Components for Building Computers From Scratch/ADDING WIFI TO DELL

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Bobbert Hi I need your help. I have been using my Dell DIMENSION. E521 TO Connect to the internet. Using a land line. I now want to change and use wifi. My question is I need an education on what I WILL need for a safe secure wifi system. I want to do this as simple and inexpensive as possible. Can you helpme. Thanks Ken

Answer
When you say "land line" what do you mean? The system is connected via dial-up to your ISP? (such as NetZero or AOL) Or the system is using a wired Ethernet connection either to your home network (router, switch, etc) or directly to a high-speed modem (DSL, cable, fibre, etc)?

If you're unsure how to answer: who and/or what provides your ISP service? And how do you connect your computer(s) to that?

Regarding what you need to setup WiFi, in simplest terms you need both a source and a receiver. The source is most easily provided by means of a wireless router. Receivers come in a variety of shapes and sizes - internal expansion cards (PCI and PCIe), or external USB devices. Generally performance is going to be the same between them as long as the signal is good (e.g. you can't be too far away from the source). USB provides the lowest peak bandwidth to the system, at 60MB/s, which is still higher than what the majority of common WiFi (802.11g and 11n) systems will generally provide, and is oftentimes much higher than what your ISP will deliver (very few ISPs deliver faster than 100Mbit/s connections (which is around 12MB/s)). If you're planning to go to 802.11n or (especially) 802.11ac for home networking, and intend to transfer a lot of large files around internally, I'd suggest going with internal expansion cards - otherwise a USB device will be perfectly fine (and they're much easier to install).

Connection is fairly simple - your ISP is connected up to the router, and then devices are paired up to the router. For security you'll want to enable WPA2 on the router, as well as MAC filtering. This isn't absolutely as secure as a wired Ethernet connection (it can still be cracked into, but it requires substantially more time than the average person will devote to it; Ethernet requires physical access), but it is MUCH better than the majority of unsecured wireless networks out there in the wild. The primary thing security features will do is keep people from "leeching" your ISP service (basically avoiding paying for the Internet) - data theft is generally less common. In my experience the biggest deterrent to your network being attacked is the availability of other networks, or the lack of attackers:

- If you live in a highly populated area with a lot of WiFi networks (e.g. a big apartment complex), there's likely at least a few of them that don't have any security (or have very weak security), and those are easier targets than something with proper security measures in place.


- If you live in a sparsely populated area (e.g. on a farm) you probably could go along for years with no security in place (I'd still enable security because it's just a good practice - like locking your front door), because there's likely nobody within range of your WiFi (unless you install a very high power commercial transmitter) that isn't part of your household. Even in some suburbs this level of separation is possible, depending on how far apart the houses are spaced, how they are built, and where the transmitter is located in your house (if you put it right inside an exterior wall, the neighbor on that side may be able to see it - if it's buried dead-center in your house your neighbors may not even notice you have WiFi).

Price-wise none of this should be terribly expensive, it primarily depends on how many computers and other devices you need on the network; if you're just looking to connect the E521 and nothing else, a basic router and single receiver is probably all you will need. But if you have other computers, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, WiFi enabled game consoles and Blu-ray players, etc that all want a connection then I'd probably suggest a higher spec router (it will be better able to handle the internal bandwidth requirements) and you may need more than one receiver. I'll hold off on suggesting specific equipment until we know more about how you're connecting out to the Internet, because that may make a difference in the kinds of equipment you need.

-bob

Components for Building Computers From Scratch

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Bobbert

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.

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I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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15+ years of experience

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