How to Connect a Wireless Router to a Laptop Computer
Wi-Fi is no longer only for elite or extremely tech savvy users---it is now found in an ever-increasing number of homes and offices. There is an endless array of wireless networking products most that are designed for the SOHO (small office home office) market and for the most part, a top-rate product can usually be had for under $100. Apple laptop computers have included built-in wireless cards for several years, and many older models can be retrofitted with an Apple or third-party wireless card.
Things You'll Need
Modem (cable or DSL)
Confirm that your laptop has a built-in AirPort card. The pizza-shaped icon in the upper right of the screen (near the clock) indicates there is one installed. You can also check by selecting "About This Mac" under the apple in the upper left of the screen and clicking on "More Info..." Then click on "AirPort" under "Network" to confirm there is a card installed. If there isn't a wireless card installed, check to see if your model has the capability for a built-in AirPort card, or if you should buy a third-party USB wireless card.
Decide if you're going to use an Apple-branded (AirPort) wireless router, or one by LinkSys, D-Link, NetGear, Belkin or another manufacturer. No matter which brand you use, both Mac and Windows users will able to connect to the wireless network. There are advantage to both; the non-Apple models have a lower price point, but the Apple versions have some functionality that you may want, including AirTunes (the ability to stream iTunes music to one or more stereos), Time Capsule (a wireless unit with built-in storage for automated backups) and shared wireless printing capabilities.
Power down the modem (cable or DSL) and attach the router to the modem using an RJ-45 Ethernet cable. Plug one end of the cable into the "WAN" or "Internet" port on the router and the other into the RJ-45 port on the modem. Power on the modem, wait 45 seconds, power on the router and wait another 45 seconds before attempting to connect.
Connect to the new wireless network by pulling down the pizza-shaped icon and selecting your network, which will be listed by the name of the manufacturer of the router you are using (i.e. LinkSys, D-Link, Apple, etc.). Once you have connected to the network, you can access the router and change the name of the unit, the wireless network name and the security settings.
Launch a Web browser to configure any brand of router except for Apple. Each router has a default address and user name/password, so refer to the unit's documentation. Once you've opened the configuration page, change the network name to differentiate it from other wireless networks within range. Also change the login name and password and protect your wireless network with a secure password. Confirm you've saved your changes before navigating to another page.
Open AirPort Utility (found in Applications>Utilities) to configure your Apple wireless unit (Apple AirPort units have a default password of "public"). You'll be changing the same settings as described in Step 5: login password, wireless network name and wireless security, all of which are found under the "AirPort" tab. One of the other advantages of using an Apple wireless router is that the configuration window is far more user friendly.