5 Tips for Pain-Free Wireless Home Networking

Like the popular new restaurant that suddenly can't turn out a decent meal, home networking is a victim of its own success

Hair-pullingly bad experiences with wireless networking have led me to formulate Snyder's First Law of Home Networking: No matter who sells you the router, you'll have at least one excruciating session with tech support before you have an Internet connection.

Well, I'm surprised and happy to say that I've finally found an exception: Cisco's new Valet home router, billed as "home wireless made easy" actually works as advertised. Be still my beating heart. (More about the Valet later.)

Like the popular new restaurant that suddenly can't turn out a decent meal, home networking is a victim of its own success. The more devices we add to our networks, and the more demanding applications we want to run across them, the tougher it is to have a good experience.

The Truth About Broadband Speeds

Movies and videos are certainly the worst offenders in this regard, but streaming music can slow down your network, or cause connections to drop so frequently you want to toss the device out the window.

Here are five tips that will help take the pain out of wireless networking.

1. Buy an "n" router

As you've probably noticed, routers come in a number of flavors that are identified by a letter following the ubiquitous 802.11 designation. The newest flavor is "n," and there's no reason to buy a "b" or "g" router that isn't "n" compatible.

It is possible that you have an older PC that doesn't support "n," but that shouldn't be a problem. Nearly all of the wireless standards are backwardly compatible, so buy "n" and be ready for your next computer, which will certainly support it. Be aware, though, that a network will run at the speed of its slowest component, so you won't get all the benefits of the new standard.

"N" is faster than older standards -- hitting speeds as fast as 300 Mbs, compared to about 54Mbps for "g" routers. A few months ago, I wrote about the broadband speed gotcha, the annoying difference between a download speed that vendors sell as "up to" a certain number and the slower, real-world performance. That's also true in wireless networking. You won't get 300 Mbs.

A box that's been sitting on a store shelf for a while may say that the router supports "Draft n." That's a legacy of the long time it took for the IEEE to agree on a final standard, but it's not something that will affect compatibility or performance.

2. Multiple antennas and multiple bands works best

Because we're talking wireless networking here, there are a few complications. More expensive 'n" routers use three or more antennas; cheaper ones use fewer. It's not a drop dead requirement, but more antennas will give you better coverage and better performance.

You might not think that microwaves, baby monitors, cordless phones and routers don't have much in common -- but they do. All use the 2.4GHz radio band and can interfere with each other.

Dual-band routers operate in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. Some, called single-radio models make you choose one band or the other, while simultaneous or two-radio models support devices that connect in both bands at the same time.

Devices on the 5 GHz band won't trip over the microwave, and that could help avoid annoying dropped connections. However, the 5 GHz signal is more likely to slow when it goes through a wall, so you've got a few possible tradeoffs here. I have a dual band router, and have never needed to switch to the 5 GHz mode, but if interference does seem to be a problem in your home, a dual-band router might be the solution.

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags NetworkingWi-Fi

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Bill Snyder

CIO (US)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?