As part of my network examples I thought I would show you how to install a USB Wireless Network Adaptor. In this example the NetGear WNA100 model. You might need a USB Wireless Network Adaptor when using a computer (laptop or desktop) that has no built-in, working, wireless connectivity; especially when travelling with that computer whereby the wireless internet connection (network) you want to connect to, with your usb wireless network adaptor, is not your wireless internet connection (network) - May be it's your friend's wireless internet connection (network) for example.
NOTE: This article was created for Windows 7 and therefore its wordings and screenshots relate to the Windows 7 operating system. Where possible I have updated the wordings to relate to the Windows 10 operating system. Either way, the information is very relevant regardless of what Windows operating system you are using.
Note Well: A USB Wireless Network Adaptor is not the same as a USB Dongle. A USB Wireless Network Adaptor is used to connect to a wireless broadband internet connection (network) whereas a Dongle has a built-in modem for connecting to a mobile phone provider's network (internet connection) such as the 3, o2, Virgin or VodaPhone network/internet connection.
The NetGear WNA100 USB Wireless Network Adaptor might not come with an Installation CD/DVD for Windows 7, as was the case with me, so you might need to download its software drivers from the netgear website - http://support.netgear.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/18818. Once you have downloaded the software drivers (installation file) double click on it to launch its Installation Wizard (see the Installation categories for more detailed help on software drivers and installation).
Fig 1.0 - Double click on the software drivers (installation/setup) file to continue
Fig 1.1 - The Installation Wizard is preparing the setup instructions
The first step of the installation wizard (below) is to ask you to agree to the Terms & Conditions of the software license agreement. Read it, if interested!, click on the I AGREE radio (circle/dot) button and then click on the NEXT button to continue.
Fig 1.2 - The first step of the Installation Wizard is to agree to the Terms & Conditions
After clicking on the NEXT button you are then asked whether or not you want the installation wizard to make recommended decisions for you. If you do want the installation wizard to decide most things for you simply select (left click on) the EXPRESS option (radio button). Otherwise select the CUSTOM option to make certain decisions yourself. For this example though select the CUSTOM option and then click on the NEXT button to continue.
Fig 1.3 - Select the CUSTOM option and then click on the NEXT button
The next step of the installation (below) allows you to change the folder (path name) in which the NetGear software (driver files, help files and so on) will be installed, using the BROWSE button. Simply ignore this option and click on the NEXT button instead. Doing so will bring up the next step (Fig 1.5 below) which asks you to select your preferred WiFi (wireless) options.
Fig 1.4 - Click on the NEXT button to continue
Fig 1.5 - Select your preferred wifi management settings and then click on the NEXT button to continue
The options on the WiFi Management window (above) allow you to decide which service will manage your wireless internet connection (network), either Windows
7 or the NetGear Wireless Network Adaptor. Normally you would use the built-in Windows 7 WINDOWS UTILITY (service) but for this example use the netgear
SMART WIZARD (service) by select the SMART WIZARD radio button and the AUTOMATICALLY radio button.
The AUTOMATICALLY option means the netgear smart wizard (service) will help you to set up your network settings automatically (exampled later) as opposed to you setting them up MANUALLY. There is no real difference between these two options, but as a beginner you should select the AUTOMATICALLY option so that the netgear smart wizard can automatically detect and set up certain wireless settings for you. Why give yourself an unwanted headache!
Clicking on the NEXT button will start the installation process of the netgear user interface, driver software and so on which includes the wireless network settings.
Fig 1.6 - The netgear software (user interface, driver software and so on) is being installed.....
Fig 1.7 - .....in preparation for you using the netgear wireless network adaptor.
Fig 1.8 - Plug the netgear wireless network adaptor into a spare usb socket
At this point you need to plug your netgear wireless network adaptor into a spare usb socket whereby you will then see the following two messages in the notification area of the desktop.
Fig 1.9 - Your netgear wireless network adaptor is being installed
Fig 1.10 - Your netgear wireless network adaptor has been installed
With the driver software now installed you now have to decide whether or not to use the Push 'N' Connect technology built-in to the netgear wireless network adaptor - This technology basically means there is no need to set up the wireless internet connection between the netgear adaptor and the router. You simply press the button on the netgear adaptor instead and it automatically sets up the internet connection, network settings and so on for you.
For this example select the NO option (radio button) and then click on the NEXT button, as I am not giving an example of the Push 'N' Connect feature of the netgear adaptor here.
Fig 1.11 - Select the NO option (radio button) and then click on the NEXT button to continue
Selecting the NO option (above) means you will have to select which network (internet connection) you want to connect to and then set up any other settings yourself. For example. Below is a list of available wireless networks, that appear after clicking on the NEXT button above. In this example I am going to connect to the wireless network called Yoingco, which is my own network (internet connection) coming from my TalkTalk wireless broadband router. I simply select it from the list of available wireless networks and then click on the NEXT button.
Fig 1.12 - Select a wireless network to connect to and then click on the NEXT button to continue
Fig 1.13 - Click on the OK button to continue
After selecting a wireless network to connect to (Fig 1.12 above) a message requester may appear (Fig 1.13 above) notifying you that the selected wireless network is protected by a security key (password). Simply click on its OK button to continue whereby you will then be asked to enter the security key (password) for that selected wireless network.
Fig 1.14 - Enter the security key (password) for the selected wireless network, if one is required.
In the above example my Yoingco wireless network is protected by a WPA-PSK encryption system, as opposed to WEP encryption system. Ignore the technicals!
This just means it is using a better password protection system (WPA) than that of the older WEP password system.
After entering any necessary password click on the NEXT button whereby you will then be asked to give these netgear "wireless network" configurations/settings a profile name - This is basically a file name for the netgear settings/configuration file associated with, and created for, this particular set up of the selected wireless network (i.e. the Yoingco network).
So in this example I have typed in a profile name called Yoingco( below), but I could of typed in Peter, TalkTalk, Work, BroadbandNW or whatever. A profile (configurations/settings file) allows the netgear adaptor to easily distinguish between each additional wireless network (internet connection) you may have set up connections (configurations/settings) for, which you may want to connect to later by using the netgear PROFILES drop-down menu.
After giving the selected wireless network a profile name (click on the YES button if necessary) click on the NEXT button to continue. And then click on the FINISH button from there (Fig 1.16 below).
Fig 1.15 - After giving the selected wireless network a profile name click on the NEXT button to continue
Fig 1.16 - Click on the FINISH button to continue
When the smart wizard has completed the setup of your selected wireless network, and you have clicked on the FINISH button (above), the smart wizard will
then show you the wireless connections window (below) whereby you can see the wireless signal strength of the wireless network you are connected to
(i.e. the Yoingco network) alongside its Channel Number (i.e. Channel 9), its IP Address (i.e. 192.168.1.3), its MAC Address / Unique Hardware Serial
Number (i.e. 00-24-D2-04-F3-BB) and its Speed (i.e. 54Mbs).
Ignore these technicals though! The window below shows that the netgear wireless network adaptor is communicating with my TalkTalk router in order for me to have a wireless internet connection on my laptop and therefore use the internet.
What really matters here is that I have a device that allows me to use the internet, and more precisely a device that allows me to connect to any wireless network (internet connection); either because I know its password or because it is a free wireless network such as the ones supplied by McDonalds, Pubs, Cafes and Eateries for example whereby it does not require a password.
Fig 1.17 - The connection details for this, Yoingco, wireless network
So to recap. The NetGear WNA1100, USB Wireless Network Adaptor, is a hardware device that allows you to connect to a wireless network (internet connection via a router). It's not a Dongle - A Dongle is also a USB Network Adaptor but it does not rely on an external router for its internet connection. It has its own built-in modem that supplies it with an internet connection as supplied by the network provider/company such as 3, o2, VodaPhone or T-Mobile.