Every device or computer that will connect to your wireless network will need some degree of configuration. Access points or wireless bridges in particular are given settings at the factory that will allow you to access its administration interface so that it may be configured. An unfortunate byproduct of this is that most of these devices will also work straight out of the box and a fair percentage of them will eventually end up being yet another unsecured wireless network to be hijacked by freeloaders. To use an access point with no encryption, default configuration and default administration password is a recipe to finding yourself locked out of your own network and/or possibly getting a surprising internet bill. Restoring the devices factory defaults and reconfiguring it will be your only good option.
Almost all wireless devices have a factory default button and this may come to be your friend in the event of a mistake or misconfiguration. The factory default button is usually a small switch located on the back of a device and is most often accessable through a small hole that requires a thin object like a paper clip to press. Different devices may prefer to be reset in different ways but generally the button is depressed while the device is on for 5-30 seconds and then power is cycled (turned off and on) on the device. This will remove any settings that you may have configured and restore them to the ones the device had when it left the factory.
When you first open the box on your brand new wireless router or similar toy resist the temptation to throw the manual away. Keep all of the manuals and documentation in a safe place, you may need to refer to them at some point. Some manufacturers will often include a "quickstart guide" which contains usefull information such as IP address and administration username and password. Even professionals keep these handy.
Most wireless access points, routers and other devices are configured by a web interface similar to figure 1. A web interface is really just a web page that is found on the actual device that you can change options on to configure the device to your requirements. So the very first step is to connect your computer via an ethernet cable or wirelessly to the device you are about to configure. Ethernet is my personal choice for device configuration as it is arguably slightly harder to lock yourself out of an ethernet connection. Once you have connected the device physically to your computer open up your web browser (internet explorer, firefox, safari or similar) and consult your devices manual or quickstart guide to find out what its IP address is (you did read basic networking - ip addresses, right?) and what its default username and password are. Say for example the default IP is 192.168.1.1, the username was admin and the password was password you would set your computers IP address to be 192.168.1.2 and type into your browser http://192.168.1.1. After a few seconds a pop up box will appear prompting you to type in the username and password. Once these are entered, usually followed by clicking the ok button a web page should appear that will have the configuration options for the device, this is usually called an administration or admin interface. If you type in the username and password and the device rejects it make sure you are typing it in exactly as it appears in the manual. If this doesnt work try factory resetting the device and try again.
Configuring a PC or laptop for wireless is of course slightly different where all of the settings are changed within your computers control panel inside network connections or network and sharing centre. Our tutorial section includes instructions on how to set up wired and wireless connections on both Windows XP and Vista.