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Computer Networking Question
Old 03-07-2008, 10:09 AM   #1
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Computer Networking Question

Hopefully someone here can either give me advice or point me somewhere. I know it should be simple -- but then I'm just a simpleton

My parents have a desktop PC at their home. It has high speed internet. I'm not sure whether it's cable or DSL. I know it's "Comcast" for what that's worth.

My mom just bought a Macbook laptop.

They want to network their computers so that the Macbook can access the internet from anywhere in the house via wireless connection. The idea is to go through the PC desktop for internet access.

1. How do we go about doing this? I've heard something about needing a router, but I don't really know . . .

2. What other information (if any) do I need before I can determine what we need.

3. When I go to visit, will my Macbook automatically pick up their wireless signal? Will my sister's PC laptop automatically pick it up?

Thanks in advance. I know a thing or two about finances, but very little about computers . . .

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Old 03-07-2008, 10:25 AM   #2
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Comcast is Cable. Need a Wireless Router. #3 Partly yes, after you sign on. You may have to wait until you go there to install it - they can be a bit Techie - also you need to really brush up or lean the security measures with Wireless. Net Gear wireless router is what I use for my Desktop and Notebook. When grandkids come over they just have to sign on and they have access. Should not be a problem for the Mac to sign on your Parents system as well as the Sister.

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Old 03-07-2008, 10:29 AM   #3
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Right now they have a cable or DSL modem/router that has one connection from their phone line or cable in the wall, and another connection to the desktop.

You have two choices. You can buy a replacement for this router that has wireless capability built in. Or you can buy a separate wireless router that will sit between the current modem and the desktop. I recommend the latter as it's easier and cheaper. If you want less clutter, buy the all-in-one, but you'll have to configure the internet connection as was done when the modem was first set up.

So instead of having the cable run straight from the modem to the desktop, you have two connections: one from the modem to the wireless router, and another from the wireless router to the desktop. You see, in addition to having wireless capability, the wireless router will also have wired ports available on the back. Make sure you use the right one for the connection from the modem, and then you can use any of the others (usually 4) to the desktop.

From there it should all work. You'll have a wide open unsecured signal that any laptop with a wireless card can pick up the signal from, just as if they walked into any publicly accessible wireless hotspot.

Now, once you've got this working, you should set up some security, because anyone can mooch off the wireless signal.

First thing to do is to change the router's password. It comes with a default, and someone else can log in with it and shut you out and probably do more malicious things. Instructions will be in the manual.

Second this is to set up some kind of wireless security. This will limit who can access your network. You don't want to share your network with a neighbor who is downloading movies. Or kiddie porn, because it will track to your internet connection. So check the manual on setting up WEP or WPA security. WPA is better. Each laptop that wants to connect in will have to configure a profile to use the wireless, using the same security key.

It's a bit more complicated to set up security but it's worth it, in my opinion.
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Old 03-07-2008, 10:58 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Niko View Post

1. How do we go about doing this? I've heard something about needing a router, but I don't really know . . .
There are several companies that make wireless routers with varying features. A good basic one can be found here

D-Link - RangeBooster G Wireless Router - WBR-2310

Originally Posted by Niko View Post
2. What other information (if any) do I need before I can determine what we need.
Each laptop will need to have a wireless card to connect wirelessly. Most laptops will also have standard ethernet plug that you could use to plug direct into the router.

Originally Posted by Niko View Post
3. When I go to visit, will my Macbook automatically pick up their wireless signal? Will my sister's PC laptop automatically pick it up?
It will once the laptops are setup to connect to your new wireless network. As previously posted, you really need to apply some sort of security to your network. Any security that includes a password is better than none. You might want to ask a tech-savy friend to help. I helped out lots of folks get setup and if you're not pretty good with computers, networks can be difficult.
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Old 03-07-2008, 04:39 PM   #5
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Thank you very much for your quick replies. Boilerman, I'll take a look at the router you recommend. Everyone else, I'll make sure that there is some sort of security in place. First thing, though, is to get some kind of connection going for them.
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Old 03-08-2008, 12:37 AM   #6
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Actually Apple makes one called the Extreme Base Station, which is very simple to set up, and provides the security you need to configure. A little higher price then the others mentioned here, but the convenience can be worth it. Supports all PCs and Macs, and will provide the automatic address you asked about.

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