Don't let unfamiliar terms discourage you from learning all you can about wireless home networking. If you don't completely understand what one of these words means, flip to the indicated page, read the full definition there, and find techniques related to that term.
- Access point
A hardware device that acts as the central connecting point for wireless-enabled devices.
- Ad Hoc mode
A computer-to-computer wireless connection mode that allows WiFi-enabled computers to connect directly without communicating through an intermediary device such as a WiFi access point.
A device that allows a computer to participate in the network. The adapter takes the data from the computer and prepares it for transmission over a network medium such as network cabling or WiFi radio signals.
- Authentication key
A hexadecimal character string used to validate a user or device as the intended connection point or recipient of a data stream.
- DHCP client
A computer that has been configured for the TCP/IP protocol so that the IP address (and subnet mask) is automatically assigned to the computer by a device that can act as a DHCP server such as your WiFi router.
Software for a device such as a WiFi network adapter that allows the operating system and the device to communicate correctly.
- Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
A protocol used by DHCP servers and clients to negotiate the dynamic assignment of IP addresses over a network. The DHCP server (such as a WiFi router) provides the DHCP client with the IP address.
The translation of a message into a secret code. After a message is encrypted, a key or other identification method (such as a password) is needed to decipher the message.
Software, hardware, or both software and hardware designed to prevent unauthorized access to a private network. A firewall can be used to block both incoming and outgoing data traffic.
- Flash drive
A portable flash memory drive that can be attached to a computer through a USB port. They provide an excellent way to transfer limited amounts of data between computers.
A device that serves as an intermediary between two different types of networks. In the case of wireless networks, the WiFi router is the gateway.
A connection point to the Internet provided by a business or other establishment. The connection point is typically a WiFi router or access point provided by a particular business such as a coffee shop or hotel.
A connectivity device that provides multiple LAN ports. Computers can be connected to these LAN ports using network cabling.
- IP address
A dotted-decimal representation of a binary address that is uniquely assigned to each computer and device running on an IP network.
- Limited user
A user account without administrative abilities. This user can change desktop settings and change the password and user account picture.
- MAC (Media Access Control) hardware address
A 48-bit hexadecimal number burned onto a ROM chip on a network adapter (for a computer on the network) or network interface card (for a router).
Malicious software such as viruses, worms, and spyware.
- Mapped drive
A shared folder or drive that is given a drive letter on your computer. Mapping a remote shared folder to a drive letter makes the shared folder accessible from My Computer.
- .NET Passport
A user account that provides access to personalized and special Microsoft web content.
- Network adapter
A device that allows a computer to participate in the network. The network adapter takes the data from the computer and prepares it for transmission over a network medium such as network cabling or WiFi radio signals.
- Normal backup
A backup method that backs up all selected files to the backup archive file and flags the files as having been backed up.
A text string similar to a password used to configure a WiFi device for WEP or WPA security. Because the passphrase is generated by the WiFi router, the passphrase is used in the WiFi adapters' settings to configure the device with the correct encryption key.
The process of trying to fool people into giving up personal information, including credit card numbers, by directing them to a website using an official-looking email that purports to be from a egitimate website or web service.
A numbered communication channel or end point used by an Internet application as the avenue or doorway for negotiating data transfers between two computers.
- Port forwarding
A method of opening ports on the WiFi router that allows outside requests for services to reach computers on the internal network supplying those services, such as a web server.
- Port triggering
A way to temporarily open a port on the WiFi router when an external request for that port is received by the router. Port triggering does not leave ports open (as port forwarding does) and does not allow the IP address of the internal computer supplying the service to be known.
A set of configuration options for your WiFi network adapter that have been saved under a profile name. Saving the profile allows you to quickly recall these settings at any time from the WiFi adapter's configuration software.
A set of software rules that dictate how computers and other devices communicate over a network architecture such as Ethernet.
- Restore point
A snapshot of your computer's settings and installed software that can be restored to your system. Restore points can be used to correct problems on your system by restoring the computer to an earlier time when it was operating properly.
A device that provides a connection for a home network to a high-speed Internet connection (which is, in turn, provided by a device such as a cable modem). The WiFi router is an intelligent device in that it can be configured to make decisions about the type of access that can be made to the high-speed Internet connection and what type of data traffic can be allowed through the router onto the local area network.
A drive or folder that is shared on the network.
Malware that infects your computer through free software and downloads from websites. Spyware gathers information related to the user, such as browsing preferences and information used in web transactions such as passwords and credit card numbers.
- SSID (service set identifier)
A unique identifier (32 characters maximum) used to differentiate one WLAN from another. Devices attempting to connect to a particular WLAN must use the SSID configured for that WLAN.
- Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI)
Data packets are inspected by the firewall and analyzed to determine their association with current network connections and service requests.
- Subnet mask
A dotted decimal representation of a binary mask that is used by computers to determine the portion of an IP address that provides network information and the portion of the IP address that supplies computer address information.
A more intelligent connectivity device than a hub that allows computers to connect to the network using network cabling.
- TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
The protocol suite (or stack) that serves as the foundation for the mega-network known as the Internet. Nearly all computer operating systems embrace TCP/IP as their default networking protocol.
- Trojan horse
Malware that appears to be a normal program but, when executed, causes harm to your system. The fact that the malicious program is masquerading as a "normal" program is why this particular type of malware is referred to as a Trojan horse.
- Trusted computer
A computer that is specified in the router's configuration settings by its IP address as being exempt from the blocking of web content.
- UPnP (Universal Plug and Play
A networking architecture that aids in the communication between UPnP-compliant devices such as computers on networks and the Internet.
Malicious, self-replicating software code that can infect computers and damage system and other files.
The process of driving around town with the purpose of identifying and mapping unsecured WiFi hotspots.
- WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy)
A WiFi security protocol that encrypts data and uses shared keys that allow for the encryption and decryption of the data at the sending and receiving ends of the data transfer. WEP was originally created for use with 802.11b networks.
- WiFi router
- WLAN (wireless local area network)
A network that is limited to one localized site (thus the "local" in the name).
Self-spreading and self-activating malware software code that typically exploits a particular weakness in an operating system.
- WPA (WiFi Protected Access)
A WiFi security protocol that encrypts data and scrambles shared keys sent over the WiFi network. WPA also requires user authentication, providing greater security than WEP, which does not require user authentication.