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WPA in action - Client "SOHO" mode

Since early implementations of WPA depend on WinXP and its WPA Patch, I'll use it to illustrate WPA client-side setup. I'll focus first on the WPA-PSK or "SOHO" mode.

Figure 5 shows the Wireless Network Properties screen if you have the XP WPA patch installed for your client adapter and the Network Authentication selections now available.

XP Client Network Authentication selection

Figure 5: XP Client Network Authentication selection

The Open and Shared authentication options are used with WEP, and you probably have seen them before in pre-WPA products. The other two options presented are WPA and WPA-PSK, with the latter selected for the simpler "SOHO" WPA mode.

The Association tab is also where you enter your 8 to 63 character Network Key, which XP makes you enter twice to make sure it's what you intended to enter. If you don't enter it here, though, XP will prompt you for it when you go to choose a wireless connection.

Once you choose your authentication, you then need to select the Data Encryption method from the options shown in Figure 6.

XP Client Encryption selection

Figure 6: XP Client Encryption selection

As I mentioned before, TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol) is the encryption method mandated by the WPA spec, but, depending on your client adapter, you may see AES as an option also. You can choose either one as long as the AP or wireless router you'll be connecting to also supports the same choice.

If you've done everything correctly, all you'll need to do now is get your client in-range of the AP and bring up XP's View Available Wireless Networks window. What you'll see depends on whether your client detects a WPA-enabled AP. Figure 7 shows the window when you choose a WPA-enabled AP to connect to and Figure 8 shows a non-WPA connection.

WLAN select w/WPA

WLAN select w/o WPA

Figure 7: WLAN select w/WPA
Figure 8: WLAN select w/o WPA

If you've already connected to the AP before and the Network Key is correct, XP probably won't even pop up either screen and just automatically connect you instead. But if this is the first time you've connected to this WPA-enabled network and your other WPA settings are correct, all you'll need to do is enter the Network Key twice and you should be ready to rock. Much easier than typing in a 26 character Hex WEP key, huh?   

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