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WiFi networks have quickly become the backbone of our homes? How often did you hear your kids ask about “the WiFi” five years ago? How about now?

It used to be that only computers and printers relied on “the network.” Now, it’s everything – phones, tablets, iPads, audio, video, gaming systems, thermostats, even the lights, refrigerator and washer and dryer can communicate on the network.

With all this out there, it’s a good idea to have a primer of what exactly WiFi networks are and what you need to know. If any of this seems crazy, that is why we at SoundVision are here, to Simplify Life Through Technology. Give us a call at (704) 696-2792.

If you’ve been in an airport, coffee shop, library or hotel recently, chances are you’ve been right in the middle of a wireless network. Many people also use wireless networking, also called WiFi or 802.11 networking, to connect their computers at home, and some cities are trying to use the technology to provide free or low-cost Internet access to residents.

In the near future, wireless networking may become so widespread that you can access the Internet just about anywhere at any time, without using wires.

WiFi has a lot of advantages. Wireless networks are easy to set up and inexpensive. They’re also unobtrusive — unless you’re on the lookout for a place to watch streaming movies on your tablet, you may not even notice when you’re in a hotspot.

What Is WiFi?

A wireless network uses radio waves, just like cell phones, televisions and radios do. In fact, communication across a wireless network is a lot like two-way radio communication. Here’s what happens:

  • A computer’s wireless adapter translates data into a radio signal and transmits it using an antenna.
  • A wireless router receives the signal and decodes it. The router sends the information to the Internet using a physical, wired Ethernet connection.

The process also works in reverse, with the router receiving information from the Internet, translating it into a radio signal and sending it to the computer’s wireless adapter.

The radios used for WiFi communication are very similar to the radios used for walkie-talkies, cell phones and other devices. They can transmit and receive radio waves, and they can convert 1s and 0s into radio waves and convert the radio waves back into 1s and 0s. But WiFi radios have a few notable differences from other radios:

  • They transmit at frequencies of 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. This frequency is considerably higher than the frequencies used for cell phones, walkie-talkies and televisions. The higher frequency allows the signal to carry more data.
  • As long as they all have wireless adapters, several devices can use one router to connect to the Internet. This connection is convenient, virtually invisible and fairly reliable; however, if the router fails or if too many people try to use high-bandwidth applications at the same time, users can experience interference or lose their connections. Although newer, faster standards like 802.11ac could help with that.

WiFi Hotspots

A WiFi hotspot is simply an area with an accessible wireless network. The term is most often used to refer to wireless networks in public areas like airports and coffee shops. Some are free and some require fees for use, but in either case they can be handy when you are on the go. You can even create your own mobile hotspot using a cell phone or an external device that can connect to a cellular network. And you can always set up a WiFi network at home.

If you want to take advantage of public WiFi hotspots or your own home-based network, the first thing you’ll need to do is make sure your computer has the right gear. Most newlaptops and many new desktop computers come with built-in wireless transmitters, and just about all-mobile devices are WiFi enabled. If your computer isn’t already equipped, you can buy a wireless adapter that plugs into the PC card slot or USB port. Desktop computers can use USB adapters, or you can buy an adapter that plugs into the PCI slot inside the computer’s case. Many of these adapters can use more than one 802.11 standard.

Once you’ve installed a wireless adapter and the drivers that allow it to operate, your computer should be able to automatically discover existing networks. This means that when you turn your computer on in a WiFi hotspot, the computer will inform you that the network exists and ask whether you want to connect to it. If you have an older computer, you may need to use a software program to detect and connect to a wireless network.

Being able to connect to the Internet in public hotspots is extremely convenient. Wireless home networks are convenient as well. They allow you to easily connect multiple computers and to move them from place to place without disconnecting and reconnecting wires. In the next section, we’ll look at how to create a wireless network in your home.

Network Resets are sometimes needed

There are times and situations that arise that require your network and WiFi systems to have to be reset.  If you are experiencing spotty coverage or abnormal performance, a reset might be in order.

The most common is a power outage or a system update from the ISP (Internet Service Provider (e.g. MI Connections, Time Warner, Windstream, AT&T or BellSouth).  In this case, please follow the following procedure and best practice to make sure the reset goes smoothly and you are back up and working.

  • Unplug ALL network devices including the MODEM, ROUTER; any network switches, and / or any access points (i.e. Araknis, Engenius, Apple AirPort Expresses, or Ubiquiti) around your home. There might be power supplies for outdoor access points too.
  • Make certain to unplug the coaxial cable going into the cable modem (if you have a cable modem). Also check to see if there is a battery compartment. Some cable modems have back up batteries that need to be removed for a proper reboot.
  • Wait five minutes to allow the devices to completely clear themselves.
  • Plug in the MODEM first and allow it to completely power up and all lights to be solid green.  If there is a NETWORK light, it might blink occasionally, and if there is an ETHERNET light, it won’t light until the router is plugged back in.
  • Now plug in the router and allow it to completely boot up.  All lights should be solid green.  Again, if there is a NETWORK light, it might blink occasionally.  This is OK.
  • Now plug in any network switches and allow them to boot up.
  • Finally, plug in any access points and allow them to completely boot up until their lights are solid.