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Intel® Wi-Fi Products
Build a home network

Building a home network is one of those things that sound more difficult than it actually is. In reality, with low-cost equipment and a few pointers, you can build yourself a solid and secure network that links your computers over wired and wireless connections–all in less time than you would think.

This article covers:
Getting a mental picture of your network
Choosing a wireless technology
A word on compatibility
Time to go shopping
Putting it all together
Making it secure
Alternatives for the intimidated


Getting a mental picture of your network

Here's an illustration of what a typical home network might look like, showing how everything connects together. Yours will probably look similar.

A simple home network pipes your Internet connection to a device called a router, which distributes that connection to all of the computers in your house, through wired or wireless connections. The computers can also communicate to each other using those same connections, so that they can share files, printers, and other resources.

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Choosing a wireless technology
Your network will probably use a combination of wired (with cables) and wireless connections. Wireless is your best bet for laptops that you want to connect to throughout the house, as well as for any desktop computers that are located in areas where it's not easy to run cables. For wireless capabilities, before you go shopping you'll want to choose a wireless standard (named after the engineering standard that defines it):

  • A (full name: 802.11a), introduced in 1999, is fast but range is somewhat limited, especially when the signal must travel through walls and other obstacles.
  • B (full name: 802.11b), also from 1999, is slower but has longer range than A; interference from microwave ovens, cordless phones, and other sources can be a problem.
  • G (full name: 802.11g), introduced in 2003, combines the range, speed, and lack of interference of A and B, bringing the best of both worlds.
  • N (full name: 802.11n) is newer, faster, longer-range, and more expensive than G. If you plan to use your wireless network for video and other entertainment, N is definitely the better choice, and it's also going to be around longer. Spending a bit more money now may help to protect your investment down the road.

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A word on compatibility
Your network will have both a router and network adapters (usually, but not always, built in to the laptop), and each of those devices will be based on one of the above wireless technologies. In some cases, you can mix technologies among adapters and routers; check the compatibility listings when you buy specific products. This might be useful, for example, if you have laptops with older adapters in them but want to have faster connections to new equipment. However, keep in mind that older-technology network adaptors mixed with newer-technology routers will slow down the entire wireless network (including the computers with newer-technology network adapters). Still, A and B can be a good, inexpensive choice for many people.

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Time to go shopping
Once you have decided what wireless technology to use, you can head to your favorite electronics store. You will discover that there are many brands available for each type of equipment; consider purchasing the router and adapter cards from the same manufacturer. Even though all of the equipment is built to the same standards, equipment that is manufactured together tends to be more trouble-free when it comes to setting the devices up and having them work together. Best of all, product support, if you need it, will be all in one place.

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Putting it all together
Working along with the documentation that comes with your equipment, the following steps will get you started (these steps assume that you already have a working Internet connection from your service provider):

  1. Power everything off and disconnect your computer from the cable or DSL modem. In its place, connect your router to the modem.
  2. Connect the computer (using a network cable) to the router. Complete the router setup according to the manufacturer's instructions, and change the password.
  3. Install all of the network adapters according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  4. Connect the computers to the router using network cables or wireless adapters, following manufacturer instructions.
  5. Test each computer to be sure that it can connect to the Internet.

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Making it secure
Now it is time to consider security–making sure others are not able to connect to your wireless network. The wireless security options are:

  • WEP (Wireless Equivalency Protocol)
  • WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access)

Both protect your wireless network by using a code based on a secret key that you provide. However, WEP is less secure than WPA, and hacker software is available to break into WEP networks.

Working along with the documentation that comes with your equipment, the following steps gets you started on beefing up the security.

Note The settings on both the router and all wireless network adapters must be the same.
  1. Select the security type (WEP or WPA). For WEP, choose 64-bit security (which uses shorter keys but is less secure) or 128-bit (which uses longer keys but is more secure). For WPA, choose an algorithm–TKIP or AES. AES, a government-strength standard, is typically the better choice unless you have an existing network based on TKIP that you need to be compatible with.
  2. Enter the shared key or passphrase; many routers can generate keys automatically. You can save this key to a text file to make it easier to re-enter on each computer.
  3. For WPA, set the group key renewal period. This is the amount of time that will pass before the router changes the keys, an added security measure built into WPA. You can generally use the default setting.

For information about setting up security using Intel® PROSet/Wireless WiFi Connection Utility, see Set Up Profile Security in the user guide.

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Alternatives for the intimidated
Now you know that you really can build your network yourself, but if you don't consider this type of thing fun, consider hiring someone to do it for you. If you buy your equipment at a major electronics chain, they probably have installation services available that can handle everything from selection to setup. Installation of a home network may be available for around $200 (not including equipment). If you do choose to go this route, this article will still give you the background you need to choose the technologies that best fit your needs.

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This applies to:

Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250
Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6200
Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6205
Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6205 For Desktop
Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6230
Intel® Centrino® Advanced-N 6235
Intel® Centrino® Ultimate-N 6300
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N + WiMAX 6150
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 100
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 1000
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 1030
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 105
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 130
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 135
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 2200
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 2200 For Desktop
Intel® Centrino® Wireless-N 2230
Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 for Desktop
Intel® Dual Band Wireless-N 7260
Intel® PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection
Intel® PRO/Wireless 2915ABG Network Connection
Intel® PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection
Intel® WiFi Link 1000
Intel® WiFi Link 5300 and Intel® WiFi Link 5100 products
Intel® WiMAX/WiFi Link 5350 and Intel® WiMAX/WiFi Link 5150 products
Intel® Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN
Intel® Wireless-N 7260

Solution ID: CS-030450
Last Modified: 21-Jul-2014
Date Created: 26-Apr-2009
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