Walt Mossberg

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Mossberg’s Mailbox

Disabling Wi-Fi on a Laptop

Here are a few questions I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.

I have a laptop that I use primarily to play music. Is there any way to disable its connection to a wireless network?

Sure, but exactly how you do that depends on the laptop’s hardware and operating system. Some Windows laptops have a hardware switch, or a keyboard function — often identified by some sort of transmitter icon — that turns the Wi-Fi wireless radio inside off. If yours does, just use these hardware controls to kill Wi-Fi.

Others require disabling Wi-Fi via software. In Windows XP, go to the Network Connections control panel, find the Wi-Fi connection, right-click on that icon, and select “Disable.” In Windows Vista, go to the Network and Sharing Center control panel, locate the wireless network, and click the “Disconnect” command in the information area under its name. On a Mac laptop, you can just click on the fan-like Wi-Fi symbol in the menu bar and select “Turn Airport Off” (“Airport” is Apple’s term for its Wi-Fi radio).

If your Windows laptop uses an application other than control panels to manage your Wi-Fi connections, you may have to disable them from within that program.

Thanks for your column on netbooks. Which of the netbooks came pre-installed with Microsoft Office? For those that didn’t, how can you install Microsoft Office onto the device?

I tested only four models, all running Windows XP. None came with a full, activated version of Office installed. Two — the Acer Aspire One and the MSI Wind U100 — came with trial versions of Office pre-installed. Another, the Asus Eee 1000H, came with an alternative office suite, StarOffice. Two, the Asus and the MSI, came with a stripped-down office suite, Microsoft Works.

The simplest way to install Office, or any other software that comes on disc, onto a netbook is to plug in an external DVD drive using a USB port.

I have two questions about the iPhone. My first question is whether or not it’s possible to tether the phone to a computer for use as a modem. My second question is whether it’s possible to rent or buy movies on the phone itself or if that needs to be done from a laptop or desktop?

It isn’t currently possible to use the iPhone as a tethered modem, but AT&T recently said that functionality might be coming. It also isn’t possible to buy or rent movies directly on the phone, only music. You have to transfer movies from a computer.

  • You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online free of charge at the new All Things Digital Web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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