Getting Connected

May 10, 2010 by  
Filed under Features, Getting Connected

Get Comfortable Using Your Wireless Computer

by Michael Bodine

Lots of people are falling under the spell of Windows 7 these days, and contributing to our economic recovery by buying a new PC. There are some super fast processors in the new computers, and Windows 7 looks like a real winner with convenient features and a lot fewer problems than have plagued most versions of Windows to date. Even desktop computers now are coming with wireless set-ups so you can install them without wired connections and use the new wireless printers. Sorry, there’s just no escape!

If you bought a new laptop, all the better, because you can use everyone else’s wireless connections, printers, listen to music, and browse the internet in more and more places. Last month, we talked about what you need to take care of to get your internet connection at home. If you just plug your internet cable in, you’re all set to go at your desk at home. When you’re away from home, that’s another story.

While there are some public WiFi access points that are operated by companies which charge you for use, many coffee houses and restaurants, as well as hotels and airline lounges, provide WiFi access for free. You just need to know where to look!

First of all, unless you have changed your screen preferences, if you look in the lower right corner of your screen, you will see an area with a bunch of small icons showing. If you move your mouse so as to position your cursor over each icon, a name or short explanatory message will pop up to tell you what each icon represents. The icon for the wireless is usually a representation of a computer screen or a radio tower that shows concentric half-circles, or waves, radiating out from the tower – WiFi is a radio technology, so this little icon is supposed to represent the radio signals.

The pop up message, unfortunately, is different for every version of Windows and every program that controls your WiFi connection, but it will say something like “Wireless Connection”, “View Wireless Networks”, or something with the word “wireless” in it. It may also read, “Network Sharing and Connections Center.” This is where you want to hold your cursor over the picture and click the RIGHT-SIDE mouse button. (Whenever anyone tells you to “CLICK” your mouse, click the left-side button. Only click the right-side button if they tell you to “right-click”.) When you right click, you will be presented with choices that may include: “View available networks” or “Network Sharing and Connection Center”. Click this selection.

You’ll then see a list of wireless networks that are nearby. If a network is labeled as open or
unsecured, you can connect to this network by clicking the network name, and then clicking “Connect.” If a network is labeled secure, or WEP, WPA, WPA2 or some slight variants – these are all security methods. If you are trying to connect to a secure network, someone will need to tell you what the security access code is, and you simply type it in when prompted after clicking “Connect.” In an open network, or after keying in the correct access code, you will then be connected to the wireless network. In Windows XP, you can immediately open your browser and start using the net. For Vista or Windows 7, you will need to inform the operating system whether the network you’ve connected to is a private, or home, network, which means you know you are secure inside a firewall or router, or that it is an open, unsecured network. After another warning, you can then connect to the internet there.

Be warned – while surfing the net on a public network, whether secured or unsecured, what you type can potentially be seen by other people on that same network. Make it a habit never to key in confidential information like your bank accounts, credit card numbers, sensitive passwords, or other private data while on a public network.

Okay, you knew how to buy network access from your ISP. Now you know how to get connected to an existing WiFi network.

Next time, we’ll set up a WiFi network at home!


Michael spends his nights and weekends running around on Tybee helping folks get the most out of their computers, whether that’s fixing a problem, getting a new computer, or just learning how to use what you’ve got! Call him at 912-655-4361, or email to

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