11.4. Setting Up an Internet Connection
Windows XP lets you set up an Internet connection whether or not you've already chosen a specific ISP. If you've already chosen onewhether it's broadband or dial-upyou need to inform Windows XP and begin the process of going online. If you haven't found an ISP or are still racked with indecision after reading the first part of this chapter, Windows XP will gently lead you by the hand to its own ISP service, MSN, or pass you off to one of its partners that serve your area.
Whether you've found an ISP on your own or simply want Windows XP to find one for you, tell Windows of your decision in one of two ways: use the setup CD from your ISP (if they gave you one), or fire up Windows XP's built-in New Connection Wizard.
Setup CD . Many ISPs like AOL (America Online), EarthLink, Cox, and others give you a "setup CD" to help your PC find its way online. If your ISP gave you a setup CD, insert it into your CD drive. A program appears, like the one shown Figure 11-4, to guide you through the process of swapping your credit card number for an Internet connection.
Figure 11-4. Some companies make it easy to connect to the Internet by providing a setup CD that automatically tweaks Windows' settings. Since each setup CD is tailored for a specific online servicelike AOL, for instance, shown herethe program is easy to use with no extra interrogations: every question pertains to the particular service you've chosen.
If you have a setup CD, insert it now and follow the onscreen instructions; you don't need to use Windows XP's New Connection Wizard, described next .
New Connection Wizard . Windows XP's New Connection Wizard serves as a safe starting point for all types of PC-to-PC connections: networking with another group of PCs, connecting to the Internet, or connecting to another PC by stringing a single cable between the two machines (Section 14.10). (That last maneuver is handy for quick file swaps.)
The wizard makes no assumptions as it asks you how you want to connect with the Internet. If the wizard discovers you're already clutching a setup CD, it tells you when to insert the CD, and graciously steps aside so the CD's program can take over.
When you're ready to set up an Internet account, either to sign up for a new one or to tell Windows about one you already have, summon the New Connection Wizard, described next.
11.4.1. Firing Up the New Connection Wizard
Although the wizard rarely handles the entire job by itself, it asks you a series of questions, a few of which are shown in Figure 11-5, and then summons the appropriate program to complete the job. What the New Connection Wizard doesn't do, though, is set up your email account. That takes place in your email program, which is covered in the next chapter.
Follow these steps to tell Windows about an ISP you've already chosen or to have Windows find one for you. If you want Windows to find one for you, make sure your dial-up modem is connected to your phone jack, and that you're not talking on the phoneyour PC will need to borrow the phone line for a few minutes.
Tip: If you've already signed up with a dial-up service provider, now's the time to pull out the phone number, user name , and password you were assigned.
Click Next. On the next screen, click Connect to the Internet, and then click the Next button .
The Getting Ready screen appears, which lets you choose one of three options:
Choose from a list of Internet service providers (ISPs) . Meant for people who haven't already chosen an Internet service, this option lets Microsoft hawk its own Internet serviceMSNor a service from one of its partners. Choosing this option closes the wizard and leaves you looking at a folder with two links that both rely on your PC's dial-up modem: one link dials MSN, the other dials Microsoft to see which partner serves your geographic area. Both links start by calling a toll-free number with your PC's modem. Once they locate a local number for your area, they dial again with that new number.
Figure 11-5. The New Connection Wizard is your starting point when connecting your computer to another PC, as well as to the Internet. The wizard leads you through a series of questions asking you about what kind of connection you want to make. To enter your Internet account information or sign up for a new dial-up account, start by picking "Connect to the Internet" (top). Next, tell the wizard whether you want its help finding an ISP in your area ("Choose from a list of Internet service providers") or whether you've already picked an ISP and want to enter its settings manually ("Set up my connection manually"). You can also tell the wizard to turn things over to an installation CD if your ISP provided you with one.
At that point, you can read through the service plans offered by the various ISPs, compare them, and choose the one you want.
Tip: Click both links to see which one offers service through a local or toll-free phone number. (Before signing up, you may want to cancel your transaction, and then dial your telephone operator to verify that it's within your local-plan calling area.) If the wizard lists only long-distance numbers , stop. You can probably find a local or toll-free dial-up ISP in your phone book under "Internet Access" or "Internet Service Provider."
Set up my connection manually . This option is for people who already have a broadband or dial-up Internet account. Choose this button to enter your account's settings yourself: your user name, password, and phone number for dial-up accounts. (Broadband subscribers don't need a phone number and rarely need a user name or password, either.)
Use the CD I got from an ISP . This one's meant mainly for people who have picked up a CD for AOL at the grocery store check-out line. This option closes the wizard so you can insert the CD. The CD's built-in sign-up program kicks in, shown earlier in Figure 11-4, walking you through the process of handing over your credit card number.
The wizard ends if you choose the first or third options. If you choose to set up the connection manually, the wizard moves to step 3.
Tell the wizard how you want to connect to the Internet .
The window offers three options:
Connect using a dial-up modem . Choose this option for any account that comes with a phone number, and then continue to step 4.
Connect using a broadband connection that requires a user name and a password . Choose this option for those rare occasions where your DSL or cable ISP gave you a user name and password when you signed up, and then move to step 4.
Note: Your DSL or cable ISP may very well have given you (or let you select) a user name and password for your email account. But you won't need those when connecting your PC to the Internet.
Connect using a broadband connection that's always on . Choose this option for a DSL or cable connection that's always on. After selecting this, you're finished. The wizard sets up the connection and, if your modem's plugged in, leaves you ready to connect to the Internet.
Type a name for your ISP .
The wizard marches onward to gather a few last bits of information, shown in Figure 11-6, before setting up your connection.
Type the name of your ISPthis is for your benefit, so a shorthand version of your ISP's name works just fine. This option's meant for people juggling several ISPsa national dial-up when on the road and broadband at home, for instance. Different names let you choose the connection you need at that particular moment.
Enter the phone number, if you have a dial-up account, and then click Next .
Your dial-up ISP should have given you a phone number (and a user name and password) when you signed up for your dial-up account. If you don't have them, stop the wizard and call your ISP's customer support staff. You need that information before you can connect.
Be sure to enter a "1" before the number if it's long distance. (Hopefully, you called your phone company to see if it's long distance before you signed up.)
If you're just here to enter the user name and password for your broadband connection, skip this step.
Enter your user name and password, click Next, and then click Finish .
After entering your user name and password, note the two checkboxes at the window's bottom in Figure 11-6.
Figure 11-6. The wizard finishes up by letting you enter a user name and password, required by all dial-up ISPs and some broadband connections. It also asks for the phone number to use if you have a dial-up connection.
Use this account name and password when anyone connects to the Internet from this computer . This lets Windows know whether these are your personal ISP settings, or if they apply to the entire PC and everybody using itincluding other user account holders.
Most families turn on this checkbox, because everybody uses the same ISP. In households with roommates, however, everybody may have their own ISP, so you'd turn off this checkbox, letting everybody log on under their own account. Most university students turn off this checkbox when logging onto the Internet through their school's ISP.
Make this the default Internet connection . Turn on this checkbox when you have only one ISP. When you turn this setting off, Windows presents you with a list of all your available ISPs (if you have accounts with more than one), letting you choose which one to use.
Windows XP saves your new connection settings as an icon in the Network Connections window, described next.
11.4.2. Viewing or Changing Your Internet Connections
Once you create a new connection to the Internet, Windows saves the settings as an icon in your PC's Network Connections folder, a handy collecting spot for all your PC's connection settings. To see all the ways your PC can connect to the Internet (or to other PCs)and to fine-tune any connections that aren't meeting your needschoose Start All Programs Accessories Communications Network Connections. The Network Connections window appears, as shown in Figure 11-7.
Normally, any program that wants to connect to the Internet looks at your connection settings, grabs their information, and connects automatically. You don't need to do anything. But the Network Connections window is what you want when you need to fetch the settings for a quick tweak. When firing up a laptop in a new city, for instance, change a dial-up phone number by right-clicking your dial-up connection's icon, and then choose Properties.