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Define a wireless network connection on a client computer

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

To define a wireless network connection on a client computer

  1. Right-click the wireless network connection icon in the notification area, and then click View Available Wireless Networks. For more information, see Notes.

  2. Under Related Tasks, click Change the order of preferred networks, and then on the Wireless Networks tab do one of the following:


    To Do this

    Add and configure a new wireless network

    Click Add, and then on the Association tab, in Network name (SSID), type a unique name (also known as a service set identifier).

    Reconfigure the settings for an existing wireless network

    Click on the wireless network that you want to reconfigure, and then click Properties.

  3. If a network key is required to connect to the wireless network, under Wireless network key, do the following:

    • To specify that a network key for Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is used to encrypt the data that is sent over the network, in Data encryption, select WEP. WEP is selected by default.

    • To specify that a network key is used for authentication to the wireless network, in Network Authentication, select Shared, WPA, or WPA-PSK. For more information, consult your network administrator, or see the product documentation for your access point.

    • If the network key is automatically provided for you (for example, if 802.1X is being used for dynamic key distribution), select the The key is provided for me automatically check box, and leave Network key and Confirm network key blank.

    • If the network key is not automatically provided for you, clear the The key is provided for me automatically check box, and in Network key, type the key, and then type it again in Confirm network key. For information about how to specify a network key, see Notes.

    • To specify the location where the network key is stored, in Key index, type a number, or click the arrows to select a number.

  4. If you are configuring settings to a wireless network that is for a computer-to-computer (ad hoc) network, select the This is a computer-to-computer (ad hoc) network; wireless access points are not used check box.

  5. To specify that 802.1X authentication is used for the wireless network connection, click the Authentication tab, and then configure settings as needed. For more information, see Related Topics.


  • It is highly recommended that you use 802.1X authentication whenever you connect to an 802.11 wireless network. 802.1X is an IEEE standard that enhances security and deployment by providing support for centralized user identification, authentication, dynamic key management, and accounting. For more information, see Related Topics.

  • In Windows XP Service Pack 1 and in the Windows Server 2003 family, 802.1X authentication is available only for access point (infrastructure) networks that require the use of a network key (WEP). WEP provides data confidentiality by encrypting the data that is sent between wireless clients and wireless access points. For additional information about security for wireless networks, see Related Topics.

  • For enhanced security, in Windows XP Service Pack 2 and in the Windows Server 2003 family with Service Pack 1, Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) has been included to strengthen WEP. For more information, see Security information for wireless networks.

  • If you attempt to connect to a computer-to-computer network or an access point network that does not require the use of a network key, the settings in the Authentication tab are not available, and you cannot configure 802.1X authentication for the connection.

  • To enhance security and connectivity, do not select the Network Authentication (Shared mode) check box. When this check box is selected, shared key authentication is used, rather than open system authentication. Shared key authentication is less secure than open system authentication because it requires the exchange of a secret key that is shared by all wireless access points and clients and therefore is more vulnerable to known-text attacks. In addition, if you select this check box for a wireless network that has multiple wireless access points, you will lose network connectivity when you travel from one wireless access point to a new wireless access point. To determine whether the wireless network you are connecting to has multiple wireless access points, use Wireless Monitor. For information about how to use Wireless Monitor to view details about wireless access points, see Related Topics.


  • Performing this task does not require you to have administrative credentials. Therefore, as a security best practice, consider performing this task as a user without administrative credentials.

  • tok:wirelessicon

  • When an error is detected that might limit or prevent a connection to a wireless network, the wireless warning icon is displayed in the notification area.

  • To open Network Connections, click Start, click Control Panel, and then double-click Network Connections.

  • The Wireless Networks tab appears only if you are using a wireless network adapter that supports the Wireless Configuration service. If you are unsure whether your wireless network adapter supports the Wireless Configuration service, contact the wireless network adapter manufacturer. For more information about using Windows to configure wireless network settings on your computer, see Related Topics.

  • You must type a network key in hexadecimal or ASCII format. If you use hexadecimal format, specify a key that is 10 or 26 characters in length. If you use ASCII format, specify a key that is 5 or 13 characters in length.

Information about functional differences

  • Your server might function differently based on the version and edition of the operating system that is installed, your account permissions, and your menu settings. For more information, see Viewing Help on the Web.

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