Susan had been using an unsecured network for years, and I knew it was going to be a pain to try to secure it, but I also knew that leaving it unsecured put us at risk of identity theft - and besides, I intend to telecommute daily for work from now on, and I couldn't possibly do that with an unsecured connection; I could be fired for that. I had tried about six months ago or more to secure Susan's existing router, but she had lost the instruction manual and CD that came with it, and we couldn't figure out the passwords (I now realize they were still the default ones, but I didn't know that at the time).
So I bought a new router, a theoretically identical model to the old one. It arrived in the mail yesterday, shortly before dinner. I first tried ignoring the new router and software, and just trying again to secure the connection with the old router. I successfully logged in to the Web-based router management page, and started by attempting to change absolutely nothing but the name of the network. I pressed "Save." Instantly, the name of the network changed to a random string of numbers completely different from what I had tried to change it to, and the connection was locked - locking both of us out of it. No more Internet access. Nothing destroys my mood so thoroughly and so instantly as having no Internet access. Dinner was ruined, as far as I was concerned - despite the fact that in any other circumstances it would have been delicious. I had no idea how to fix the Internet. Susan remained in a better mood at first, and mocked me for my bad mood, but only because she hadn't yet realized that this meant she wouldn't be able to access the Internet from her computer either. I had realized this.
I next tried using the new software with the old router, which seemed at first like it was working. I established a secure wireless connection with Internet access from my PC. Yay! My mood started to become more hopeful. But I couldn't figure out how to connect Susan's Mac to the network; neither the software nor the cable to establish a wired connection to the router was compatible with her Mac. Now Susan was the one in the worst mood; she kept announcing resignedly that it was okay that she would just never have Internet access again, that she would just have to live with that. I kept telling her that no, it was not okay, and that I would figure out how to fix it - I just didn't know yet how or when. Susan went to bed almost immediately after dinner, to remove herself from the stressful situation.
I printed out the encryption key from my computer - a long, random jumble of letters and numbers - and tried to use my own computer's Internet connection to search for information about how to use this to connect the Mac. But suddenly I couldn't access the Internet anymore on my computer either. The router software informed me that it had somehow figured out that the router being used was an older version than the software being used, and the software demanded that I install the correct, newer router instead.
So I did. And again it seemed like it was working. I established a secure wireless connection from my computer to the Internet. But then a few minutes later, it stopped working again.
There was a "Repair" option in Windows, which said it was trying to fix the problem by renewing my IP address. But then it said it wasn't able to renew my IP address. At wit's end, I telephoned the Internet Service Provider and begged for help. The person on the phone helped me renew my IP address via the Command Prompt, typing "ipconfig /renew" at the "Run" option on the Start menu. This worked; my connection was reestablished. I thanked the person and hung up. Then I disconnected from the network and tried to reconnect. But it didn't work anymore!
All the password/key information I'd previously entered, Windows had apparently just completely forgotten about as soon as I disconnected. I typed it back in, using the encryption key printout that the software had generated for me earlier. It was at this point that I realized the software had printed the encryption key in Arial font, rendering lower-case L indistinguishable from upper-case I. Why can't the people who design software foresee problems like this??? Eventually I deciphered the key through trial and error and reestablished a connection, yet again. Shortly after that - only four and a half hours after I began - I found information online that enabled me to finally connect the Mac.
So now all is well, and I'm proud of myself. But the whole process was rather unnecessarily complicated.