FAQ: Windows XP SP2 and Windows Connect Now

This article is part of the TechnologyTips XP SP2 FAQ: Windows XP Service Pack 2.

XP SP2 is the most complete effort today that Microsoft has made to make Windows more secure. It includes a whole update to the way Windows handles wireless networking. If you have a Wi-Fi router, you may know that it is innately insecure.

Anyone who chooses to tune in to it when they come into range can use the connection to access your Internet connection and if you have file-sharing turned on, they can access data on your computer too simply by driving up to the curb outside your house and accessing your Wi-Fi signal with their laptop.

Wi-Fi routers do have security measures built in to prevent this. However they are turned off by default. And turning them on is a fairly arduous process that can confuse and annoy most users.

The two technologies are WEP and WPA.
WEP means Wired Equivalency Privacy.
WPA means Wi-Fi Protected Access.

Both WEP and WPA make a wireless router hard to tap into, although network experts will tell you that WEP is easy to hack into if you know what you are doing. It will keep most casual network pirates off your system (like that obnoixious kid down the block) however it won’t keep out the professional fraudster that tries to hack onto your network to steal your bank info.

Windows Connect Now technology (formerly called SmartKey technology) is designed to make setting up WEP or WPA easier. Here’s how you do it.

You’ll need three things to proceed:

  • A wireless Windows XP computer with SP2 installed
  • A USB Key (a little portable storage device that can plug into your computer)
  • A Wi-Fi router that supports Windows Connect Now technology (see a list of companies below that make them).

To start the process click START then All Programs then Accessories then Communications. After installing XP SP2, you’ll find an entry called Wireless Network Setup Wizard.

Run it and make sure your USB key handy. It will walk you through a Q&A that will ask you to choose between WEP or WPA and then it will configure your wireless computer for your new wireless network and write to a file on the USB key.

You can then take the key and insert it into your Wi Fi router’s USB port (not all have them yet) to update its settings using the USB SmartKey files on the USB key. Your network is now secure. To add another computer to the secure network take to the USB key to it and insert it and run the Wireless Network Setup wizard on that computer.

More information at:
Wi-Fi Planet

Companies that are making “Windows Connect Now” enabled routers include:

  1. Belkin
  2. Broadcom
  3. Netgear
  4. AboCom
  5. Sercomm
  6. PCTel
  7. DLink

Here’s a web site with more info about SP2 and its new features:
Windows XP Service Pack 2 Feature List