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The Cable Guy - June 2004

The New Wireless Network Setup Wizard in Windows XP Service Pack 2

TechNet's The Cable Guy

By The Cable Guy

Wireless LAN technologies such as IEEE 802.11a/b/g have become a popular networking alternative to connect multiple computers in a home or small business. Although wireless networks introduce location flexibility, they also introduce security issues that do not exist with conventional wire-based networking technologies such as Ethernet. These security issues include the following:

  • Authentication Specifies which computers that are allowed to join the wireless network.
  • Encryption Specifies how wireless frames are encrypted so that an eavesdropper cannot interpret the data being sent or have the ability to access your network resources such as shared folders.

For a home or small office, there are two recommended choices for authentication and encryption:

  • Open system authentication with Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption, referred to hereafter as open system/WEP
  • Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) with preshared key (PSK) authentication with Temporal Key Integrity Protocol (TKIP) encryption, referred to hereafter as WPA-PSK/TKIP

You should use open system/WEP only if all of your network devices do not support WPA. Microsoft strongly recommends using WPA-capable wireless devices and WPA-PSK/TKIP. For more information about WPA and TKIP, see Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) Overview, the March 2003 Cable Guy article. WPA support is included in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2).

Because there is typically no central authentication server in the home or small office, someone in the home or small office must do one of the following:

  • For open system/WEP, they must choose a strong WEP key and configure all of the computers and wireless devices to use open system authentication, WEP encryption, and the same strong WEP key.
  • For WPA-PSK/TKIP, they must choose a strong WPA-PSK and configure all of the computers and wireless devices to use WPA-PSK authentication, TKIP encryption, and the same strong WPA-PSK.

Note   A strong key is one that uses a random set of hexadecimal digits (for the WEP key) or characters (for the WPA-PSK) for the largest possible key size.

In either case, wireless network setup can be complicated for the novice user because each wireless device has a different method of configuring authentication and encryption settings. For example, a wireless access point (AP) might use a wizard or a set of Web browser pages to configure a specific authentication method, encryption method, and the WEP key or WPA-PSK. For computers running Windows XP with SP2 or Windows XP with SP1, you configure authentication, encryption, and either a WEP key or WPA-PSK on the Wireless network properties dialog box for a specific wireless network, available from Wireless Networks tab for the properties of the wireless LAN adapter in the Network Connections folder.

To make the configuration of a WEP key or WPA-PSK much easier, Windows XP with SP2 supports Windows Connect Now (formerly known as Windows Smart Network Key [WSNK]), a new feature of wireless devices that automates wireless network configuration. Windows XP with SP2 supports Windows Connect Now through updates to the wireless client software and a new Wireless Network Setup Wizard.

The Wireless Network Setup Wizard steps you through the configuration of wireless network settings—a wireless network name, the authentication and encryption method, and a strong WEP key or WPA-PSK—and then writes that configuration as a set of Extensible Markup Language (XML) files on a Universal Serial Bus (USB) flash drive (UFD). You then plug the UFD into other wireless devices in the home or small office that support Windows Connect Now. All of the wireless devices that support Windows Connect Now automatically read the settings from the XML files stored on the UFD and configure themselves with the same settings as the computer on which the Wireless Network Setup Wizard was initially run.

This new feature of Windows XP SP2 and other wireless devices, which have a USB port and support Windows Connect Now, greatly simplifies the configuration of strong security for wireless networks in the home or small office.

Using the Wireless Network Setup Wizard to Configure a Wireless Network

To run the new Wireless Network Setup Wizard on a computer running Windows XP with SP2, you can do one of the following:

  • Click the Wireless Network Setup task or icon in the Network and Internet Connections folder in Control Panel
  • Click the Wireless Network Setup task or icon in the My Network Places window
  • Click Start, point to Programs, point to Accessories, point to Communications, and then click Wireless Network Setup
  • Click the Wireless Network Setup task in the new Windows Provisioning Services Wizard

When you run the Wireless Network Setup Wizard, it displays the Welcome to Wireless Network Setup Wizard page, as shown in the following figure.

Welcome to Wireless Network Setup Wizard page


If your browser does not support inline frames, click here to view on a separate page.

Click Next. You should see the Create a name for your wireless network page, as shown in the following figure.

Create a name for your wireless network page


If your browser does not support inline frames, click here to view on a separate page.

On this page, you specify the name of your wireless network (also known as the Service Set Identifier [SSID]), whether or not to have the Wireless Network Setup Wizard automatically create a strong network key, and whether or not to use WPA.

If you want the Wireless Network Setup Wizard to create a strong network key and you clear the Use WPA encryption checkbox, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard creates a strong WEP key. If you want the Wireless Network Setup Wizard to create a strong network key and you select the Use WPA encryption checkbox, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard creates a strong WPA-PSK. Click Next.

Assuming that you want the Wireless Network Setup Wizard to automatically assign a network key, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard displays the How do you want to set up your network? page, as shown in the following figure.

How do you want to set up your network? page


If your browser does not support inline frames, click here to view on a separate page.

If you select Use a USB flash drive, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard prompts you to insert your UFD so that it can create the XML files for the wireless network configuration, which includes the wireless network name, authentication and encryption methods, and the WEP key or WPA-PSK. If you select Set up a network manually, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard prompts you to print the wireless network settings so that you can take the printed wireless network configuration to each wireless device for manual configuration. Click Next.

Assuming that you want to use a UFD, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard displays the Save settings to your flash drive page, as shown in the following figure.

Save settings to your flash drive page


If your browser does not support inline frames, click here to view on a separate page.

When you plug your UFD into a USB port of the computer, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard automatically displays the drive letter assigned to the UFD in Flash drive. Click Next.

The Wireless Network Setup Wizard writes the wireless network settings as XML files on the UFD and then displays the Transfer your network settings to your other computers or devices page, as shown in the following figure.

Transfer your network settings to your other computers or devices page


If your browser does not support inline frames, click here to view on a separate page.

Remove the UFD from the computer and plug it into every other wireless device that supports Windows Connect Now, such as wireless APs and network printers, and other wireless computers running Windows XP with SP2. When you plug the UFD into a Windows Connect Now-capable wireless device, it flashes its status light three times to indicate that it has configured itself with the wireless network settings stored on the UFD. When you plug the UFD into a computer running Windows XP with SP2, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard runs and asks you if you want to join the wireless network. If you accept, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard creates a wireless profile and connects the computer to the home network. As a rule of thumb, you should configure your wireless AP first, then the other computers running Windows XP with SP2 and other wireless devices.

When you are done configuring your other computers and wireless devices with the UFD, plug it back into the computer on which the Wireless Network Setup Wizard was initially run, and then click Next on the Transfer your network settings to your other computers or devices page.

The Wireless Network Setup Wizard displays the The wizard completed successfully page, as shown in the following figure.

The wizard completed successfully page


If your browser does not support inline frames, click here to view on a separate page.

Under You have successfully set up the following devices, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard lists the wireless computers and devices that have been configured by the Wireless Network Setup Wizard and the UFD. To remove the wireless network settings including the WEP key or WPA-PSK from the UFD, select the For security reasons, remove network settings from my flash drive checkbox. If you want to use the UFD to configure additional wireless computers or devices a later time, clear this checkbox. Click Finish.

This example of the Wireless Network Setup Wizard was used to perform an initial configuration of a wireless network with an automatically assigned WEP key or WPA-PSK. You can also use the Wireless Network Setup Wizard to do the following:

  • Configure a new Windows Connect Now-capable device after the Wireless Network Setup Wizard has been run. In this case, the Windows Network Setup Wizard guides you through rewriting the current wireless network settings to a UFD, which you plug in to the new wireless device or computer.
  • Configure a wireless network with a manually specified WEP key or WPA-PSK. You do this by selecting the Manually assign a network key option on the Create a name for your wireless network page.
  • Print the current wireless network settings for wireless devices that do not support Windows Connect Now or computers running older versions of Windows that do not support execution of the setup file stored on the UFD. You can do this by selecting Set up a network manually on the How do you want to set up your network? page.
  • Reconfigure your wireless network settings. Although the Wireless Network Setup Wizard creates strong keys, it is a good idea to change them every couple of months to keep eavesdroppers from collecting encrypted traffic and using cryptographic tools to crack the WEP key or WPA-PSK. When you run the Wireless Network Setup Wizard again, it asks whether you want to keep the existing settings or create new ones. If you specify that you want to create new settings, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard displays the Create a name for your wireless network page and you configure your wireless network in the same way as the initial configuration. The Wireless Network Setup Wizard automatically assigns a new set of strong keys.

XML Files Stored on the UFD

Whenever you run the Wireless Network Setup Wizard to create new wireless network settings and click Next on the Save settings to your flash drive page, it writes the following files to the UFD:

  • \Autorun.inf

    Launches the \Smrtntky\Setupsnk.exe file when the UFD is plugged into a computer running Windows. If there is an existing Autorun.inf file, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard renames it to Autorun.fcb. If the For security reasons, remove network settings from my flash drive checkbox on the The wizard completed successfully page is selected and you click Next, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard removes its files and renames Autorun.fcb back to Autorun.inf.

  • \Smrtntky\Setupsnk.exe

    An executable file that runs from the Autorun.inf file. If the computer is running Windows XP with SP2, then Setupsnk.exe runs the Wireless Network Setup Wizard and creates a wireless profile with the settings stored in the \Smrtntky\Wsetting.wcf file. If the computer is running Windows XP with SP1 or Windows XP with no service packs installed, Setupsnk.exe prompts you to print the \Smrtntky\Wsetting.txt file, which contains the wireless network settings. If the version of Windows does not enumerate the UFD as a fixed drive, then Setupsnk.exe does not execute automatically.

  • \Smrtntky\Wsetting.wfc

    An XML file that contains the settings for the wireless network as configured from the Create a name for your wireless network page of the Wireless Network Setup Wizard, including your wireless network name, the authentication and encryption method, and either an automatically assigned or manually configured WEP key or WPA-PSK.

  • \Smrtntky\Wsetting.txt

    A text file that contains the equivalent wireless network settings in the \Smrtntky\Wsetting.wcf file, which is displayed for computers running versions of Windows prior to Windows XP with SP2.

  • \Smrtntky\Device\xxxxxxxx.wcf

    A device configuration file that contains XML-formatted information about the computer on which the Wireless Network Setup Wizard was initially run, including the computer name and the version of Windows XP. The filename is the ASCII representation of the hexadecimal digits of the last 4 bytes of the wireless network adapter's MAC address. For example, for a computer with a wireless network adapter with the MAC address 00-AA-A3-8C-3D-0F, the name of the file is A38c3d0f.wfc.

As the UFD is plugged into computers and wireless devices, each computer running Windows XP with SP2 and each Windows Connect Now-capable wireless device writes its own device configuration file to the \Smrtntky\Device folder on the UFD. When you click Next on the Transfer your network settings to your other computers or devices page, the Wireless Network Setup Wizard reads the device configuration files from the \Smrtntky\Device for the current wireless network setup and displays the configured wireless devices in the You have successfully set up the following devices list on the The wizard completed successfully page.

For More Information

For more information about Windows XP Service Pack 2, consult the following resources:

For a list of all The Cable Guy articles, click here.

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