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   Share One DSL or Cable Internet Connection: How to Set up a Simple Wireless Network at Home

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Do you have a DSL or cable Internet connection? Want to share it with your kids on their computer? We show you how.

In our house, the kids had their own computer and their own dial-up connection to the Internet, yet they were always clamoring for a turn on my computer. Why? Because I had the DSL "high-speed" connection. Not only was there a restriction on the kids' Internet time (it tied up the phone line), their connection simply wasn't fast enough, they complained. Spoiled? Perhaps, but I have been recognizing a "need", as my three kids grow older, for more and more time on the Internet—for both school projects and games. Of course, like most everyone else, I had been hearing about home networks and their convenience for some time. But I put off finding a "good" time to get one going for a number of reasons, perhaps the biggest of which was the fact that I really didn't know what it took to do it. 

I finally "wired" my computer with the kids' computer, in a wireless sort of way. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. I cancelled the dial-up connection for their computer which of course saved some money. Most importantly to me, however, is that I don't have to walk into my home office only to find one of the kids at my desk, rapt in something that would take "just a second" to complete, before relinquishing my desk chair. 

The fact is, even though I struggled with finding information on how to do it, once I had the basic knowledge, setting up our home network was very simple. It took about an hour to set up, however, but the end result was—and is—exciting. Now the kids can use my DSL connection on their computer, and I can easily share files between the two networked computers—as well as share the printer. With all this "sharing" going on, I thought I'd share with our readers the basic process our family went through to set up our home wireless network, hoping that it will take some of the initial guesswork out of the process.

I learned that, in my case, I would need two products. Well, originally I thought it would be three products, but an "all-in-one" product by Linksys meant I only needed two products: the Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router and the Linksys Wireless-G USB Network Adapter.

In order to connect two home computers together, you need what is called a switch and a router. I chose a product called Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router (WRT54G) which combines an Internet-sharing router, a 4-port Switch (I plan to hook up our other computer in the future), and a wireless access point. [Update: the identical broadband router mentioned here has been upgraded with "Speedbooster"—model WRT54GS— although the WRT54G model we used is still available, and still functions well. Some say that the Speedbooster-enhanced model doesn't actually boost surfing speed.]

The router connects to both computers via a network adapter. In other words, for each computer you want to connect, you will need a network adapter. Most new computers, which was the case with mine, have network adapters built in (10/100 Ethernet). The kids' computer is an older model and I needed to purchase a second product, the Wireless-G USB Network Adapter. Knowing that the kids' computer has USB ports, and hoping to avoid having to open up the case, I chose a network adapter that simply plugs into a USB port. Of course, it is possible to use a PCI network adapter--one that plugs into a PCI slot inside the computer. There are other adapters made for notebooks, but the one mentioned here is designed for a desktop.

In short, I connected the Wireless-G Broadband Router to my computer and my DSL modem. Then I plugged the Wireless-G USB Network Adapter to the kids' computer -- an older model running Windows 98SE. We are now able to share one Internet DSL connection and share files from one computer to the other easily. Each product comes with an installation CD-ROM and rather clear instructions. The two products are as follows:


coverThe Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router connects to the computer that is connected to the Internet through broadband (DSL or cable). The unit comes with an Ethernet cable that plugs into the back of your computer (where your modem now plugs in) and the back of the router. The Ethernet cable that currently runs from your DSL or cable modem to your computer must be plugged into the router. The product comes with an installation CD-ROM that walks you through the rather simple installation process. 

For more information, user reviews, or to buy this product: Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G Router (affiliate link)

coverThe second product I needed was a network adapter for my kids' computer. Because I wasn't comfortable with opening up the computer to plug in a PCI adapter, I chose the Linksys Wireless-G USB Adapter. The adapter is USB-powered, so no power adapter is necessary, and it comes with an installation CD-ROM. Although this adapter works with the faster USB 2.0 technology, it is also compatible with older USB 1.1 ports. Wireless-G is a faster technology than Wireless-B, but the router above works with the Linksys Wireless-B USB and PCI Adapters as well.

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Linksys WUSB54G Wireless-G USB Adapter   (affiliate link)

Of course, there are a variety of ways to set up a home network. If you don't mind running cables, you can save money by using wired as opposed to wireless products. You can also choose Wireless-B versions of the products above. These are a little cheaper, but have slower connections. I would recommend Wireless-G technology. 

You can also purchase a Wireless-G Router as above and choose to buy a cheaper Wireless-B network adapter (they are compatible). 

Also, if you are comfortable opening up your computer, the PCI network adapters (such as the Linksys WMP54G Wireless-G PCI Adapter - affiliate link) will of course work. Although the USB Adapter is small and rather unassuming, some may prefer to have their adapter out of sight. PCI adapters for notebooks certainly make sense, and are available separately. 

Of course, similar products are available from other companies, such as D-Link and US Robotics. We are commenting here on the products we actually used, which are Linksys products.

Update 2005: Since writing this article in late 2003, we have connected another computer in our household to our wireless network. Everything has been working well with the products reviewed above, so they are still in place. For the new computer, we used the Wireless USB Adapter (USR805422 ) (affiliate link), which is a Wireless-G network adapter with USB 2.0, by US Robotics. Set-up was super easy, and we like the simple menu controls. We did not have any compatibility issues with our Linksys products. [Note that when an adapter is labeled 802.11g, the "g" stands for wireless-G. Note also that USB interface 2.0 is faster than USB 1.1] We like the design of this adapter—it's slim and portable, and it can be used for a desktop or laptop interchangeably. Highly recommended.

As noted in the update area within the article, a newer version of the router we reviewed here has become available, the Linksys WRT54GS Wireless-G Broadband Router with SpeedBooster (affiliate link). We have not reviewed the product, which is supposed to increase real-world network performance by up to 35%. It has a new feature, a Parental Control Service that allows users to set individual profiles with access restrictions, as well as controls as to what kind of web content each profile is allowed to see. Note that this is a free trial only. Nevertheless, we are very happy with the Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G Router (affiliate link). It's less expensive, and some say the difference in speed between the WRT54G and WRT54GS is negligible when it comes to actual surfing speed. 

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2003/Updated 2005