While connecting a laptop to a wireless network at a coffee shop or a friend’s house is a fairly simple process, you may run into problems if the network is using different security settings than your computer’s operating system. Not all routers provide the same security setting options, and some network card and operating system combinations aren’t capable of using the latest and most secure security features. For instance, some Atheros network cards installed on Windows Vista laptops cannot use the “WPA2” security type, and the router of a local network may be configured to use a lower security setting compatible with all laptops.
If you need to connect your Windows 7 enabled computer to a network using different security settings, you will need to manually change your existing settings through the operating system before accessing any websites or checking your email. Your computer’s wireless network security settings are accessed by navigating to the “Control Panel” button in the “Start” menu.
Inside the Control Panel menu, locate the icon of a globe sitting next to two computer monitors. Click the adjacent heading labeled “Network and Internet” to access the main Windows 7 networking options.
Click the green “Network and Sharing Center” heading located at the top of the window above the “Home Group” and “Internet Options” headings. Alternatively, you can open the window by right-clicking the network icon in the taskbar at the lower-right corner of your desktop and selecting the “Open Network and Sharing Center” option. The Network and Sharing Center menu shows you which network you are currently connected with and provides options for changing settings and troubleshooting connection problems.
Bring up a list of all available wireless networks within range of your computer by clicking the “Manage Wireless Networks” link at the top-left corner of the window. Locate the name of the specific network you want to connect with that is using a different type of wireless security.
Right-click the network’s name and select the “Properties” option to bring up a new window containing the various connection and security features for that network. Access the tab labeled “Security” to see which security and encryption types are currently enabled on your computer.
Open the “Security Type” drop-down menu at the top of the window and select the type of wireless security you want to use with the network, such as “WPA2 Personal” or “WEP.” Type the security key password for the network in the text box positioned underneath the “Encryption” menu. Click “OK” to save the security settings and close the window. If you need to change security settings for any other networks within range, repeat the process of right-clicking the network’s name, selecting “Properties,” and choosing the appropriate security type.
Changing the security type for each individual network keeps the standard settings in place for your home or office networks so you don’t have to change the options back and forth anytime you change locations. Keep in mind that while lowering your security settings may give you access to a network that doesn’t support the “WPA2” encryption type, your laptop will be more vulnerable while using a lower security setting and anyone within range of the network may potentially be able to access your computer.
~ Ty Arthur