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Table: Making Wi-Fi Work

1 Get a High-Speed Net Connection

You can subscribe to a cable-modem or DSL phone service for about $40 a month. The modem is usually free, and you can do the installation yourself in a few minutes.

2 Buy a Wi-Fi Access Point

The size of a clock radio, this box includes an Internet router and a two-way Wi-Fi radio. It costs $100 to $250.

3 Connect Access Point to Modem and Desktop

Plug cables into the back of the modem and PC. Install the software on the PC and follow the directions.

4 Buy a Wireless Antenna for Each Laptop

These credit-card size devices run $30 to $50.

5 Install Antenna and Antenna Software on Laptop

Install the antenna before you install the software, or it won't work properly.

6 Congratulations!

Your network is up and running. Test the signal strength by wandering around with the laptop.

7 Whoops!

The signal is weak. Most people find reception in their homes is hampered by walls and other obstructions. Signal strength will remain stronger if you move upstairs or downstairs just above or below the access point.

8 Don't panic!

You have options. You can buy a signal booster, which attaches to the router and costs about $100. You can sometimes boost the strength of the router's signal online, with help from the manufacturer's service department.

9 Telecommuting? O.K., Panic!

If you work at home with a laptop that has been configured for the office, you may need to reconfigure it with help of your employer.

10 Expand!

Now that you have connected the desktop and the laptop to your network, you can buy another antenna to include your TiVo, digital home theater, or gaming console in the network.

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