' is ticked. If all else fails,
you might have to take your printout from the Wireless Network Setup
Wizard and enter that information on each computer.