How to Secure Your Wireless Home Network with Windows XP

In my experience as a computer support tech for residential customers I would estimate that 9 out of 10 home wireless networks are not properly secured and left open for anyone in range to use the internet connection or worse, hack into the files. Most people don’t even realize that their network is not secure. They buy a wireless router plug in all the cables and if they get an active internet connection from all PCs then they are done.

In this article I will show you how to secure your home network using Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) through a Preshared Key (PSK). WPA is the newest standard for securing home and small business networks. Most vendors now offer hardware and software that supports WPA including Windows XP SP2 which offers support for WPA using a Preshared Key (PSK) also known as a passphrase.

The first thing you need to do is log into your router and change your wireless network name from whatever default the router manufacturer has given it and create a passphrase. I would recommend doing this from a wired computer.

Once you are logged in to your router go to the wireless section. This will vary according to your router model but look for the fields labeled SSID and Passphrase. Now enter a value for each of these fields. It is a good idea to use some random characters in the SSID and enter a long string of all random characters for the passphrase. (I make my passpharse 50 characters; you can use up to 63).

TIP: Enter values for SSID and passphrase in notepad first so that you can just copy and paste them as you need them. This also decreases the chance of a typo.

While you are logged in to your router it may also be a good idea to change your router password from the default if you have not already done so.

Ok, now it is time to configure windows XP on your computer. First unplug your network cable from the back of your PC.

– Click on Start / Control Panel and double click the icon ‘Wireless Network Setup Wizard’. If you do not see this icon then your computer may not have Windows Service Pack 2 installed. Click on start / All Programs / Windows Update and download it.
– When the wizard pops up click next
– Copy your SSID from notepad into the field labeled ‘Network Name (SSID)’
– Select ‘Manually Assign a Network Key’
– Put a check in the box ‘Use WPA Encryption …’
– Click Next

On the next screen do the following:

– Uncheck the ‘Hide Characters as I Type’ checkbox
– Copy and paste your passphrase from notepad into the ‘Network Key’ field
– Click next

On the next screen you decide how you want to setup other devices on your network. If you have a USB Flash drive then choose that option, it will save you some time. You will simply have to plug the USB drive into any other wireless computer and the configuration is done automatically. If you do not have a USB flash drive just manually configure each computer in the same way as above.

Well that about covers it. You now have a secure wireless network.

C Henry is a computer support writer for Computer Tech Support , a troubleshooter and toolbox for experienced and beginner computer techs.
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