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How To Configure WPA Support in Microsoft Windows

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WPA is Wi-Fi Protected Access, one of several popular standards for wireless network security. This WPA is not to be confused with Windows XP Product Activation, a separate technology that is also included with the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Before being able to use Wi-Fi WPA with Windows XP, you may need to upgrade one or more components of your network including the XP operating system and network adapters on some computers as well as the wireless access point.

Follow these instructions to set up WPA on Wi-Fi networks having Windows XP clients.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Verify each Windows computer on the network is running Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) or greater. WPA cannot be configured on older versions of Windows XP or older versions of Microsoft Windows.
  2. For any Windows XP computer running SP1 or SP2, update the operating system to XP Service Pack 3 or newer for best WPA/WPA2 support.

    XP Service Pack 1 computers do not support WPA by default and cannot support WPA2. To upgrade an XP SP1 computer to support WPA (but not WPA2), either

    XP Service Pack 2 computers by default support WPA but not WPA2. To upgrade an XP SP2 computer to also support WPA2, install the Wireless Client Update for Windows XP SP2 from Microsoft.

  3. Verify your wireless network router (or other access point) supports WPA. Because some older wireless access points do not support WPA, you many need to replace yours. If necessary, upgrade the firmware on the access point according to the manufacturer's directions to enable WPA on it.
  4. Verify each wireless network adapter also supports WPA. Obtain a device driver upgrade from the adapter manufacturer if necessary. Because some wireless network adapters cannot support WPA, you may need to replace them.
  5. On each Windows computer, verify that its network adapter is compatible with the Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) service. Consult the adapter's product documentation, manufacturer's Web site, or appropriate customer service department for details on WZC. Upgrade the network adapter driver and configuration software to support WZC on clients if necessary.
  6. Apply compatible WPA settings on each Wi-Fi device. These settings cover network encryption and authentication.

    The WPA encryption keys (or passphrases) chosen must match exactly between devices.

    For authentication, two versions of Wi-Fi Protected Access exist called WPA and WPA2. To run both versions on the same network, ensure the access point is configured for WPA2 mixed mode. Otherwise, you must set all devices to WPA or WPA2 mode exclusively.

    Wi-Fi products use a few different naming conventions to describe types of WPA authentication. Set all equipment to use either Personal/PSK or Enterprise/*EAP options.

What You Need

  • Wi-Fi wireless router (or other access point)
  • At least one Windows XP client with Wi-Fi network adapter
  • Internet connectivity to download software updates
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