How to Connect to Wi-Fi

Now that we've told you what Wi-Fi is and how it works, it's time to show you how to get connected to a Wi-Fi network!  This lesson will walk you through the steps that you need to take in order to connect your PC, laptop, or mobile device (i.e. tablet computer or smart phone) to the Internet through Wi-Fi.

To connect most devices to Wi-Fi, you need to have a wireless adapter, and have it enabled.  Then, you will need to go to your computer's network settings, tell it that you want to connect to a network, and select the Wi-Fi network that you want to connect to.  You may also have to input a security password.

How to connect your PC or laptop to Wi-Fi

To connect your PC or laptop to Wi-Fi, make sure your device's wireless adapter is installed and enabled.  Then, go to your Control Panel, and then your Network and Sharing Centre.  Choose to Connect to a Network, select the network that you want to connect to, and input its security password (if applicable).

Need some help figuring that out?  Here's what it looks like, from start to finish.

  1. First, make sure that your computer has a wireless adapter, and that it's enabled.  To do so, click the Start menu, then right-click on Computer, and then left-click on Properties.  From there, click Device Manager, and you should see one with "wireless" in it among those under "Network Adapters".  If you right-click it, you should be able to click Enable to make sure that it's working, if it isn't already.

    How to check the status of your wireless adapter

    If your computer doesn't have a wireless adapter, you may have to purchase an external one.  You can usually get one that can plug into a universal serial bus (USB) port on your computer from most major electronics stores.

  2. Click the Start menu, and then click Control Panel.

    How to access your control panel

  3. From your control panel, click Network and Sharing Centre.

    How to access your network settings

  4. Once you're in your network centre, click Connect to a Network.

    How to connect to a wireless network

  5.  You should be shown a list of Wi-Fi networks that you can connect to.  The bars next to them should give you an idea of how strong their signals are.  You can also move your mouse cursor over one to see other details, such as what frequency it is using.  Click on a Wi-Fi network to select it, and then click Connect to connect to it.

    How to select a wireless network to connect to

    (NOTE: The little icon at the bottom here, if available, can be clicked to go right to this step.)

  6. You may be asked to enter a security password before you can connect to a Wi-Fi network.  Click in the box labelled "Security Key" and type in the security password for that Wi-Fi network, and then click OK.

    How to input the security key for a wireless network

If all goes well, you should be connected to the Wi-Fi network, and thus connected to the Internet!

How to connect Wi-Fi to mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, Android)

To connect your mobile device to Wi-Fi, you will have to first go to its Settings area.  From there, tap Wi-Fi, and select a Wi-Fi network to connect to.  If there isn't one, create a new one by entering its name, security type, and password (if applicable).  Then, make sure to turn on your device's Wi-Fi adapter.

Need a visual tour of those instructions?  We've got one coming right up!

  1. Turn on your mobile device, and navigate through the app manager until you find Settings.  Tap it to select it.

    How to access your mobile device settings

  2. Tap the Connections menu (if you aren't there already), and then tap Wi-Fi.

    How to access the WiFi settings for your mobile device

  3. If you are not currently connected to a Wi-Fi network, or you wish to connect to a different one, tap Add Wi-Fi Network.

    How to add a new WiFi network for your mobile device

  4. Tap in the box labelled "Network SSID" and use your device's (virtual) keyboard to type in the name of the network that you wish to connect to.  Then, tap the drop-down menu labelled "Security" and select what kind of password this network has (if any).  If the network has a password, tap the box labelled "Enter Password" and use your device's (virtual) keyboard to type in the password required for accessing the network.  Finally, tap Connect.

    How to enter the credentials for a new wireless network on your mobile device

  5. If all of your information checks out, you should be connected to the network that you chose!  Oh, but don't forget to make sure that your device's Wi-Fi adapter is enabled by tapping the switch beside "Wi-Fi" so that it's turned on!

    How to enable the wireless adapter on your mobile device

 

So, now you know how to connect a device to an already-existing Wi-Fi network!  But how do you set up a Wi-Fi network for people to connect to in the first place?  We'll cover that in our next lesson on what Wi-Fi routers are and how to set them up.


Wi-Fi Routers and How to Set Up Wi-Fi

So, we've told you a bit about how Wi-Fi works and how to connect your device to Wi-Fi.  But how do you get a Wi-Fi network going in the first place?  For that, you'll need a Wi-Fi router.  This lesson will teach you about Wi-Fi routers, how they work, and how you can set one up in your home.

What is a Wi-Fi router?

A Wi-Fi router is a special device that wirelessly directs information from your computer to the correct point on another computer or the Internet.  In addition, it also serves as an access point for different computers to connect to the Internet in the same approximate location, all without using cables.

How does a Wi-Fi router work?

A Wi-Fi router works by translating data from the Internet into a series of radio waves, which it then broadcasts to nearby computers that can pick up these signals.  It can also perform this process in reverse, picking up radio waves sent by computers and translating them into data to send to the Internet.

How to set up a Wi-Fi router in your home

To set up a Wi-Fi router, you have to unplug your modem, and then plug in your Wi-Fi router.  Use network cables to connect your modem to a network jack in the wall, and then to your Wi-Fi router.  Turn your modem back on, connect your Wi-Fi router to your computer, and then configure your Wi-Fi router.

It's quite a bit of work, so we'll show you what it all looks like so that you don't get lost.

(NOTE: All pictures courtesy of eHowTech)

  1. Unplug or turn off your modem.  Your modem will look somewhat like the image below.

    Unplugging your modem

  2. Plug in your Wi-Fi router.  It should look something like the image below; note the antenna on it.

    Plugging in your WiFi router

  3. Plug one network cable into a network jack in the wall of your house, and then plug the other half into your modem (if you haven't already).  Then, plug another network cable into the port on your modem that says "Ethernet".

    Connecting your modem to your local network jack

  4. Plug the other half of the network cable that you plugged into your modem into your Wi-Fi router.  There should be a hole on the back of your Wi-Fi router labelled "Internet" or "WAN" (short for Wide Area Network); this is the one that you want.  Then turn your modem back on.

    Connecting your WiFi router to your modem

  5. Use another network cable to connect one of the ports marked "LAN" (Local Area Network) on your Wi-Fi router to the port marked "Ethernet" on your main computer.

    Connecting your WiFi router to your computer

  6. Most modern routers will come with installation software.  Insert the CD into your computer, launch the installer, and follow the instructions in order to configure your router.

    Installing the configurations for your WiFi modem

  7. One thing that you will definitely want to do, if you can, is set up a password to protect your wireless network from unscrupulous users.  To do so, when prompted, select "WPA" (recommended) or "WEP" and type in a strong password.  You may automatically be provided with one, or you may be able to create one yourself.  

    Setting up a password for your WiFi network

 

Okay!  Now that your router is set up, you should be able to connect to your Wi-Fi network!


How to Change Your Wi-Fi Password

So, in our last tutorial, we showed you how to set up your Wi-Fi router.  But what if you want a stronger password in order to make it more difficult for other people to use your Wi-Fi network without your permission?  You can certainly do that!  In this lesson, we'll show you how to change or reset your Wi-Fi password.

To change your Wi-Fi password, you first have to access your Wi-Fi router's interface over the Internet.  Find your router's specific Internet address, and then typing it in to a web browser of choice.  From there, navigate your router's interface until you find your wireless settings, and change your password.

It's a bit of a complicated process, so we'll split it into two parts in order to make it easier for you to digest.

Part 1: Accessing your Wi-Fi router's interface on the Internet

  1. Follow steps 2 through 5 in our How to Connect to WiFi tutorial; that is, find the wireless networks that are available to you.

  2. When you find the wireless network that corresponds to your Wi-Fi router, right-click on it and then left-click Status.

    How to check the status of a WiFi network

  3. When the status window for your wireless network appears, click Details.

    How to check the details of a WiFi router

  4. When your wireless network's details appear, check for the setting that says "Default Gateway".  Write this number down, as you're going to need it.

    How to find the Internet address of a WiFi router

  5. Open your web browser of choice and type the "Default Gateway" number that you obtained from the last step into your browser's web address bar, as if it was a URL (well, technically, it still is one).  Then press the "Enter" key to go to your Wi-Fi router's interface on the Internet.

    How to access the interface of your WiFi router through the Internet

    (NOTE: You may have to enter your system administrator name and password at this point; they should have been provided to you when you received your modem or wireless router.  If you don't have a password, or it hasn't been changed from the default, just leave this field blank.)

Part 2: Changing your Wi-Fi password

  1. Each router will work slightly differently from here on out, but the general steps are similar.  For starters, we'll click Settings.

    How to access the settings of your WiFi router

  2. For the next step, we have to click LAN, and then click Wireless.

    How to access the wireless settings of your WiFi router

  3. If you scroll down to the "Security" section, you can click the check box here to decide whether or not you want security enabled for your Wi-Fi network connection (which you probably should, so leave it checked).  You can also click the drop-down menu here to select what type of wireless security you want.  (We would suggest one with the "WPA" standard).

    How to change the password and security settings on your WiFi router

    As you can see here, we also have a choice of using the default password provided with the router, or we can pick our own custom one.  To change your wireless password, click the button beside "Set Custom Encryption Key", and then click in the box beside it and type in your new password.

  4. When you're all finished, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click Save to save your changes.

    How to save changes to the password and security settings of your WiFi router

Tips for choosing strong passwords

  • Make sure that your password is of sufficient length.  Try to make it at least 10 characters, and maybe more.

  • Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols (if allowed) for the characters in your password.  This provides more possibilities that must be tried in order for someone to figure out each character in your password.

  • If your password is allowed to be case-sensitive, use both upper-case and lower-case letters.  This adds even more possibilities for what each character in your password could be, making it tougher to break. 

  • Don't base your password on easily-recognizable patterns of letters or numbers.  For example, try to avoid words (or groups of words) that someone could look up in the dictionary, or key patterns that someone could figure out by looking at a keyboard.

  • Write your password down on a physical piece of paper and store it somewhere that only you can access.  Don't write it down in a file on your computer; this makes it too easy to find if your computer gets hacked or stolen, or just simply used by someone other than you.

For more ideas on strengthening and effectively managing your passwords, see our course on passwords.

 

Okay!  Now you know how to change your Wi-Fi password to make it stronger and keep troublemakers off your Internet radio waves!