Geek Stuff

What is a Wi-Fi Hotspot and How Do I Use It?

Detailed explanation covering what does Wi-Fi mean? And how to use a Wi-Fi hotspot.

I suppose by now, everyone has seen different businesses and coffee joints offering “FREE WI-FI Hotspot!  I guess that’s why I was surprised when a friend recently asked me “What is Wi-Fi? ”  Well, the “Wi” Means Wireless and the “Fi” means… Um…  Good question!

What does the name mean?

So, WI-FI (or WiFi) as it turns out isn’t an abbreviation or short-term lingo for anything.  When the technology was originally invented by “The Wi-Fi Alliance” (more geeks), they decided “Wi-Fi” sounded better than IEEE 801.11, so that’s what they picked.  They also thought it was catchy and sounded a bit like the well known Hi-Fi technology.  Thus, Wi-Fi was born!

What does Wi-Fi do?

Wi-Fi is used just like a regular network connection, except without the wires.  Most often (but not always) it’s used to connect a computer to a high-speed internet connection either inside your home or at a Wi-Fi Hotspot.

And what is a Wi-Fi Hotspot?

A Wi-Fi Hotspot is just the term used to describe an area or business (coffee shop, bus, etc.) that has a range that is receptive to a wireless broadcasting device, typically called a Wireless Router.  You can set up your own at home quickly by purchasing a wireless-capable router and following its setup instructions.  However, generally if you subscribe to a High-Speed Internet service, the Modem/Router/Switch they provide usually has Wi-Fi built-in so be sure to verify this before you go out and waste some cash.  If for some reason, however, your ISP is cheap and didn’t provide a Wi-Fi Capable device when they hooked up your service, you may want to purchase one.  When shopping for one, it’s important to note that Wireless N (or 802.11 N) offers the most range, speed, and stability at the time of my writing this article.   Not all devices are compatible with N so G (802.11 G) is another good alternative.

How do I use Wi-Fi?

Before you can access a Wi-Fi network, you will need a wireless network card/chip.  Most new Laptops, Notebooks, Mobile Computers (what are they called nowadays????) and pocket devices (Mobile Phones, iPhones, even the Nintendo Wii) include a built-in wireless chip.  You can also buy a wireless card or USB device and plug it into your device.  Wi-Fi is common these days, so there is a “Lot” of options.

Next, you need to find a public Wi-Fi hotspot (an unprotected wireless network broadcasted over short-distance Wi-Fi radio.)  Once you’re in such a range, you should easily be able to connect to it as most modern devices will alert you that a WiFi network is available.  You can also connect to a private or secure hotspot (WEP, High SpeedWPA, WPA2), but that will require you to know the proper keys/password.

Is a WiFi Network Safe?

Before connecting to any network, you should know the risks and advantages of doing so.  Typically, with most unprotected networks, it goes like this.


  • Convenient and somewhat High-Speed Connection to the Internet
  • Faster than Dial-Up, Edge, or even 3G
  • VPN and HTTPS are still mostly secure
  • If your device has a firewall (and it’s enabled), you should be ok (99% of the time)


  • Virus Attack/Device Hacking – Depending on the configuration of your Mobile device/PC, other people might be able to attack your device while it’s connected to the Wi-Fi.
  • Data Theft – Unencrypted data such as surfing your GMAIL account is up for heist as it’s being transmitted back and forth between the Wi-Fi Network and on the Wi-Fi Network.
  • Account Theft – Webmail, MySpace, YouTube, FaceBook, etc., and other login information can be stolen by other people on the network if it’s not encrypted.

How about a groovy Wi-Fi How-To?

Okay, so let’s say you’re at a coffee joint and they offer free Wi-Fi.  How do you connect?  Well, some PC’s come automatically configured to connect to any nearby wireless network.  In which case, you’ll connect to it without even thinking.  If not, then typically you’ll have a small wireless computer icon on the bottom right taskbar of your screen with a red x near it.  (Windows-based systems)

1.   Double-Click the Wireless Icon in your taskbar

Wireless Icon ::

A new window will appear; on this screen, you will be able to select a wireless network to connect to.  Typically a business will name their network or SSID after its company.  Personally, I would connect to whichever network has the greenest bars as that shows a strong connection. 

2.   Click the desired network then Click Connect

Windows XP Menu to Choose a Wireless Network Screenshot ::


3.   A warning screen might appear warning you about unsecured networks; Click Continue Anyway

Windows XP Wireless Network Connection unsecured network warning ::


All done!  It should now say you are Connected, and the little red x will be gone from your taskbar icon

Wireless Network Connection Successfully Connected ::  Active Wireless Icon Taskbar Windows XP ::


Enjoy the Groovy Wi-Fi, and if you are still having trouble connecting, feel free to post your questions in our free .


Be Safe!

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  1. levitra

    November 12, 2008 at 12:04 am

    Funny! I never actually knew what WIFI meant :) I figured it was wireless something….

    great post!

  2. Jay Scott

    November 18, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Nice bit of history. I agree with your security concerns. I don’t do anything important from a public wifi. I don’t care about the DATA, but I do get worried about credential harvesting.

    Great article

  3. MrGroove

    December 17, 2008 at 10:31 am

    @Jay – Thanks for the feedback & Welcome to groovyPost!

  4. Suz

    January 3, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    thanks for the info. I bought a new laptop today and had no idea how the thing hooked up to hot spots….I just knew I needed to be able to get my e-mails and internet access away from home…..thanks

  5. MrGroove

    January 5, 2009 at 9:26 am

    @Suz – Excellent! Glad to hear the article helped out! If anything else comes up and you can’t find it here on the site, please post a new topic with your question in our forum –


  6. Linda

    February 23, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I did all this and still can’t get it to hook up-I also have set up a dialup connection on my laptop-I am waiting now for my usb modem to arrive for the lap top-it didn’t have a modem built in. Will the dialup configeration interfer in any way with the wifi connection? Or did a weak signal have anything to do with it not wanting to connect ?

  7. MrGroove

    February 25, 2009 at 12:06 am

    @Linda – No. The dial-up should not interfere with the WIFI connection at all. And yes, a weak signal can significantly impact the ability of your laptop from connecting. What I have done in the past is disable my wifi adapter then re-enable it. At times I’ve found this helps me out.

  8. Thomas J

    March 8, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    A Excellent Articule……..!

    • MrGroove

      March 9, 2009 at 6:10 pm

      @Thomas J, Thank you! Glad it helped out.

  9. Jo-Carole

    July 4, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Thank you for clearing this up for me. I have a laptop but was always afraid to use it outside of my home. This is a big help to me :) Look forward to your great tips always!

  10. Greg

    July 17, 2010 at 5:35 am

    Thanks for the knowledge I just jumped from the prehistoric hi-fi world to the wi-fi world now all I need to figure out is how to get my music from my 8 tracks to my lap top! FOR REAL!!!!!

  11. Saran Inoue

    October 2, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    You guys are awesome, found you on Yahoo. Just had to let you know that you are awesome for sharing this.

  12. JonK

    October 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Good discussion on the subject. The reason I’m here is because I was looking at two competing Androids. One said “WiFi Hotspot” in the list of features, the other just said “WiFi.” Is there a difference?

  13. Enable Facebook Timeline

    January 7, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    hello!,I really like your writing so so much! share we keep up a correspondence extra approximately your post on AOL? I need an expert on this house to unravel my problem. Maybe that is you! Looking forward to see you.

  14. Wendy

    March 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Wi-Fi actually stands for Wireless Fidelity…Just thought you should know. :)

  15. Jeanette Serfoss

    July 2, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Someone in my neighborhood has unsecured wireless, which causes strangers to park or stand
    outside my house to use it. How can I find out who it is and then get rid of it?

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