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A wireless network is a network to which properly-equipped computers can connect via radio signal instead of physical cables. Wireless networks are commonly called Wi-Fi networks, and are usually the main way for laptop users to connect to the Internet when out and about with their computers. Like a regular wired network, a Wi-Fi network does not necessarily have to offer Internet access, although Internet access is probably the most common reason people set up Wi-Fi networks. These days, you can find wireless Internet or Wi-Fi signals just about anywhere: in homes, offices, hotels, and restaurants. All you need to connect to a Wi-Fi network is a Mac with Wi-Fi capabilities, although in Macs Wi-Fi is referred as AirPort, but they'll work with any Wi-Fi network.
One thing to bear in mind is that most wireless networks are often password- protected, or in the case of Wi-Fi networks you find in restaurants or hotels, you often have to pay to access their Wi-Fi network. So even though you may have the hardware to connect to a wireless network, you might be limited by password protection or by fees. In the case of connecting to your own personal wireless network, you'll know any passwords you've set up. And if you need to get on your work or school's Wi-Fi network, you should be provided with the necessary passwords. All current Macs come with AirPort abilities built-in, with the exception of the Mac Pro in which AirPort is an option. Apple's Notebook Macs are probably the most commonly used Macs for connecting to a wireless network.
If you have a desktop Mac and you have the choice, you should opt to connect to your network via Ethernet rather that AirPort, since a wire connection is usually more consistent and stable, generally more secure, and also allows you to transfer files between other wired computers at a much faster speed than wireless connections. So to connect to a nearby wireless network, first make sure your AirPort card is turned on. Check to see if you have the AirPort icon in your Menu bar. If it looks the way mine does, it's currently off. Just click it and choose Turn AirPort On. First, your Mac will scan to see if it detects any Wi-Fi networks you've previously connected to.
If it finds the one, it will reconnect, and you'll be online in a matter of seconds. If it doesn't detect any previous networks, you can click the icon again to see a list of all the networks it's detected, and then you can choose the one you need to connect to. Any network with a Lock icon next to it is password-protected, and you can see in this case all of these networks as found are password-protected. So you won't be able to connect to these networks without a correct password. You can also get a sense of the relative signal strength of each network by looking at the Wi-Fi icon next to its name. In my case, here the lyndaeast_ wireless network is definitely the strongest.
So to join a network, just click it, and if it's password protected, you'll need to type in the password. I am leaving Remember this network checked so I won't have to log in again the next time my Mac detects this network. I'll click OK and that's it. I can see that I am now connected to the Wi-Fi network by looking at the AirPort icon in my Menu bar. You can see there is a check next to its name now. Now, if you don't have the AirPort icon in your Menu bar, click the Apple menu and go to System Preferences. Then click Network. Select AirPort in the left-hand column and make sure Show AirPort status in Menu bar is checked.
Now, as I mentioned previously, once you are connected to a network, your Mac will remember it and reconnect anytime you are within range of that network. That way you don't have to hunt for the network and type in your password each time. If for some reason you don't want your Mac to remember certain networks it's connected to in the past, click the Advanced button. Here, under the AirPort tab, you'll find a list of all the networks you've recently connected to. You can select one and click the Minus button. I really only have the one in here. Also, note that you can drag networks into the order you prefer. So if you have multiple networks listed in here, you can drag them up and down top arrange them.
This is useful if you are working in an office that has several Wi-Fi networks, and you want to make sure your Mac connects to the right one, and again, just drag your networks up and down in the list. I am going to go ahead and click OK, and I'll close System Preferences. Now, if you are out in a hotel lobby or in a coffee shop that charges for Wi-Fi connections, once you connect to the Wi-Fi network and try to browse to a web page, you'll be redirected to a page in which you'll be asked to submit your credit card information, or your room number in some hotels, before you can proceed. When you come across Wi-Fi networks like that, just follow the onscreen instructions.
But for the most part, connecting to a wireless network from a Mac is a simple matter of selecting a network from the AirPort icon in the Menu bar and entering a password if necessary. Once you've done that, you'll be connected to your wireless network.
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