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Wireless Basics

Best Buy > Computers > Networking > Wireless Basics
Home Networking Basics

A wireless router matched with a high-speed connection lets you e-mail, surf and share with ease.

View a video for a wireless
home networking overview ›

What are the benefits of a wireless network?

A wireless network connects your computers and other devices without cumbersome cabling. Sometimes referred to as Wi-Fi networks or wireless local area networks (WLANs), wireless networks are gaining popularity because they connect printers, gaming consoles, home theater systems, network storage devices, even surveillance cameras and monitoring systems — all without the hassle of wires.

Modem Connected to Internet
Wireless router

Wireless networking also allows you to surf the Internet and print wirelessly from anywhere in your home. You can share your photos across multiple computers, even televisions! Play games, talk on the phone and watch your TV from anywhere in the world, all with the aid of your wireless network.

What equipment do I need for a basic network?

  1. Modem or gateway. A modem connects your home network to your Internet Service Provider (ISP); a gateway combines a modem and router in one device. While many ISPs offer monthly rental of modems or gateways when you contract for service, you can eliminate this fee by purchasing a device that is compatible with your service.

  3. Wireless router. A router acts as the heart of your network, connecting your computers and other devices. Choose a router that is compatible with all of your existing wireless devices (computer, printer, home theater system, gaming consoles, etc.) and gives you the network security you need.

    Wireless router
  5. Computer with wireless adapter. Make sure your computer has an integrated wireless card; if it does not, purchase a separate wireless card or USB network adapter compatible with your router's technology.



  6. Computer

Which wireless router should I buy?

A router links Internet-connectable devices together so they can communicate. The most common connection a router makes is from your computer to the Internet, but it can also provide a link from a computer to an Internet-ready TV, your wireless printer and much more!

The right router for you:

  1. Budget-conscious. If you're cost-conscious about your wireless equipment, a router that uses Wireless-G technology is best for you, giving you enough speed to surf the Internet, send e-mail and communicate with other wireless devices in your home. If you want to stream video from the Internet, though, you will want to invest in a router with faster technology.
  2. Small business. If you own your own business, you're probably transferring large data files between computers on your network. You need both the speed and the range offered by a Wireless-N router.
  3. Video streaming and gaming. If you love to watch TV shows or YouTube videos on the Internet, or if you're a high-end Internet gamer, you should consider a router with Wireless-N or Wireless-N Plus technology. You need its fast transfer speed to really optimize your viewing (and your attack).
  4. New router but old equipment. If you already have networking gear, you may want to be brand-loyal when purchasing a new router; it's always easier to connect equipment made by the same manufacturer. If you want to connect an older computer or other devices to your new router, you're not out of luck. You may be able to retrofit an older device with an adapter and new Internet Connectable products. Click here to find out how.
  5. The "Plus" in Wireless-N Plus. Wireless-N routers are fast. But if you need an extra bit of oomph for video streaming or gaming, "N plus" routers give you an edge with two extra features: Dual-band technology and a wired Gigabit port. Dual-band routers support two wireless frequency bands at the same time, meaning you can check e-mail and browse the Internet using the 2.4GHz band while simultaneously streaming high-definition (HD) movies and other media on the 5GHz band. You won't notice any speed lag on either application. A Gigabit port gives you a faster connection and better overall visual experience, a must if you're connecting your router to your home theater.
  6. Technology compatibility. Wireless technology is a fast-changing business. The current wireless standard is Wireless-N (or N Plus), offering the fastest speeds and best signal range. Wireless-N routers are backwards-compatible so they are able to connect with devices using earlier wireless standards like Wireless-G, -B and -A. However, even a Wireless-N router may not achieve maximum performance if your PC or other device operates on a prior standard.

Get the facts at a glance. Compare router technologies and choose the right one for you ›

How do I set up my network?

  1. Ensure that you have a high-speed Internet connection. An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is usually either a cable TV company, offering cable Internet services or a phone company delivering DSL services over your existing telephone wires. If you need a service provider, check out our high-speed Internet page to find out what's available in your area.
  2. Connect your router to your cable or DSL modem. Install the router following the manufacturer's instructions; most routers include a CD to guide you through the installation process. If you're renting your modem from the cable or phone company, consider purchasing a compatible device and saving on monthly rental fees.
  3. Configure your router to make sure you're protected. While most routers are functional as soon as you turn them on, you should secure your network using WEP or WPA security methods. The installation CD should walk you through this process. Make sure that you change the default password on the router to keep others from accessing your network.
  4. Set up and connect your computers and components to the router. If your connected devices do not have built-in network adapters, add external adapters following the manufacturer's instructions. Test each component and enjoy your new wireless network!

How can my basic network be enhanced?

Many electronics are now available in wireless versions. Connect devices that will make your life easier or more fun: Televisions, printers, hard drives, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and home monitoring systems.

Wireless network components

Why should I add a wireless printer to my network?

A wireless printer gives you the freedom to print from any room in your home. Setting up a wireless printer is easy:
In most cases, you need only a wireless router and a printer that is either wireless-capable or fitted with a wireless adapter. Once you have these essentials, you can reap the benefits of wireless freedom:

  • Print from anywhere without the mess of cables. Move around your home with a laptop or netbook and print at any time. Imagine yourself in the kitchen checking out an online recipe that looks so good you want to keep it — send it immediately to a printer tucked away in your office.
  • Save money on equipment. Multiple users and multiple computers in your home can share the same printer, so you may need only one printer to suit everyone's needs!
  • Place your printer anywhere in your home. If you don't like the sound of your printer or it doesn't suit your decor, put in a closet and access your printouts as you need them.

Tip: Consider purchasing a multi-function wireless printer that offers printing, scanning, copying and faxing as well as a media card slot. The printer will serve many of your document needs while the media card slot allows you to bypass your computer for faster printing of photos.

Why connect my home theater to my network?

Your connected home contains more than just computers. More and more home theater products can be connected wirelessly, including televisions, Blu-ray players and audio products. Connect these devices and gain access to a huge amount of instant content via your own home theater. Although available services vary by product, here are some possibilities:

  • Stream movies from Netflix (subscription required) or CinemaNow
  • Stream music from Pandora
  • Watch videos from YouTube
  • Access Facebook and Twitter
  • Study your fantasy sports info
  • Access BD Live on compatible Blu-ray players
  • Receive important firmware updates
    for your Blu-ray player and home audio products


Internet connected TV

Need help? Call on Geek Squad.

If you're overwhelmed by the variety of networking technologies, help is just a click away. Geek Squad agents are ready to assist you in selecting the right equipment for your new network and configuring those devices to create your ideal connected home.

If you want full service, consider the Geek Squad Home Networking Made Simple package.

You get full service (and some fun stuff) for one great price:

  • Your choice of several wireless routers
  • Professional Geek Squad installation
  • Connection of up to three additional wireless devices
  • Six months of post-installation support from Geek Squad
  • $5 CinemaNow download card for streaming movies from the Internet
Geek Squad

Have other questions? Get them answered here.


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