Using free Wi-Fi at home via public "hot spots" or through the benevolence of a neighbour's connection allows you a no-cost, wireless option for surfing the Internet with your household computers. If your computer(s) have a built-in Wi-Fi card, you will need no additional hardware to enjoy free Wi-Fi. If you lack this card, you may still access these wireless networks using a small USB attachment that plugs into your computer. With this external Wi-Fi dongle, you can still enjoy free Wi-Fi in your home. The set-up is possible even if you have never used such a device or attempted to join a Wi-Fi network previously.
Verify the hardware your computer has on board. Check the documentation and manuals that shipped with your machine to see whether you have a computer equipped with an internal Wi-Fi card. If you do, you are immediately ready to access and use free Wi-Fi at home. The internal Wi-Fi card will be able to detect Wi-Fi hot spots in your area.
Use a USB-based Wi-Fi USB dongle to upgrade your computer so that it may detect Wi-Fi hot spots in the event that you lack an internal Wi-Fi card. The dongle is a small piece of hardware that is only a bit larger than a memory stick. The dongle will plug into the USB port on the front, side or rear of your computer, depending on its design.
Wait a few moments for your computer to recognise the new Wi-Fi dongle hardware. You will receive a status update onscreen when it does. Restart your machine before proceeding.
Click on the wireless icon that is on your computer's desktop in order to scan for local Wi-Fi hot spots. This icon will be located in varying places, depending on the kind of operating system you run. If you use a Mac, you'll find this wireless icon on the right-hand side of the top toolbar, just next to the volume adjustment button. If you use a Windows computer, the icon will be located on the far right of the bottom toolbar on your desktop.
Peruse the list of available wireless networks in range. This list will appear as a drop-down menu once you click on the wireless icon. Some of these hot spots will be password-protected and others will not. Choose a public network, although if you wish to join an encrypted, private network, be sure to gain the hot spot administrator's permission ahead of time and receive the password. Click on the name of the network you wish to join.
Wait a minute for your computer to join the network. You will receive a pop-up bubble explaining that you've joined the network on your Windows computer. On a Mac, you will see the wireless network icon fill up with bars to indicate wireless signal strength. You may now surf the Internet using free Wi-Fi.
Things you need
- Internal Wi-Fi card or external Wi-Fi USB dongle