With powerful computers so low in price today, it's not uncommon for many households to have two or more computers.
One of the first things people set out to do is add the new machines to their existing Internet connection.
The steps to do this are easy, and the equipment is readily available and affordable.
All you need to do is add a router to the mix and you can share the Internet connection with multiple machines. With most wireless routers having the ability to connect to both wired and wireless machines, people have the ability to share their high-speed Internet throughout the house without having to string network cables everywhere.
A typical scenario often plays out like this. Let's say you have a desktop computer that's plugged directly into your cable or DSL modem and everything is running fine. Then, someone in your household comes home one day with a new laptop that's wireless-ready. He fires up the new laptop hoping to be able to jump online only to find that there is "no wireless network available" and, therefore, no connection.
After a little research, our frustrated user determines he needs to get a wireless router. So, off they go to get one. After spending $50 or so, he comes home with a nice, new wireless router.
He follows the "quick-start guide," plugs the router into the high-speed modem, the desktop machine into one of the ports in the back of the router and then configures the router for use according to the instructions.
Now when he turns on the laptop, he gets a message that "one or more wireless networks are available" and within a minute or so the new laptop is sharing the same high-speed service that the desktop machine is using and everyone is happy.
However, nine out of 10 times there is a dark side to this whole scenario that can be avoided if people would take a few minutes more when setting up their routers.
Often, people will ignore the router's built-in security settings because it's easy to ignore and get the system up and running. That's when they end up having an unsecured wireless network that anyone else can connect to just as easily as they did with their new laptop.
Why is it that so many people, who are usually concerned about things such as identity theft and getting hacked, ignore the security settings when setting up a new wireless network?
Quite simply, it's because most people will tend to sacrifice security for convenience. Taking the steps to set up security looks complicated and scary. So, some people just skip that part.
The reality is that setting up a new wireless router's security is easy and just takes a few minutes to set up properly. It's also something that can be done after the fact, so if you are running an unsecured wireless network, it's not too late to go back and activate the security settings.
The easiest way to do that is to look at your router's documentation and follow the steps to turn on the router's wireless security page and generate a key (or "password" for lack of a better word).
Each computer that attempts to connect to the wireless router will need to have this key in order to connect. This will keep unwanted users out of your network. Since your machine will remember a valid key, you won't have to enter it every time you connect.
This column is not going into detail on how to take these steps because every router has a different way of going about activating the security. (Some routers do have the security key active by default). However, the basics are the same.
The important thing to keep in mind is that sacrificing security for convenience is something you should avoid.
Take the extra time to learn how to configure your router's security settings even if you've been using it unsecured for years and "nothing bad has happened, yet."
It's that "yet" you want to avoid.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (772) 408-0680 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).