Step-by-step Setup Guide To A Secure Home Wi-Fi Network

based on a Linksys WRT54G router

First version: 04.28.2004 | This revision: 02.27.2005 (GMT+8)


Wireless is Freedom, or so the marketing babble goes, but the basic wireless network is insecure - your unfriendly neighbors can piggy-back your signal that extends beyond the boundaries of your residence and at the least surf the Internet at your expense.  In this example, we shall go through the necessary steps to setting up a secure wireless network with a Windows XP wireless computer and a Linksys WRT54G wireless broadband router using DSL/PPPoE to connect to the Internet.  Once you understand the concept of a secure wireless network, you can apply it to any brand of wireless routers with similar setup.




1. Read the instructions accompanying WRT54G and physically connect it to the broadband modem.  Connect one computer to the router using a LAN cable. Do not attempt to connect anything by wireless at this time.
2. Power up WRT54G by connecting it to the power supply.  When the red DIAG light goes off, open an Internet browser window and go to and press ENTER.  When presented with a logon screen, enter admin in the Password box (no need for user name).  Click OK to continue.


3. Once inside the router setup, go directly to Administration | Management section.
Change the Router Password to something more unique.
Click [Save Settings] button at the bottom of the screen (not visible in the image) to save the change.  Use the new password to login again when the above screen appears again.

Always click the
[Save Settings] button at the bottom of each setup page to save changes before moving on to another page or section or the changes will be discarded.

All Linksys routers use the same "admin" password, so it is not secure.
4. Go to Wireless | Wireless Security.  Notice wireless security is disabled by out of the box.
Enable wireless security by changing to one of these two encryption choices: WEP or WPA Pre-Shared Key.

To configure WEP, see step 5a; for WPA Pre-Shared Key, see step 5b.

The other available encryption choices require additional hardware/software support not available to the average home user.
5. a)  WEP setup
  • Decide on the encryption strength.
  • Enter a phrase or word in the Passphrase box.  In this example, we shall use "setupexample".
  • Click [Generate] and strings of letters and numbers will appear in boxes Key 1 to Key 4.  These are WEP Keys.
  • Decide on which WEP Key to use.  (example: Key 3)
  • Write down the whole Key on a piece of paper - it will be required when configuring wireless computers.


Passphrase can be anything, but nowadays it is recommended not to use every day words or words from dictionaries.
  b)  WPA setup
  • Choose between TKIP and AES algorithms (choose AES only if your wireless computer supports it as well).
  • Create and enter a WPA Shared Key.  This is like a "password".
  • Make a note of the WPA Key.

There you have it!  Your wireless router and network are now secure, but still more to be done.

The WPA Key should be at long as possible, and not using words from dictionaries.
6. Go to Wireless | Basic Wireless Settings.
Change the Wireless Network Name (SSID) to something unique.  We will use
WRT54G as our network's SSID in this example.

Change the Wireless SSID Channel at this time if desired (but not necessary).
Leave Wireless SSID Broadcast at Enable.

The default SSID is linksys, not very unique and easy to find if neigbours are using the same SSID.

Despite advices from experts and advanced users, disabling SSID Broadcast does not improve wireless security and can lead to connectivity issues.

7. Go to Setup | Basic Setup.
Change connection type to match that of the Internet Service Provider (example: DSL using PPPoE).
Change the value in Maximum Number of DHCP Users to something smaller, preferrably same as the total number of wired and wireless computers on the network.

Make any additional changes to connection settings at this time if necessary, e.g., Connect on Demand.

Limit the number of computers on a network also helps prevent unwanted neighbours from connecting to it.
8. Go to Status | Router.
Click [Connect] to test Internet connection configuration.  If connected successfully, the page will display IP address and other information about the connection.


Congratulations!  You have Internet access.  Connection will be shared between all connected computers through their network connections.
Next, we turn to a Windows XP wireless computer to finish wireless network setup.

9. Install the wireless network card according to the manufacturer's instructions.
(skip this step if it is installed already)
10. Locate the Wireless Network Connection icon in System Tray (where Windows clock is).
Right click the icon and select View Available Wireless Networks.
The screens below list the available wireless networks (and their SSIDs) detected by the wireless card in the vicinity.
We shall be connecting to
WRT54G we created earlier in this example (step 6).

a) Pre-Service Pack 2 b) Windows XP Service Pack 2


11. a)  Pre-Service Pack 2
Enter the WEP Key 3 (or WPA Key) from the router in the Network Key box and repeat in the box below to confirm.
Untick the option Enable IEEE 802.1x authentication for this network if available.

b) Service Pack 2
Select the wireless network/SSID and click [Connect] at the bottom.  Enter the WEP or WPA Key when prompted.

12. To confirm connection, double click the Wireless Network Connection icon in System Tray.
Go to Support tab/page to verify IP address (192.168.1.nnn) and other information.

Finally, test the whole setup by access the Internet.


Related Topics (may open in a new window)
Connect To An Encrypted Wi-Fi Network With A Hidden ESSID/SSID
Wi-Fi Networking FAQ
Windows XP Wireless Zero Configuration/Wireless Networks Troubleshooting
Juggle Wi-Fi At Work And Home
Wireless Security WPA Step-by-step
Dell TrueMobile WLAN Card User's Guide
(includes example of ad-hoc wireless network setup instructions)
Tom's Networking Wireless Network NTK
Wireless Networking Basics


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Disclaimer :
This is an online self help guide created for my family and friends.  It remains under construction and will be modified, refined, and updated continually (when time permits).  While tweaks and applications have been tried and tested extensively on different systems to ensure compatibility and stability, Spymac Network, Inc. and I accept no responsibility for any loss of data as a result of computer failure, so
use at your own risk please.
Remember: Always backup your important data before any modification!