Connecting to a wireless network

You can check if your computer has WIFI enabled by looking at Device Manager.  Right click on My Computer and choose Properties>Hardware>Device Manager.  Look for Network adapters and expand them by clicking on the plus at the side.  You should see any available network adapters listed, usually including a wired (LAN) and/or a wireless (WLAN) adapter.  If there is an X through one, it isn't working.  If it isn't listed, the computer doesn't think it exists.  Wireless adapters are usually displayed as smallicons at the bottom left of the screen in the system tray, next to the wired adapter.  It is perfectly acceptable to have the wireless icon flashing blue for an active connection and the wired one crossed out as inactive, or vice-versa.

If an adapter is listed as disabled, you should be able to enable it by right clicking and choosing enable.  If an adapter is listed as an unknown device, then you need to find a driver for it.  You need to go to the manufacturer's website to get that.  If you've got a Dell machine, they have handy service tags on their machines which, when entered into the Dell website pull up all of the drivers and downloads relevant to that particualr machine.

If there is a wireless network in range of your WIFI enabled computer, it should detect the network automatically.

If the computer is WIFI enabled but there is no network, possibly the router has its WIFI function switched off.  Plug directly into the router with a network cable.  Routers tend to have an administration interface, which is accessible through a web browser on entering the IP address of the router.  It is usually something of the order of 192.168.1.1, or similar.  Your router documentaion will tell you the exact address.  Often you can enable/disable WIFI functionality of the router from within the admin interface.  You should also be able to get a status report of all the router's connections: the WAN or DSL connection to the Internet, the LAN connections to any wired machines and the WLAN connections/signal strength.

If you do detect a network, you still need to be allowed access it.  Wireless networks should usually be encrypted for security, to stop unauthorised access by others.  When a computer attempts to connect to such a network, it will require the "WEP Key", which is set at router set up time.  If you do not have the key stored elsewhere, it can be found by plugging into the router and accessing the admin interface.  Consult your router documentation for further details.