Make Your Wireless Computer Connect Only To Your Network

WiFi networking is designed like the Internet - lossy. That is, it's expected to fail, and designed with recovery mechanisms built in. Your WiFi signal is lossy.

The signal emitted by your WiFi router is very light, intended to allow coverage distances based upon feet - not miles, as a broadcast radio or TV station. WiFi, as with radio and TV, radiates in a spherical pattern. Very few business or residential properties are spherical shaped. Locating a WiFi access point on your property, to provide coverage to all of your property, is not a simple task.

If you carry your WiFi equipped laptop around your house enough, eventually you will find a dead spot - somewhere with no signal, or not enough signal to provide enough bandwidth. You can do several things to work around this problem.

  • Move the laptop, to find a better signal.
  • Relocate the existing WiFi router or WiFi Access Point (WAP), to give a better signal where it's needed.
  • Install a second (or third) WAP, connected as the first, to your LAN.

Say you like the third solution better, and now you have 2 WAPs. If you put both WAPs on different channels (so they don't cause interference to each other), and assign them the same SSID, you'll be free to move around, and the laptop wil automatically connect to which ever WAP is stronger, at any location. That's called roaming - it's a lossy solution, and it works well (within the limits of channel saturation).

However, there's a catch here. Whether you have a WiFi LAN with 1 WAP, 2 WAPs, or a dozen, if you don't setup your WiFi LAN properly, your laptop could just as easily connect to your neighbor's WiFi LAN. That could have various consequences.
  • You could end up with a connection thru a different ISP, with no access to services from your ISP.
  • You could end up on a different LAN, with no access to your other computers.
  • You could be arrested for leeching WiFi (stated to be illegal in some jurisdictions).

If you setup your WiFi LAN properly, this won't be a problem. Whether you have only one WAP, or a dozen.

  1. First, setup the APs. If you have more than one AP, use the same SSID, and security settings, to allow roaming by the clients.

    1. Give your SSID a unique value, but don't use your name, phone number, or address.
    2. Enable the SSID beacon on each of your access points.

  2. Next, setup each client.

    1. Designate your SSID as the only Preferred SSID.
    2. Disable the option to "Automatically connect to non-preferred networks".

Having done all of this, and with a carefully setup, and a properly secured, WiFi LAN, enjoy the freedom.


Stephen said...

Thanks a lot for this post, I'm using these tips for summer school to keeps kids on our wireless network only and not any other wireless networks. Being in the city we get signals from all over.