Working With Wireless Network Connections in Windows 7

Before you start

Objectives: Learn how to create Ad Hoc wireless network and how to work with infrastructure wireless networks in Windows 7.

Prerequisites: you should have a basic understanding of wireless networks.

Key terms: network, wireless, ad hoc, connect, security, connection, option, windows 7, SSID


 Ad Hoc Networks

To create an Ad Hoc wireless network we have to go to the Network and Sharing Center in Control Panel. In the Network and Sharing Center we will click on the “Set up a new connection or network” option. On the next window we have to select the “Set up a wireless ad hoc (computer-to-computer) network” option.

 1 Ad Hoc

Ad Hoc Network Option

The next thing we need to do is to specify the name of our network and choose the security type. For ad hoc networks, the available security types are Open, WEP and WPA2-Personal. Remember that WPA2-Personal is a lot more secure than WEP, so we should always use WPA2 if all devices support it. In our case we will choose WPA2-Personal, so we also have to specify the security key.

 2 Network Settings

Network Settings

The purpose of the ad hoc network is to provide temporary wireless network access for devices in close proximity, without the need of wireless access point. On the next screen we will also be able to turn on Internet connection sharing. This is because our computer is also connected to the wired network which has Internet connection, so we can share that Internet connection with the clients on the ad hoc network if we want.

 3 Network Created

Network Created

At this point other devices will be able to find and connect to our wireless ad hoc network. If we click on the network icon in the System Tray, we can see that our ad hoc network is waiting for users.

 4 Waiting for Users

Waiting For Users

 Note that the icon used for ad hoc network has three computers connected in triangle, while the infrastructure networks have bars as the icon. One other thing that we should remember about ad hoc networks is that they will be removed once all users disconnect from it. Also, users who connect to the ad hoc network are not able to save it in the list of wireless networks.

If we don’t enable Internet connection sharing, users which connect to our ad hoc network will not get their IP address automatically from the DHCP. If you have experience with IP addressing, you will know that in this case the devices will automatically use some address from the APIPA range, and this will actually work. We can also specify the IP address on every device manually (this also includes the computer on which we set up the ad hoc network). However, if we enable Internet connection sharing in the first place, all devices will get their IP address from the DHCP server on the computer on which we have created the ad hoc network.

Infrastructure Wireless Networks

The process of connecting to wireless networks with access points is really simple in Windows 7. We simply click on the network icon in the System Tray, select the available wireless network and click on the Connect button.

 5 Available Networks

Available Wireless Networks

In our case we are connecting to a network which is using WPA2-Personal security standard, so we have to provide the password to gain access to the wireless network.

 6 Password

Network Security Key

So, when we enter the correct security key we will connect to the network, and that’s it. Now, sometimes the SSID of the wireless network is not being broadcasted. To connect to that kind of network we have to create the wireless network profile manually. To do that we have to go to the Network and Sharing Center, and select the “Set up a new connection or network” option. In the window we have to select the “Manually connect to a wireless network” option.

 7 Manual Configuration Opti

Manual Configuration

On the next screen we have to specify the SSID (network name), security type, encryption type and the security key. We also have to select the “Connect even if the network is not broadcasting” option. This will ensure that our computer will connect to the network which has SSID broadcasting disabled. Note that we have to know all those settings before we start connecting.

 8 Network Profile

Network Profile

Now, if we go to the Network and Sharing Center, and then select the “Manage wireless networks” option, we will see our newly created network listed.

 9 Manage Networks

Network Management

Here we will also see any other network that we have previously connected to. Here we can delete all those wireless networks or modify them. Have in mind that we can’t modify the SSID of the existing network here. If the SSID is changed, we have to delete the old network and create a new one.

One other thing that we should have in mind is the Profile Type. If we click on the Profile Type button in the “Manage wireless networks” window, we will be able to choose the type of profile to assign to new wireless networks.

 10 Profile Type

Profile Type

Have in mind that by default all wireless networks created on the computer can be used by all users. However, we can set up the per-user profile configuration. This way users can create connections that can only be accessed and modified by them (per-user).

Troubleshooting

The stronger wireless signal means the better wireless performance. There are several thing that we can do to ensure proper wireless signal in our network. First, we have to ensure that all clients are in the range of our wireless access point. To improve the range we can implement additional antennas or signal boosters in our wireless network. Also, some physical object may cause obstructions and interference.  Another option is to install additional access points. This will increase the coverage of our wireless network.

Some devices will cause interference with our wireless network. Those devices are cordless phones, microwaves, bluetooth devices, or any other device with radio signal. We should move those devices away from our AP. Also, we should always ensure that the wireless channel used in our network is not overlapping with another channel.

Windows 7 includes many troubleshooting tools that can be used to troubleshoot wired and wireless networks. For example, we can use a Network Diagnostics tool to diagnose the connection issues. When troubleshooting wireless networks with this tool, the first thing we should do is try to connect to the AP, and then run the Network Diagnostics tool.

The most common problem with wireless networks is the wrong configuration. So, the first thing we should do is to ensure that we have configured the correct SSID and WEP/WPA keys.

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