Configuring a Site-to-Site VPN Between Two Cisco Routers

A site-to-site virtual private network (VPN) allows you to maintain a secure “always-on” connection between two physically separate sites using an existing non-secure network such as the public Internet. Traffic between the two sites is transmitted over an encrypted tunnel to prevent snooping or other types of data attacks.

This configuration requires an IOS software image that supports cryptography. The one used in the examples is c870-advipservicesk9-mz.124-15.T6.bin.

There are several protocols used in creating the VPN including protocols used for a key exchange between the peers, those used to encrypt the tunnel, and hashing technologies which produce message digests.

VPN Protocols

IPSec: Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) is a suite of protocols that are used to secure IP communications. IPSec involves both key exchanges and tunnel encryption. You can think of IPSec as a framework for implementing security. When creating an IPSec VPN, you can choose from a variety of security technologies to implement the tunnel.

ISAKMP (IKE): Internet Security Association and Key Management Protocol (ISAKMP) provides a means for authenticating the peers in a secure communication. It typically uses Internet Key Exchange (IKE), but other technologies can also be used. Public keys or a pre-shared key are used to authenticate the parties to the communication.

MD5: Message-Digest algorithm 5 (MD5) is an often used, but partially insecure cryptographic hash function with a 128-bit hash value. A cryptographic hash function is a way of taking an arbitrary block of data and returning a fixed-size bit string, the hash value based on the original block of data. The hashing process is designed so that a change to the data will also change the hash value. The hash value is also called the message digest.

SHA: Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA) is a set of cryptographic hash functions designed by the National Security Agency (NSA). The three SHA algorithms are structured differently and are distinguished as SHA-0,SHA-1, and SHA-2. SHA-1 is a commonly used hashing algorithm with a standard key length of 160 bits.

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ESP: Encapsulating Security Payload (ESP) is a member of the IPsec protocol suite that provides origin authenticity, integrity, and confidentiality protection of packets. ESP also supports encryption-only and authentication-only configurations, but using encryption without authentication is strongly discouraged because it is insecure. Unlike the other IPsec protocol, Authentication Header (AH), ESP does not protect the IP packet header. This difference makes ESP preferred for use in a Network Address Translation configuration. ESP operates directly on top of IP, using IP protocol number 50.

DES: The Data Encryption Standard (DES) provides 56-bit encryption. It is no longer considered a secure protocol because its short key-length makes it vulnerable to brute-force attacks.

3DES: Three DES was designed to overcome the limitations and weaknesses of DES by using three different 56-bit keys in a encrypting, decrypting, and re-encrypting operation. 3DES keys are 168 bits in length. When using 3DES, the data is first encrypted with one 56-bit key, then decrypted with a different 56-bit key, the output of which is then re-encrypted with a third 56-bit key.

AES: The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) was designed as a replacement for DES and 3DES. It is available in varying key lengths and is generally considered to be about six times faster than 3DES.

HMAC: The Hashing Message Authentication Code (HMAC) is a type of message authentication code (MAC). HMAC is calculated using a specific algorithm involving a cryptographic hash function in combination with a secret key.

Configuring a Site-to-Site VPN

The process of configuring a site-to-site VPN involves several steps:

Phase One configuration involves configuring the key exchange. This process uses ISAKMP to identify the hashing algorithm and authentication method. It is also one of two places where you must identify the peer at the opposite end of the tunnel. In this example, we chose SHA as the hashing algorithm due to its more robust nature, including its 160-bit key. The key “vpnkey” must be identical on both ends of the tunnel. The address “” is the outside interface of the router at the opposite end of the tunnel.

Sample phase one configuration:

tukwila(config)#crypto isakmp policy 10

tukwila(config-isakmp)#hash sha

tukwila(config-isakmp)#authentication pre-share

tukwila(config-isakmp)#crypto isakmp key vpnkey address

Phase Two configuration involves configuring the encrypted tunnel. In Phase Two configuration, you create and name a transform set which identifies the encrypting protocols used to create the secure tunnel. You must also create a crypto map in which you identify the peer at the opposite end of the tunnel, specify the transform-set to be used, and specify which access control list will identify permitted traffic flows. In this example, we chose AES due to its heightened security and enhanced performance. The statement “set peer″ identifies the outside interface of the router at the opposite end of the tunnel. The statement “set transform-set vpnset” tells the router to use the parameters specified in the transform-set vpnset in this tunnel. The “match address 100″ statement is used to associate the tunnel with access-list 100 which will be defined later.

Sample phase two configuration:

tukwila(config)#crypto ipsec transform-set vpnset esp-aes esp-sha-hmac


tukwila(config)#crypto map vpnset 10 ipsec-isakmp

% NOTE: This new crypto map will remain disabled until a peer

and a valid access list have been configured.

tukwila(config-crypto-map)#set peer

tukwila(config-crypto-map)#set transform-set vpnset

tukwila(config-crypto-map)#match address 100

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The crypto map must be applied to your outside interface (in this example, interface FastEthernet 4):

tukwila(config)#int f4

tukwila(config-if)#crypto map vpnset

You must create an access control list to explicitly allow traffic from the router’s inside LAN across the tunnel to the other router’s inside LAN (in this example, the router tukwila’s inside LAN network address is and the other router’s inside LAN network address is

tukwila(config)#access-list 100 permit ip

(For more information about the syntax of access-control lists, see my other articles on creating and managing Cisco router access-control lists.)

You must also create a default gateway (also known as the “gateway of last resort”). In this example, the default gateway is at

tukwila(config)#ip route

Verifying VPN Connections

The following two commands can be used to verify VPN connections:

Router#show crypto ipsec sa

This command displays the settings used by the current Security Associations (SAs).

Router#show crypto isakmp sa

This command displays current IKE Security Associations.

Troubleshooting VPN Connections

After confirming physical connectivity, audit both ends of the VPN connection to ensure they mirror each other.

Use debugging to analyze VPN connection difficulties:

Router#debug crypto isakmp

This command allows you to observe Phase 1 ISAKMP negotiations.

Router#debug crypto ipsec

This command allows you to observe Phase 2 IPSec negotiations.

Copyright (c) 2008 Don R. Crawley

Source by Don R. Crawley

How Port Forwarding Works

Port forwarding is one area where people get confused the most. The reason, in my opinion, is that each router manufacturer has their own different way of doing it. Port forwarding is used if you have a router in your home or workplace. What it does is opens up a specific port to a specific computer. The port usually requires opening for a certain software applications. The most common for businesses is remote access.

Here is a generalized step by step guide to port forwarding:

1. Open up a web browser and type in the IP address of your router. If you don’t know it, here is a trick to finding it out. Click “start” -> then “run” -> type in CMD -> in the DOS window that opens up type in IPCONFIG. Now below will list your IP Address for your computer, the subnet mask and the default gateway. The default gateway is usually your router’s IP address.

2. Now you will be brought to the log in screen of your router. If you never changed the default (which most people don’t) here are the common default user name and passwords:

admin, password

administrator, password

admin, admin

“blank”, admin

3. Once your are logged in you need to navigate to the port forwarding settings. This is where each manufacturer does it their own way. Basically you are looking for menu setting “applications and gaming” or “firewall”

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4. Once you are there, you will need to enter in the port start & finish range, whether it is a TCP or UDP port, the name you want to give this setting and the IP address of the computer you are forwarding the port to. Make sure any apply check boxes are checked. Click save and that should do it.

For exact instructions on your particular router please check with your manufacturer. Below are some common ports for certain applications (All are TCP unless stated otherwise):

VPN 1723

Remote Desktop 3389

VNC 5900

FTP 21 This is only if you are running your own FTP server

PCAnywhere TCP 5631 UDP 5632

Please also keep in mind any game in which you want to play over the Internet will have its specific port that will need to be opened up. Another note is if you are using any kind of download program, like Bittorent, and your downloads are really slow the most likely cause is the port is being blocked.

Source by John Vizaniaris

Wireless Networking, Part 1: Capabilities and Hardware

Wireless Networking, Part 1: Capabilities and Hardware

These days it isn’t uncommon for a home to have multiple personal computers, and as such, it just makes sense for them to be able to share files, as well as to share one Internet connection. Wired networking is an option, but it is one that may require the installation and management of a great deal of wiring in order to get even a modestly sized home set up. With wireless networking equipment becoming extremely affordable and easy to install, it may be worth considering by those looking to build a home network, as well as by those looking to expand on an existing wired network.

The first installment in this two-part series of Tech Tips will provide an introduction to the basic capabilities and hardware involved in wireless networking. Once that foundation has been established, we’ll take a look at a few setup and security related considerations that should be addressed once the physical installation is complete.


The basic standard that covers wireless networking is the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) 802.11, which is close kin to the wired Ethernet standard, 802.3. Many people will recognize 802.11 more readily when accompanied by one of three suffixes (a, b, or g), used to specify the exact protocol of wireless networking.

The 802.11a protocol first hit the scene in 2001, and despite a small surge in recent popularity, it is definitely the least common of the three at this time. The signals are transmitted on a 5 GHz radio frequency, while “b” and “g” travel on 2.4 GHz. The higher frequency means that the signal can travel less distance in free space and has a harder time penetrating walls, thus making the practical application of an 802.11a network a bit limited. The maximum transfer rate, however, is roughly 54 Mbps, so it makes up for its limited range with respectable speed.

As mentioned, 802.11b and 802.11g networks operate on a 2.4 GHz radio band, which gives a much greater range as compared to 802.11a. One downside to being on the 2.4 GHz band is that many devices share it, and interference is bound to be an issue. Cordless phones and Bluetooth devices are two of many items that operate at this frequency. The range of these two protocols is about 300 feet in free air, and the difference between the two comes down to speed. 802.11b came first, released back in 1999, and offers speeds up to 11 Mbps. 802.11g first appeared in 2002 and it is a backwards compatible improvement over 802.11b and offers speeds up to 54 Mbps.

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On top of these protocols, some manufacturers have improved upon the 802.11g standard and can provide speeds of up to 108 Mbps. This doesn’t involve a separate protocol, but just a bit of tweaking in areas like better data compression, more efficient data packet bursting, and by using two radio channels simultaneously. Typically, stock 802.11g equipment is not capable of these speeds, and those interested need to shop for matched components that specify 108 Mbps support. I say “matched components” as this is not a standard protocol and the various manufacturers may take different approaches to achieving these speeds. In order to ensure the best results when trying to achieve these elevated speeds, components from the same manufacturer should be used together. For instance, only Netgear brand network adaptors rated for 108 Mbps data transfer should be used with something like the Netgear WG624 wireless router (

Considering your typical broadband Internet connection is going to offer data transfer rates of 10 Mbps or less, it can be seen that even 802.11b would be more than adequate if you just want to surf the web. Sharing files on your LAN (Local Area Network) is where the faster protocols will really make a difference, and comparing the prices of 802.11b and 802.11g components may show that there is little to no difference in selecting a “g” capable device over a comparable “b” capable device.


Access Point – Wireless Access Point (WAP) is the central device that manages the transmission of wireless signals on a network. A base access point may be capable of handling up to 10 connections, and more robust APs may be able to manage up to 255 connections simultaneously. The D-Link DWL-1000AP+ ( is an example of a wireless access point capable of 802.11b transmissions.

Router – In somewhat technical terms, a router is a network device that forwards data packets. It is generally the connection between at least two networks, such as two LANs, or a LAN and ISP’s (Internet Service Provider’s) network. For our purposes, and for the sake of simplicity, a wireless router is basically an access point with the added feature of having a port for sharing a broadband Internet connection. The D-Link AirPlus G ( is an 802.11g capable router that provides access for numerous wireless connections and four hard-wired connections to one WAN (Wide Area Network Internet) connection. A typical router for home use will generally cost less than an access point, and via settings within the firmware, can be used as just an access point anyway. Wired or wireless, all the computers using the router can share files over the network, as well as sharing a broadband internet connection. Communication between wireless computers (or a wireless computer and a wired computer) will max out at 54 Mbps, while communication between wired computers will take full advantage of the 100 Mbps provided via the 802.3 protocol.

Network Adaptor – A network adaptor is required for every computer that you would like to be connected to the wireless network. Many laptops, such as this Sony Centrino 1.5 GHz ( now include a wireless adaptor built in, so no extra hardware is needed. For those with systems that don’t have wireless capabilities built in, adding them is fairly simple, and can be done using a variety of connections. Desktop computers can go wireless by adding a PCI slot network adaptor such as the 802.11g capable D-Link DWL-G510 ( Notebook users can easily add wireless connectivity by using a PCMCIA adaptor, such as this 802.11g capable device ( And for truly convenient plug-n-play connectivity to wireless networks, USB adaptors such as this 802.11g capable dongle ( are available.

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Antenna/Extender – These items are not essential, but given the specifics of a wireless environment, they may be helpful. Devices such as the Hawking Hi-Gain Antenna ( or the Super Cantenna ( serve the purpose of increasing the wireless signal strength, and therefore extend the range of a given wireless network. Not only can a large area of open space be covered, but the signal quality may be improved in structures with walls and floors that obstruct the signal transmission.

Final Words

In this Tech Tip, we took a look at the basics of wireless networking as it relates to capabilities and hardware. In the second part of this two-part series, we will look at some of the basic setup and security considerations that should be addressed. The physical installation of a wireless network may be exponentially easier than a wired network, but the more difficult part is setting up the software and security to make sure everything stays up and running without incident.

Source by Jason Kohrs

How to Easily Obtain the Right Linksys Wireless Drivers For Your Device

Drivers are an integral part of any wireless device your computer uses. Quite simply, without the proper one, your device isn’t functioning the way it’s supposed to. Finding the correct Linksys wireless drivers can be a real pain if you’re unsure of where to look. Today, however, there is a new option in driver finding, that makes quick work of locating the correct ones for your system.

There are a lot of reasons why drivers may break down over time. Virus’ and spyware running wild online can specifically target a device and corrupt its drivers. Additionally, critical updates are released every day for any number of computer parts. More often than not, users are never made aware of these updates.

It used to be in order to find Linksys wireless drivers you would have to spend a lot of time at the manufacturers website, or spend way too much effort with a search engine, wading through page after page trying to track down the right version that you need. These days we have software titles that will do the dirty work for us, and greatly simplify tracking down the right driver.

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Automatic driver software is catching on to be some of the most convenient applications available. With so many drivers to stay on top of, knowing which are out of date, broken or faulty, and being able to locate the ones that need replacing can take so much effort on the users behalf. Automatic driver software really simplifies standard PC maintenance down to a click of a button.

If you’ve been trying to find the right Linksys wireless drivers for your device, I recommend trying automatic driver software. You might be surprised to learn just how out of date your other drivers might just be.

Source by James Cannon

How to Restore a Dell Computer to Factory Settings

The article has been designed to help users restore their Dell computer to factory settings. The methods described in the article are simple and reliable. However, it is recommended that users follow the instructions accurately to avoid stumbling upon common Dell computer problems and eventually contacting Dell computer support.

It is inevitable for a computer to face problems as both go hand in hand. As your Dell computer becomes little old or you use it more and more, it tends to create problems like slowing down or taking unnecessary time during reboot or shutdown etc. Though it’s not necessary that a computer will always create problems (after becoming old), but it may frequently need to be given technical doses or tweaks for higher performance, stability, and security among other things. Since you have already sensed the problem and have decided to do a factory restore on your Dell computer, keep this in mind that you will be required to do it a proper way as it is a sensitive process. The below mentioned guide will help you step-by-step to perform the factory restore settings on your own. This essentially means that you don’t need to spend your time contacting your Dell tech Support services.

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First, backup all your critical data including files, folders etc. to an external flash drive or hard drive. Keep this media to a safe, dry place and away from the unauthorized access. You can also use Windows XP’s Files & Settings Transfer Wizard to back up your data. Do not forget to take the backup to another media mentioned above.

When done, disconnect all the devices, peripherals like printer and/or router etc. attached to your Dell computer. If you have a Dell system recovery disk (after the system has rebooted), insert it in the computer’s DVDCD-ROM drive. Reboot your computer. When prompted, select to boot the computer using the disk. When prompted (after rebooting), choose restore to factory defaults from the given options. If you want, you can still choose to repair your computer instead of restoring to factory defaults.

Follow the wizard’s instructions to reset your computer to default settings, reformat hard disk drive, and/or re-install Windows operating system. It may take some time, so be patient and wait for the process to finish. When finished, attach the external media (that you backed your data to) and reinstall all the applications and drivers individually. When done and prompted, reboot your computer.

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If you don’t have a Dell system recovery media, but your computer has a Dell System Restore partition. Then simply reboot your computer. While the computer is restarting and you see the Dell logo, press the Ctrl key, hold it, and then press the F11 key on the keyboard. Thereafter, release both the keys at the same time. The computer will boot up to the restore partition in your hard drive. From there, you can reset your computer to factory settings.

Source by Kumar Gandharva Jha

A Guide In Finding The Best Wireless Router That Fits Your Needs

If you are scouring the market for wireless routers, it is natural for you to ask the question “What is the best wireless router out there?” Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question because it would depend on the specifics of your needs. There are various kinds of wireless routers. What’s best for a certain user may not be as useful to another user.

Let us say for instance that you are looking for a cable wireless router. In deciding on a router to use, you have to make sure it is of the right protocol. You should also consider some factors like the speed of your internet connection and the place where the router is going to be set up. For example, if your connection is home-based, then a G or a B router protocol should be the one you are going to use. On the other hand, if your connection is office-based, then an N protocol should be preferred. And one more thing, the router should also match with the modem. If this is not the case, you will surely be encountering problems and connection issues later.

If you have a network of several computers which you wish to connect to the internet, then using a cable modem wireless router is the way to do it. A cable modem wireless router enables a computer to connect to the internet then act as a host so that other computers in the same network can get connected to the internet as well. In the simplest of terms, a cable modem wireless router connects several or multiple computers to the same network without the need for a lot of wires and cables. Fast and reliable internet connection can be accessed by multiple computers using only a single modem. Furthermore, if you are using a laptop, you can use it anywhere because you are not restricted by the physical location of Ethernet ports.

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If you are planning to set up a computer network in your small office or in your home, it’s recommended that you make use of an 8 port router. This type of router enables you to network up to eight computers. It can also be used with nearly a thousand wireless devices. This is a very good deal if you believe that you will be expanding your network in the foreseeable future.

The wireless router price is of course among the very first things buyers look into when purchasing the hardware. If you are such a buyer, don’t be fooled by cheaper than usual routers. Here is the general rule: the cheaper they get, the lower their quality becomes. Browse around the web and determine the average price for the exact piece of router you need. Use the price you come up with in comparing with other prices used by online sellers.

And one more thing, don’t forget to read several reviews about a certain wireless router before you purchase it. Reviews are a good source of information on whether a product is good or not.

Source by Jade Shing

The Advantages of a Wireless Network

Have you used the WIFI connectivity present on post prime locations across the globe like the airport, five star hotels and many others? Have you so far given a thought to how your internet is still working though you are not connected through a wired medium? When we talk about a network, we actually refer to it as the collection of devices and computers interlinked through communication channels, which not only allow users to communicate but also facilitate them to exchange and share resources, hardware, files, software and many more. When it comes to the categorization, it is broadly classified as wired and wireless network and each carries their own pros and cons, however, advantages of a wire free network over the wired network.

Talking about networks, the real difference in a wireless compared to a wired one is that here the end nodes are interconnected without any wire or physical media making it a completely virtual experience. The information travels through electromagnetic waves and takes the execution at the physical layer of the OSI model. Most wireless networks are based on IEEE 802.11 standard. What it does is that it gives us the flexibility to make contact with the internet or intranet without any intervention or utilization of a physical medium. Excessive cabling scattered throughout can be avoided through the usage of a wireless network.

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Advantages of a wire free network are many, and if you are a company and planning to make the usage of data portable, then a wireless network is your ultimate answer. This type of system is less prone to system downtime, which is very much a case in the wired one. Wireless access to the internet at public places like the airport, railway station, library, college campus and hotels are a few other advantages of wireless networking. So shift your system and network card at ease and here your system is ready with full access to the network without any wired complications.

If you think from the installation and maintenance point of view, a wired network costs more when compared to a wireless one. It also means that the time utilized or spent in the installation and maintenance will be on the higher side too. Who wants to get in to this complexity and pay more for a wired network connection? Moreover, the chance of overall system downtime is much higher in case of a wired network. So an organization, where profit is dependent on availability of data, wireless networking plays a crucial role.

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The prices of the wireless router are certainly less than the total cost of an Ethernet wire. Though there is an active research going on the fact that usage of a wireless network may harm the health leading to memory loss and premature senility. However, advantages of a wire free network are at much higher value than the possible disadvantages.

This certainly makes the wireless system as a network of the future. So anybody who is in the phase of deciding about router or wire, wireless or wired, flexible or rigid, wireless networking is the answer to all their questions in mind.

Source by Paige Mercer

Network – Pluscom 5 Port Gigabit Switch

Since most computers these days come with gigabit (1000Mbps) network interfaces, it makes sense to run a network capable of these speeds, especially if the network is used for media streaming (video and music) or has intensive usage by several machines for different uses (VoIP, file sharing etc.).

At the lower end of the price range for network switches, the Pluscom 5 port Gigabit Switch meets the requirements for media streaming and other data intensive networking protocols. The switch supports auto-negotiation meaning that it can differentiate between uplink and common ports (i.e. the cable with the connection to the internet and the cable connected to the computer), auto-MDI/MDIX for each port meaning that it can differentiate between standard and cross-over cables (i.e. it doesn’t matter which you use). It also adopts store-and-forwarding technology together with dynamic memory allocation, to guarantee data can be transmitted to every port efficiently and fast.

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The Pluscom 5 port Gigabit Switch is small and therefore can be hidden out of sight easily so as to not impact on the available space. Alternatively it can be wall mounted.

We attached the Pluscom switch downstream of our Belkin N1 wireless router as a means of attaching a NAS drive away from the main network. The switch installed flawlessly and allowed immediate connection of both a PC and the NAS drive without any difficulties. We were really impressed with the switch and file transfers were as fast as they had been previously through the switch built into the Belkin N1 wireless router.

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We would definitely recommend the Pluscom 5 port Gigabit Switch for users wishing to extend the range and capabilities of their wired network.

Source by James Youell

Wireless Network Security

Why Use Security?

If someone is able to wireless connect to your network from the road, near by parking lot, or adjacent house here are some things to consider. If they use your Internet connection for illegal activity, YOU are liable, not them. Also, once they are on your network, they may be able to open, delete, or change every file on your computers. There is also the possibility that the unauthorized user could spread viruses without them even realizing it.

So What Should I Do?

There are many ways to secure your connection. We are focusing on wireless security, so we will make a simple adjustment to your router. The simplest way to secure your connection is by using WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol). Before I go any further, many hackers can find ways around this protection. It is not the best choice for large businesses (over 100 employees), but for home and small business users, this will work just fine.

Step 1 (Configure router):

Depending on your router, the specifics of this step will differ. You need to log into your router. This is done by opening your Internet Browser (Internet Explorer, FireFox, Safari, etc.) and putting the IP Address of the router in the address bar (the address bar is where you type web sites such as This IP address will either be or; if you are unsure try both. Once you type the correct one in (and press ‘Enter’), a pop-up will ask you for your user name and password. If you have never changed your password, then a default was set for you by the manufacturer. This is not the same user name and password as your computer or Internet Service Provider. If you do not know your default password, find it by clicking here.

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Once logged in, look for the wireless section. This is often a button or tab found on the main page. For DLink routers there will be a button on the left menu. Now look for wireless security. For DLink routers it will be on this page. You should see a drop-down-menu. Select WEP (you may also see other choices such as WAP). Depending on your router, you will see some or all of these options. Set them as follows:

Authentication: Open

WEP Encryption: 64bit

Key Type: Hex


The above ‘Key’ is your wireless network password. Anyone that uses your wireless connection will need to know it. Normally, you are only required to put it in your computer once and then it will remember it.

Step 2 (Computer Setup):

Now go to your wireless computer and try to connect to the network, it will ask you for the key. Enter it just as you did in the router.

Step 3 (Advanced Security):

If you would like more security then you can change some of the other options in the router. For example, instead of 64bit choose 128bit. Or instead of HEX choose ASCII. All routers are different and offer different levels of security. Basically, going to 128bit requires a longer password so it is harder for others to guess and going to ASCII requires a password with letters, not just numbers, so there are more possible passwords. You can change this around as much as you like and I do suggest changing to either 128bit or ASCII.

Note: For more information contact the manufacturer of the router. They often have a toll free number and will walk you through exactly how to do what you want. I suggest a DLink router because they have 24/7 support and are very helpful.

Source by John Magluilo

Wireless Networking Made Easy – Learn How To Setup a Wireless Network At Home – Part One Of Three

The topic that comes up the most when people ask me about computers is wireless networking (also known as Wi-Fi – Wireless Fidelity, or WLAN – Wireless LAN). What does 802.11g mean? How do I configure my router? How can I leech off of my neighbor’s wireless network? Since I’m running a technology blog, I thought I’d impart my knowledge on the technically-unsavvy (or the WLAN beginner). These tutorials are not for the super advanced networking guru, mind you, so don’t take it as such! This will be a three-part article, broken down into the following parts:

What you’ll need to setup a wireless network (the part you’re reading now).
What the standards mean.
How to configure your wireless network once it’s been setup.

We’ll be practical here. I’m not going to bore you by going into detail about the out-dated wireless standards. You don’t want to know about old technology that you can’t buy anymore. Saying that, I will give you a single paragraph rundown on the origin of the terms IEEE and 802.11, because you’ll see them throughout this three-part article.

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What do the terms IEEE and 802.11 mean?

The incremental wireless standards are designated by a letter (e.g. b, g, n) after the numbers 802.11. It’s called 802.11 because that was the name of the group formed to create the standard. You’ll see the acronym IEEE as well, which means ‘Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ – the organization that ultimately oversaw the 802.11 group and the creation of the wireless standard. The average consumer doesn’t need to know anything more than that. Pretty straight-forward, no?

Shopping for your wireless network.

Now, lets talk about what you’ll find when you shop for a wireless router. We’ll start with what you’ll need to setup a wireless network in your home – the basics. First, you’ll need a wireless router. There are plenty of makes and models, but generally they do the same thing. I won’t get into which is best, but I’ll tell you what I use. My wireless router is made by D-Link, using the ‘n’ standard (more on standards later). The other major router manufacturers are NetGear, Linksys, Buffalo, Belkin and TRENDnet. Like I said though, they all do generally the same thing. Don’t worry too much about the brand.

The next piece of equipment you’ll need (or won’t need) depends entirely on the computers you’re going to be connecting to your new WLAN. If you’ll be connecting a laptop, chances are you won’t need any additional hardware for it, unless your laptop is more than 5 years old (in which case I’d suggest using it as a door-stop or anti-theft device, instead of a computer). Laptops come with built-in wireless NICs (network interface cards), so chances are you won’t need to buy anything additional.

If you have a PC, you can either connect it wirelessly, or if it’s in close proximity to the wireless router, you can use a network cable and plug it directly into the back of the device. If it’s not close to the router, you’ll need to purchase a wireless NIC. The brand doesn’t absolutely need to be the same as the router, though I’d recommend it for compatibility sake. What you do have to watch for, however, is that the wireless NIC and the wireless router share the same standard. Most likely this will be ‘n’ or ‘g’. Routers and wireless NICs are usually backwards-compatible. Meaning, they’ll work on both standards (and previous standards as well).

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You will need at least one network cable. This will be used to connect your router to whatever broadband device you’re using (cable or DSL modem). You’ll need a second cable if you want to connect your PC directly to the router. That’s all as far as hardware goes. Just two – possibly three – pieces of hardware. It doesn’t cost much to setup a WLAN. As I described above, the next article will be focused on the current Wi-Fi standards and what they mean. We’ll get a little more technical there.

Source by David S Kaplan