About That WiFi…

For a long time, I was confused about how WiFi worked and also afraid to use it because of security issues brought up by articles on the internet. I’d heard all these stories about how WiFi exposes your computer to others and so on.

Well, I had the unit that powers my internet router go out on me about two weeks ago and had to have a technician come over to fix it. So, I decided that would be the time to ask about WiFi. And I’m glad I did.

So, What is the truth? Well, my main concern was security. And I found out that, if you are using a router provided by an internet provider such as Verizon, Frontier, or AT&T, you are safe using the WiFi connection to that router and don’t need any extra security in addition to your anti-virus program or software. (You do have some kind of anti-virus program or software on your computer, right? I hope so.)

Your provider provides the password or key. (You do need to check as each provider may be different as to where or how the info is provided.)

Since this is encrypted and the router and provider have their own protection, you are safe using your router’s WiFi network.

With WiFi, if you have a laptop, you can ditch the Ethernet or CAT 5E cable, plug in your battery, and access the internet from anywhere in your home, including using Skype or any other communication. I did this last week using Skype and it’s great!

Of course, your battery has to have enough of a charge, but, you can still plug in anywhere instead of only at your computer desk.

Even if you are using a desktop PC (If it does have wifi, most desktop pc’s don’t.), this can eliminate one cable. Also, more and more printers are being made WiFi capable, so this has the possibility of eliminating another cable. And, if you have more than one computer, they may be able to connect using the router’s WiFi network. Your mobile phone may be able to as well if it, too, has WiFi capability.

Now, there are security concerns, of course. If you turn on WiFi on your computer, you will notice that several networks show up as “available” One of these will be your router, if it is WiFi capable. The others are neighboring networks, usually from nearby homes, apartments, and possibly businesses, too.

Can they access your network? No, because they don’t have the codes. And you probably cannot access their networks, either for the same reason. And besides, you wouldn’t want to access networks you don’t know.

So, if you do connect to your router, you are the only one. And no one else can connect to your router’s network unless you give them the codes.

What about these places with free WiFi, like cafe’s and hotels? Here is where you have to be careful, as this network, even if secured against “outside” access, is still shared by those customers who are given the code by the management or employees. So, if you connect with the network at the coffee place, you are sharing that network with strangers you don’t know and your files and info are more vulnerable to being hacked. For this, you may need additional protection on your computer.

One solution? You can purchase your own “hot spot”, usually a small portable router that many internet providers sell, along with the service, which allows you to access WiFi from just about anywhere. It, too, is secure and again, only you would have the code for accessing the network.

Another couple of things to know about WiFi, is that, if you are downloading new software, especially if it is large, it will download faster using an Ethernet cable than it will using WiFi, so it’s best not to discard your Ethernet cable completely just yet.

For phones with data plans, using WiFi when it’s available means that your phone is not using up its allotted Data, since it is being provided by the network and not the phone’s own data plan. It’s like getting extra data for your phone for free. But you do have to be in range of the router or hot spot your phone is connected to.

One great thing I’ve found is that you only have to put in the codes for the network once on your machine. Then, when you use WiFi, your machine will automatically connect to the network and you have access to the internet!

So, how to activate WiFi on your computer? Fortunately, most WiFi capable computers already have their WiFi activated, which does not mean they’re connected to a network, only that the capability is turned on.”

If it’s not turned on, or has been turned off or deactivated, you need to turn it on. If you have a Windows 10 computer, just click on the Start button, then select settings, then Internet and go from there. Or you can simply click on the internet icon on the right hand area of the task bar and this will bring up your Internet/WiFi controls on the right hand side of your screen. (At least on an HP Computer. Some computers may be different.) If you unplug your Ethernet cable, the internet icon will change to a WiFi icon and you may see the message, “Networks are available”. Clicking on the icon will bring up the available networks.

To connect to your router’s network, and it will be there if your router has WiFi, just click on it. You’ll be presented with fields for your password or key. Enter that, and you’re set.

On a Windows 7 computer:

  1. Click the Start Button, then select “Control Panel”, then “Network and Sharing Center”.

  2. On the left hand column, select “Change Adapter Settings”.

  3. Click on “Wireless Network Connection”.

This “turns on” your WiFi. A small icon will appear on your task bar on the right side. Clicking on this will bring up the available networks. As above, just click on your router’s network and enter the password or key, and you’re set!

Hope this clears up things for those of you who are wondering about WiFi.

Happy Computing!

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And thanks for reading!  🙂

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