Buyer Beware – Ignorance can be a financial waste and a lot of hassals. Before you buy any wireless equipment, you need to be sure about what you’re doing. There’s nothing worse than having everything there and finding that it doesn’t work in your house, or with your computers, or over the distances you need. Here’s a handy checklist of the things that you really ought to do before you go out and spend any of your hard-earned cash on wireless networking equipment.
While it won’t stop a wireless network from working altogether, interference in its frequency range can slow it down significantly, as well as reducing its range. If something is causing interference, the first thing you’ll know about it is when your connection stops working — unless you know what to look for.
There are two very common causes of wireless interference: wireless phones and microwave ovens. 2.4Ghz, the most common wireless networking frequency, is also a commonly-used wireless phone frequency. It is possible, though, to find phones that use other frequencies. Microwave ovens, on the other hand, operate at around 2.4Ghz by definition. It should be alright to have devices like these in your house, but certainly not in the same room as any computer that you plan to use a wireless connection with.
Wireless can, in theory, pass through walls and other partitions easily. In practice, though, some walls are more solid than others, which means that they are more likely to block some of the signal. Note that it’s only your interior partitions that matter, not the exterior ones. This does, however, include your floors, if you want the connection to work between levels.
Wireless does well with partitions made from: drywall, plywood, other wood (including doors), glass.
Wireless has trouble with: brick, plaster, cement, metal, stone, double-glazed glass.
Basically, it’s all to do with how porous the materials are — ones that let more of other things through also let more of your wireless signal through.
If you have a wall made of one of the ‘bad’ materials, it’s not the end of the world. It just means that your wireless connection might have a slower speed or a shorter range. You may want to spend more than you otherwise would to get better equipment and overcome this problem.
Decide Your Budget.
You need to stand back, take a look at your needs, and decide how much you’re going to spend. Do you have long distances to cover? Do you want your connection to go through stone walls? Each factor will help you decide how much you should be looking to spend — remember that the more problems you have, the more power you will need. On the other hand, if you live in a small wooden house, you can probably just go for the cheapest thing you can find.
It’s well worth searching a site like amazon.com for wireless equipment, and taking a look at people’s reviews to see what the different brands out there are like, and what you can get for your money. It is always a very bad idea to buy something without getting a second, third and fourth opinion, especially if you’re buying it online. If you can, try to get to a computer shop and see some wireless networking equipment in action before you commit yourself.
Install and Update Windows XP.
Finally, your wireless life will really be improved if you have the latest version of Windows. Because wireless is such a new technology, it wasn’t really around in any significant way back when Windows 98, ME and 2000 were released, and support for them wasn’t built in to the system. You’ll have a lot more trouble getting wireless to work on systems like these than you would on Windows XP.
Even if you’ve got Windows XP, though, that doesn’t solve the problem entirely. Windows XP Service Pack 2 (an updated version of Windows XP) contains much easier-to-use tools for configuring and using wireless than the un-updated versions do. If you’ve been using your copy of Windows for a while without updating it, you should really make sure you’ve got all the latest updates from http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com before you go any further.