I’m an avid wireless user, but I’ve been having trouble getting connected to the Internet when I go to a free WiFi hotspot. Do you have any idea what I am doing wrong?

So, you have mastered using wireless in your home and you want to try it at the local coffee shop, which has a free WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) hotspot. You turn on your computer and everything is fine until you realize you can’t get connected to the Internet. What could possibly be wrong?

Well, there is a difference between home wireless use and public hotspot use. Even if your WiFi card shows that you are attached to an access point, you may still not be connected to the Internet and all you will receive are the dreaded “Page Cannot Be Found” messages.

The main thing you should remember when you go to a public hotspot (free or paid) is to open up a new browser window before you do anything. Do this before you open up your e-mail, a chat program or any other Internet functions. The browser window you open will usually have a login screen for you (or something similar) so you are able to get connected to the Web.

By doing things this way, paid hotspots are able to collect the fee information they need and free places are able to put up their information and disclaimer screens. This process really only takes a couple seconds and it will save you time for the next time you come to that same hotspot. Most of them have you set up an account with a username and password so you can just log in easily the next time you visit.

You may be wondering what you’re supposed to do if the above process still doesn’t work. What if you do everything and you still don’t get a login screen? Well, there’s a couple things you can check. Make sure you have your browser homepage set to something, don’t have it set to a blank page. If it’s blank, it won’t be able to trigger the needed port opening. You also just need to make sure you have the updated service packs for your version of Windows. And one final thing that may be causing you problems: you might just be too far away from the access point. If you’re too far, your signal may be too weak to catch a connection. So, just move closer!

If you follow the steps and the procedures of the hotspots you like to visit, you should have no wireless blues!