If you have a broadband connection in your house/office already you still need a Modem/Router, normally supplied by your ISP (Internet Service Provider / Broadband Company) or bought in an electronics shop, in order to get Internet Access - Access to other computers around the world. Computers that have websites on them. Computers that downloadable audio/video files on them. And so on.
You need to set up the modem/router using its Installation CD/DVD. This means plugging one end of the supplied telephone cable into the back of the modem/router with its other end plugged into the wall mounted telephone socket. You also need to plug in the power supply into the wall socket, of course, and the other end into the back of the modem/router and then decide if you need a wired broadband connection, a wireless broadband connection or both.
Without being technical: Behind the scenes the modem part of the modem/router has the job of making and keeping open a physical telephone link (known as a broadband connection) between your computer and your ISP's computer (server). Once that telephone link (broadband connection) has been established the modem then passes that broadband connection through to the router whereby the router, via an ethernet cable or wireless signal, then passes the broadband connection onto your computer so that data can be relayed between your computer and your isp's computer, and ultimately between other computers around the world in the form of e-mail messages, audio/video files and so on.
Te reason why the broadband connection is between your computer and your isp's computer is because it is your isp's computer (server) that has to grant your computer permission to access the Internet, via a broadband User Name and Password. In other words: Your isp's computer serves your computer's Internet needs, hence the word server, by creating sub-connections (links) to other computers around the world; collectively known as networked computers or the Internet. So look at the broadband connection as an exclusive connection between your computer and your isp's computer only. Then look at an Internet connection as being a sub-connection (sister connection to the broadband connection) whereby it gives you access to other computers around the world; therefore Internet access.
As said above: The router has the job of routing (passing) the broadband connection, passed to it by the modem via the telephone cable, onto your computer via an ethernet cable or wireless signal; so that your computer has access to the Internet (access to networked computers from around world).
One of the benefits of using an ethernet cable, known as a wired broadband connection, is that the connection is constant. Meaning: The broadband connection is not prone to signal loss, due to airwave signal interference for example, and therefore has the potential to work at 100% whereas a wireless broadband signal generally works at 90% of its potencial due to natural signal loss and signal problems.
The downside with a wired connection is that you may need 5-10 meters of cable because of the router needing to be next to the telephone socket (in the hallway for example) and the computer needing to be in a different room (in an upstairs bedroom for example). These days you can get powerlines (home plugs) and extenders for the house, but they are not always suitable or compatible with the home environment.
Although a wireless broadband connection, via a wireless network adapter, may incur occasional signal/interference problems it has become the preferred method of connection simply because people now prefer to use a portable device with no cables, such as a laptop or tablet, in order to connect to the Internet. Besides portability, a wireless signal can travel approximately 50 Meters, making it ideal for sharing purposes.
Regardless of the way you connect to the Internet (i.e. via an ethernet cable or wireless network adapter) a broadband connection can be shared among computers in your home/office. Although this might sound great, what many people do not realise is that each time a broadband connection is shared their computer can only use a certain percentage. Meaning: If your broadband connection speed is 8 MegaBytes (MB) your computer can use that 8 MB for itself. However, if you then share the broadband connection with another computer both computers will now share that 8 MB broadband connection speed. So each computer will have a 4 MB broadband connection speed when they both have Internet access.
The above said is "in theory" only. Meaning: When the two computers are sharing an 8 MB speed broadband connection one of them may become resource greedy and use up 75% of that broadband connection, leaving the other computer with only 25% usage. This normally happens when one computer is stronger/faster than the other computer or when one computer is downloading very large music files for example, demanding maximum broadband connection speed (i.e. trying to use the whole 8 MB for its downloads), whereby the other computer can only view text based website due to lack of broadband connection speed. This scenario gets worse when more computers are sharing the broadband connection. Hence why some Internet Cafés have slow Internet connections.
In order for a laptop to use the broadband connection, and more precisely connect to a wireless network, it needs to have either a USB Wireless Network Adapter attached to it or a built-in Wireless Network Adapter. A computer needs either a PCI Network Adapter or USB Wireless Network Adapter.
Fig 1.0 - PCI Wireless Network adapter
Fig 1.1 - USB Wireless Network adapter
As the main computer is normally wired up to the modem/router, via a USB Cable and a Telephone Cable, the main computer should normally be left wired and a second computer should be used for wireless connectivity. Or so this is what people are lead to believe! The truth of the matter is you can set up your modem/router and a wireless network with the main computer, as described above (wired), and then unwire (unplug) the main computer from the modem/router in order to then connect to a wireless network. And once you have created your own wireless network you can even uninstall the Broadband Installation CD software.....because you can always connect to your own wireless network, wirelessly - It will still be using your actual broadband connection (telephone line), just wirelessly that's all. Hence the reason why wireless works on a second computer for example even though the main computer is switched off.
When a computer with a wireless network adapter inside it is up and running, the network adapter should be able to detect any wireless networks that are within range (i.e. within 50 Meters). Furthermore, when one or more wireless networks are available Windows 10 will let you know via the network icon in the notification area of the taskbar.
The network icon below means the wireless network adapter is enabled, ready to communicate with the router (i.e. pass data through the wireless airwaves). However, Windows 10 has been told to put the wireless network adapter into Flight Mode, which means a broadband connection is purposely not possible and therefore neither is an internet connection. In other words, there is no communication between the computer and the router via the wireless network adapter. Flight Mode is really meant to be enabled (switched on) when you are travelling on an aeroplane with your laptop for example. The airline does not want any wireless device interfering with its flying equipment (i.e. compass and autopilot).
Fig 1.2 - Wireless Network Adapter Enabled - Flight Mode (No Internet Connection - No Wireless Networks Available)
The network icon below means the wireless network adapter has been disabled, which in turns means it can not possibly connect to the Internet wirelessly. This does not stop you from using an ethernet cable though to connect to the Internet.
Fig 1.3 - Wireless Network Adapter Disabled - Not Internet Connection - No Wireless Networks Available
The network icon below means the wireless network adapter is enabled, ready to communicate with the router (i.e. pass data through the wireless airwaves). However, Windows 10 has been told to switch off its wireless function. Put simply, you need to switch its wireless function back on before you can connect to the Internet.
Fig 1.4 - Wireless Network Adapter Enabled - No Internet Connection - WiFi Turned Off
The network icon below means the wireless network adapter is enabled, ready to communicate with the router (i.e. pass data through the wireless airwaves). However, you have not connected to an available wireless network yet. So the wireless function is switched on and wireless networks are available for connection, but you have not clicked on a wireless network name yet.
Fig 1.5 - Wireless Network Adapter Enabled - Internet Connection Possible - Wireless Networks Available
The network icon below means the wireless network adapter is enabled and you have successfully connected to (logged into) a wireless network, possibly using its password; if it has one.
Fig 1.6 - Wireless Network Adapter Enabled - Internet Connection Active (On) - Connected To A Wireless Network
NOTE - If the computer was connected to a wireless network before you switched it off Windows 10 should automatically reconnect the computer to that wireless network upon computer start-up, but this depends on whether or not the wireless network is still within range and available. And whether or not you instructed Windows 10 to automatically reconnect. If the wireless signal is too weak or out of range the wireless network icons should be similar to Fig 1.4 or 1.5 above.
Sometimes a wireless signal can report itself as Limited, which basically means it is not strong enough to keep a constant internet connection but is strong enough to be able to transfer files locally, between two computers in the house/office. So your computer could be connected to a wireless network but only locally, which means you are really hoping for a signal strength of between 3 and 5 bars (Fig 1.6 above) in order to receive a global, internet access, signal. Anything less than 3 bars is useless.
Assuming you have never connected to a wireless network before, the first thing you need to do is check to see if at least one wireless network is available and more importantly the wireless network you want to connect to. In this example I want to connect to a wireless network called Cairns. When you have spotted the wireless network you want to connect to simply click on its name. The selected wireless network name will then expand to reveal a CONNECT button (Fig 2.2 below) that when clicked on will attempt to connect your computer to that wireless network.
Fig 2.0 - Click on the Network Icon to continue
Fig 2.1 - Select (left click on) the wireless network you want to connect to
Fig 2.2 - Tick the CONNECT AUTOMATICALLY option and then click on the CONNECT button
If you have never connected to your selected wireless network before, or connected to it but never ticked its CONNECT AUTOMATICALLY option, you will always have to manually connect to it by manually clicking on its CONNECT button all the time (Fig 2.1 above). You can avoid this scenario by making your selected wireless network the default, automatically connected to, wireless network. Simply tick the CONNECT AUTOMATICALLY option and then click on the CONNECT button to connect your computer to your selected wireless network. Next time you do not need to do these steps because Windows 10 will automatically connect your computer to your, now, default wireless network. When you click on the CONNECT button you will see the following sequence of events.
If your selected wireless network is secured by a Network Key (wireless network security password) you will be asked for it before Windows 10 attempts to connect your computer to that wireless network. In Windows 7 available secure wireless networks have a Yellow Shield/Exclamation Mark next to their name, but with Windows 10 Microsoft seems to have abandoned that policy. So now you only know if a wireless network is secure when you go to connect to it.
Fig 2.3 - Type in the wireless network's password and then click on the NEXT button
If a wireless network is not secured with a network key it can be accessed by anyone. Simply select it from the list of available wireless networks and then click on its CONNECT button. A Windows 10 security requester might appear, depending on your security settings, asking you if you still want to connect the unsecure network. This is because an unsecure wireless network does not normally use Data Encryption when it sends/receives data across the network, which means that data could be visible to others (hackers) on the network. Examples not shown here.
Fig 2.4 - The wireless network password is being verified/authorised by your ISP's computer (server)
Fig 2.5 - The computer is now connected to the wireless network called Cairns
Once your computer is connected to a wireless network the broadband connection coming from the modem is routed wirelessly through the airwaves, as a wireless signal (broadband signal), in order to give your computer Internet access. You can use that wireless broadband connection with Internet Explorer to connect to web pages, with the MAIL App to check e-mail, to upload/download files and much more. Technically your computer's wireless network adapter is just relaying data signals wirelessly to the router which then passes them through the modem, uploading/downloading them through the telephone line.
If the computer is disconnected from a wireless network, either manually or naturally, before the computer is switched off you will have to manually reconnect to that wireless network when the computer restarts again. Or is switched on again.
NOTE WELL: It is illegal to use someone elses unsecure wireless network, intentionally or unintentionally. Just because the owner knowingly, or unknowingly, has their wireless network unsecure does not mean it is free for everyone to use - It is NOT free for everyone to use. Remember. That owner is paying their broadband bill each month for "up to 8 MegaBytes" of broadband usage for example. They do not need people watering down that usage by illegally using it. So if you do find out your computer has mistakingly been using someone elses broadband change your wireless network connection settings as soon as possible. And YES, you can be traced - Their router will record all connections.
When you successfully connect to a wireless network for the first time, depending on your computer's network settings, its Network Type/Location will default to a PRIVATE NETWORK (i.e. Home Network or Office Network), as opposed to a PUBLIC NETWORK (i.e. Internet Café Network). However, sometimes you might want to change the network type/location to a PUBLIC NETWORK; perhaps for sharing purposes. If so, you need to switch off the wifi setting called FIND DEVICES AND CONTENT.
Fig 2.6 - ON - The wireless network will be a PRIVATE NETWORK
Fig 2.7 - OFF - The wireless network will be a PUBLIC NETWORK
The wifi setting called FIND DEVICES AND CONTENT can be found by the follow steps. Click on the START Menu button - Click on the SETTINGS menu-item - Click on the NETWORK & INTERNET button - Scroll down the WIFI page and then click on the ADVANCED OPTIONS link. Doing so will bring you to the above WIFI Settings page.
To disconnect from a wireless network first click on the Network Icon in the notification area to bring up the list of available wireless networks and then select the currently connected wireless network, which in this case is the wireless network called Cairns. From there, click on its DISCONNECT button to discount your computer from that wireless network.
Fig 2.8 - Click on the DISCONNECT button to disconnect from the currently connected wireless network
Remember: If you have a wireless network set/ticked to CONNECT AUTOMATICALLY (Fig 2.2 above) Windows 10 will automatically connect to it again upon computer start-up. However, if you now decide to DISCONNECT that wireless network Windows 10 will switch off auto-connect and make that wireless network a Manual connection. Meaning: You will have to connect to that wireless network manually, as described above, in order to reconnect to it. Therefore, if you always want that wireless network connected to automatically upon computer start-up just leave it connected when you shutdown Windows 10.
Above I mentioned the strength of the wireless signal, ranging from 3 to 5 bars, where a strength of 5 bars means Excellent Signal Strength (usually because the computer is right next to the wireless router or a couple of feet away only), 3 bars means Still OK, but anything less than 3 bars means Poor Signal Strength (usually because the computer is too far away from the wireless router or because some object for example is blocking/weakening the signal).
Three common reasons for not being able to establish a connection to a wireless network are 1) Because the network key (security password) is incorrect. 2) Because the wireless signal is too low/weak due to your computer being too far from the wireless router. And 3) Because interference is blocking the signal. Here are some things to be aware of and consider: