We live in a world of well-connected electronic gadgets. Today's TVs, games consoles, MP3 players and mobile phones merrily hook up to the internet and each other with or without wires.
Taking advantage of all this connectivity can present challenges to the technology fan. Unfortunately, the typical British home was built without provision for sophisticated wire networks, and the broadband connection is likely to arrive at a location - such as the hall - that is inconvenient for networking.
Wireless connectivity is fabulous in theory, but in practice you can run into all sorts of problems. While connecting a Wi-Fi router to your ADSL or cable modem is a simple enough task, getting wireless devices to talk to each other can test the patience of a saint.
The headline speed of 802.11n wireless is attractive, yet connection speeds can plummet at the first sign of an obstruction. There are ways around this: optimising your network by moving equipment, using HomePlug, changing wireless channels, dropping to a slower but more reliable standard such as 802.11g and reconfiguring your security settings.
Setting up a home Wi-Fi connection can take a lot of effort, but the benefits make it all worthwhile. Here, we'll guide you through setting up a home Wi-Fi network.
Set up a WiFi router and home network
Step 1. BT customers are forced to stick with the Home Hub router supplied with their subscription since it's necessary for various BT services to work. Even so, we recommend upgrading to the Home Hub 2.0 to gain faster 802.11n Wi-Fi. Non-BT customers should look to our Wi-Fi router reviews for recommendations.
Step 2. Plug in your new router and connect it to your PC using a network cable. You can now dive into the configuration screen, using either the supplied utility or the web interface.Your first job is to update the firmware: download the relevant file from the manufacturer's website, then click Update.
Step 3. Giving your router a memorable name will make things easier when you need to select it from a list of available networks in the area. The configuration screen will let you change the network name (also known as a Service Set Identifier or SSID), up to a maximum of 32 characters. We've used 'Leo's HomeHub2'.
Step 4. In an ideal world, you should disable encryption while you're setting up your new router and making the initial wireless connection. BT Home Hubs let you switch between two encryption modes, but you can't disable it entirely. If you're using any other brand of router, turn off encryption until you've finished setup.
Step 5. 802.11n's use of multiple-input, multiple-output (Mimo) antenna technology and dual-band support can create complications. During setup we recommend selecting the slowest standard (probably 802.11b) supported by your hardware. Once complete, you can crank up your network to 802.11g/n.
Step 6. The frequency bandwidth used by each wireless standard is divided into a number of narrow channels that allow networks to co-exist. By default, a router will automatically negotiate the use of channels with neighbouring routers. If your hardware refuses to make a stable connection, manually select a different channel.