Configuring a wireless LAN connection
in Windows XP
(If one didn't come with your PC)
By Jason Hiner MCSE, CCNA
However, I was able to enthusiastically utter this phrase when configuring a
wireless LAN connection using Windows XP. As I recently wrote,
the most valuable new feature of Windows XP is the way that it seamlessly
handles WLAN configuration and roaming. Now it's time to walk you through the
process of setting up a WLAN network card in XP to prove just how intuitive it
Install the WLAN network card
Of course, the first thing to do is pop a WLAN network adapter into your system—and it's still best to do this while the system is shutdown. In most cases, you'll probably be putting a PC Card adapter into a laptop system. However, there are also PCI and USB adapters for desktop systems.
For this example, I am installing an ORiNOCO Gold PC Card into a Dell laptop. I chose the ORiNOCO card because it had good reviews from industry experts and buyers, and I was happy with the choice; the card proved to have excellent range while holding a strong signal. I highly recommend the card for corporate installs.
In my case, Windows XP was already installed on the system before I added the WLAN network adapter, but for the purposes of this tutorial, you will achieve the same effect by installing the WLAN card before loading Windows XP. If you had already installed a WLAN card (and its drivers and utilities) in a previous version of Windows, and you are now upgrading to XP, you need to watch out for a gotcha. Before upgrading to XP, uninstall the drivers and utilities that came with the WLAN card. If you don't, then you could run into some errors and conflicts with your WLAN configuration when you upgrade to XP.
Verify that XP recognizes the WLAN card
Once you power on your system, Windows XP should automatically recognize your WLAN card. (It has a vast database of WLAN adapter drivers built in.) After it is recognized, Windows will automatically add it to the list of available interfaces in Network Connections. To verify this:
|The WLAN status box shows the signal strength of the wireless connection.|
|WLAN adapters have an additional configuration tab, Wireless Networks.|
|The Wireless Networks tab is where you handle WLAN setup.|
|The Wireless Network Properties screen enables you to set up a connection to an access point.|
Another way to connect to a WAP is to click the Refresh button in the Available
Networks section. Windows will go out and look for nearby access points and give
you a list of them. Just click on the one you want to use and then click
Configure. This will pull up the same Wireless Network Properties screen that
you saw in Figure D, only the Network Name will automatically be populated.
After you tinker with the settings and click OK, the WAP will be placed on your
list of Preferred Networks.
Now, when you roam to new locations (especially ones that you'll probably be returning to later), you can simply let Available Connections find the access points, and you can add them to your preferred networks with a few clicks. When you return to that location, your laptop should then automatically connect you to the WAP, and you'll have network access without having to do any special reconfiguration.
If you have multiple access points in a single location, you can add them all
to your Preferred Networks list and simply use the Move Up and Move Down buttons
to prioritize them.
There's one more setting you should be aware of on this screen, which you can access by clicking the Advanced button. Here, you set your preference in terms of connecting to WLANs powered by access points or connecting to peer-to-peer WLANs (basically just connecting to other client machines that have WLAN network adapters installed). You also have a third option of connecting to Any Available Network, which will show you both of these categories. Obviously, in a corporate environment, you'll probably want to rely on access points. You'll also probably want to leave the Automatically Connect To Non-preferred Networks check box deselected.
WLAN authentication and security
Another nice feature of the Windows XP implementation of WLANs is that it has built-in support for IEEE 802.1X security. This makes it easy to require identity verification for WLAN adapters via a variety of standard authentication mechanisms including RADIUS, smart cards, and certificates. This can be configured on the Authentication tab (Figure E) of the network adapter's properties page.
|The Authentication tab makes it easy to configure 802.1X security.|
Windows XP Tips and Tricks