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Your Wireless Network

Is your wireless network password-protected? If it is, do you know the password?

Let’s discuss this.

If you have a wireless network in your house, you are able to access the internet on a network from your computer devices without having to plug them in to a modem. This gives you the freedom to work from different rooms and to have more than one device on the network at a time. Very convenient.

You can password-protect your network, and I recommend that you do so in order to control who can access it. With an unsecured network, you allow anyone in the neighborhood to join. This is not a good idea.

While you may fear that others on your network can “see” into your computer (this does not happen randomly; you have to designate files and folders to be shared), the more immediate issue is an ethical one: just as you pay for internet service to come to your house, your neighbors, too, should pay for their own service.

With a protected network, you need only enter your password once on each device; devices can remember the password. Thank goodness!

Here are some issues to consider about your password-protected network:

  • Unlike your other passwords, your wireless network password is one you will share with others. House guests may ask you for it so they can use their laptops, so be prepared to share it. Do not make this the same password as the ones you use for more personal accounts like email or bank access.
  • It is possible that your network is protected but you don’t know the password. (I run into this a lot). It seems that cable and DSL installers often enter a password into your device when they set up your system and fail to tell you what it is. They figure that your device will remember it so you’ll never need it. Right … until you get a new computer or have house guests. You may never unearth an unknown password, but you can reset your modem and create a new password.
  • If your network does not “reach” the whole house, you may consider purchasing a range extender. You plug this device into an outlet halfway between your modem and the “dead zone” and it picks up the signal from the modem and “sprays” it further into your house. If your network is called “mynetwork,” your extended network will be called “mynetwork_ext.” You should give the two networks the same password so your guests can easily access whichever network their device detects.

For those of you who recognize that some devices — smart phones and some tablets — can access the internet through 3G, you know you do not technically need a wireless network at all. However, you should be aware that

  • A good network connection can be faster than a 3G connection
  • Using 3G uses your data plan
  • Using 3G drains your battery at a faster rate than does a network connection
  • Some features work better (or only) through a network, i.e., Facetime downloading some apps, location services, etc.

Now you know.