How to get WiFi at home without a router

Are you looking to have Wi-Fi in your home, but you don’t have a router? This may sound strange, but it is possible using the mobile hotspot feature on your computer. Many of the newer and more popular computer operating systems support this feature (for free).

wifi logo

Not the mobile hotspot that you’re used to

This method of sharing an internet connection is frequently referred to as ‘mobile hotspot’, however this setup differs from most people’s definition of mobile hotspot – which is the process of enabling a feature on their smartphone so that they can tether a computer to the phone for internet access through the phone’s mobile data connection.

Using a smartphone’s hotspot permanently will get expensive very quickly – since you will likely blow through your mobile data allotment in short order. This type of hotspot also requires that the phone has adequate mobile data reception – if your signal is too weak, you won’t be able to even turn on the mobile hotspot functionality on your phone.

The solution we are discussing here uses a computer to act as a router in order to share an internet connection. The internet connection you are sharing could be a Cable or DSL service of your own, or perhaps a neighbor’s Wi-Fi that they are granting you access to.

Why no router?

There are multiple reasons why someone would want to go without a router.

The most common reason is that someone has recently moved and doesn’t yet have a router because they either didn’t buy one yet or because their old router is packed away somewhere and they can’t find it.

Or, perhaps they were leasing their last router from their ISP – in this case, they would have had to return it when they disconnected service at their last house/apartment.

Also, people that are traveling frequently can benefit from hotspot functionality on their laptop. Frequently, while traveling, you will run into internet access services that only allow one device online at a time.

Want to get online with both your laptop and your tablet? In this case, you may have to pay again to get the second device online as well. This type of service is not uncommon and is typically found in airports, cruise ships, and some hotels.

A Mobile hotspot on your computer can alleviate the need for these additional charges and allow you to only pay one access fee for all of your devices.

Pros and Cons to going router-less

Pros

  • Saves money up front – No router to purchase
  • Slightly lower power consumption due to the lack of a router (this only applies in cases where you leave your computer running all the time anyway)
  • It’s an easy fix when you’re in a bind and don’t have a router
  • Excellent for travelers

Cons

  • More complex – Traffic is going to be double NAT’ed in some cases, which can also impact performance
  • Worse performance – Depending on the speed of your computer and the other tasks that are running, your computer may not be able to route packets as quickly as a regular router can
  • Worse coverage – Most computers lack an external wireless antenna, and the ones that do have one are quite small. A router can easily cover a larger area than a computer can
  • Must keep the computer on all the time – That’s right, if you shutdown or reboot your computer, other people in the house that are using your Wi-Fi network will be disconnected
  • Difficult to expand wireless coverage – adding additional access points to your network to increase the range won’t work in some cases because the wired Ethernet adapter on your computer is likely already being used to connect to your Cable/DSL modem
  • Limited to 8 devices (Windows 10) – Windows caps the amount of devices that you can share with at 8 total

It’s only temporary (usually)

There’s no reason why you couldn’t rely on this set up permanently, however, most people will only use it temporarily – such as when they are on travel or if they just moved in to a new place.

A router isn’t THAT expensive and the benefits of using a traditional setup versus a mobile hotspot are many.

Getting Started

Difficulty: Medium
Time Required: 10 Minutes

Prerequisites

  • A computer with an Operating System that supports mobile hotspot functionality (Windows 10, MacOS)
  • The computer must have a wireless adapter (any modern laptop will have a wireless adapter built in, and some desktops have them too)
  • An internet connection to share – either your own Cable/DSL type service, or a nearby Wi-Fi network that you have access to (Windows 10 only – MacOS can’t be connected to WiFi and share via WiFi at the same time like Windows 10 can)

Optional

If you are wishing to share your own Cable/DSL service, your computer will also need to have a wired network adapter for connection to your Cable/DSL modem. If you are sharing a nearby Wi-Fi network, a wired adapter is unnecessary.

Windows or Mac?

See the mobile hotspot procedure for Windows 10 below, or jump ahead to the instructions for MacOS.

Windows 10 Procedure

  • Click on the ‘Start’ Button and click on the ‘Settings’ icon:

start menu settings button

  • Click on ‘Network and Internet’:network and internet settings
  • On the menu on the left, click on ‘Mobile hotspot’

network settings mobile hotspot

You will see a drop down box that says ‘Share my Internet connection from’. If you have multiple connections to the internet, such as a Wi-Fi connection to someone else’s network plus a wired connection to your Cable/DSL modem, you will see them listed here.

  • Choose the connection that you want to share.
  • If desired, you can change the network name and password by clicking the ‘Edit’ button. Your password needs to be at least eight characters long.

Alternatively, you can keep the randomly generated name and password that is already shown on the settings screen.

mobile hotspot settings

  • Lastly, move the slider at the top of the screen that says ‘Share my Internet connection with other devices’ to ‘On’. Your computer is now acting as a router.

You should now see your shared wireless network available on other devices in your home and you should be able to connect to that network using the password shown on the mobile hotspot configuration screen.

You will also see a count of the number of devices that are connected to your shared wireless network:

mobile hotspot devices connected

Remember: If you turn off or reboot your computer, you will cut off anyone else that is using your hotspot.

MacOS Procedure

Note: With MacOS, you can create a mobile hotspot just like in Windows 10, except you can typically only share a wired Ethernet connection. This is due to the fact that Windows 10 allows you to connect to a Wi-Fi network and then share that same network on the same wireless adapter.

MacOS does not support this functionality, so you are generally limited to sharing an internet connection that comes in through the computer’s wired Ethernet port, unless you happen to have two wireless adapters. However, many people want to share their Cable/DSL service through their computer, so this functionality on the Mac is still definitely worth mentioning.

  • Click on the ‘Apple’ menu and then click on ‘System Preferences’:

mac apple menu

  • Locate the ‘Sharing’ option and click on it:

mac system preferences

  • Select ‘Internet Sharing’ on the left side:

mac sharing

  • On the ‘Share your connection from’ drop-down, choose ‘Ethernet’
  • In the ‘To computers using’ box, chose your Wi-Fi adapter (the screenshot doesn’t show a wireless adapter since my Mac doesn’t have one, but your computer should)
  • Click the ‘Wi-Fi Options’ button at the bottom to configure your hotspot. You can chose a name for your network as well as select a channel:

mac wifi settings

We recommend selecting ‘WPA2 Personal’ from the ‘Security’ box and then pick a secure password. If you don’t set a security mode, the network will be created as an open network, which will allow anyone to connect to it. Bad idea.

  • Lastly, check the checkbox next to ‘Internet Sharing’ on the left to enable the hotspot. ‘Internet Sharing’ will show as ‘ON’ and have a green dot next to it once it has successfully been enabled.

You should now be able to see the Wi-Fi network on other devices and connect to it to access the internet.

Remember: If you turn off or reboot your computer, you will cut off anyone else that is using your hotspot.

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

What is the best channel for my wireless router?

wifi logo

The best channel for your wireless router is the one that has the least amount of interference on it.

Strictly speaking, all channels are the same. Lower channels don’t have more bandwidth than higher channels or vise-versa.

In other words, if you were all alone on a desert island and it was just you, your laptop, and router, you would have the exact same experience on every channel.

This is because you would be the only device on your Wi-Fi network, and there would be no nearby Wi-Fi networks or other sources of interference.

Unfortunately, we don’t all live on islands by ourselves – free of frequency interference and bathed in high speed internet.

 How Wi-Fi works

 

tv remote channelWi-Fi is a shared communication medium. This means that all nearby wireless devices (yours, your kids or roommates, and even your neighbors) are competing for use of the same airspace.

Now within that airspace, there are multiple channels available for use – like channels on your television, each with something different going on.

Now think of the activity going on in a channel as a phone conversation. All nearby wireless devices that are on your channel (or an adjacent overlapping channel – more on this in a moment) are like a group of people that are all on a conference call. Only one person can speak at a time.

If there are only two or three people on the call, everyone can say what they need to say without much of a wait. But on a call with 50 participants for example, people are going to have to wait a long time to speak.

Wireless communication works the same way. The more devices, nearby networks, and interference there is, the slower and less reliable your Wi-Fi network will be.

Yes, the channel you pick matters, but only sometimes

Manually picking a wireless channel is becoming a thing of the past on 5GHz networks, but it still matters on your 2.4GHz network.

2.4GHz

If you are using a 2.4GHz radio, which most likely you are, (most older routers run exclusively at 2.4GHz and newer routers have dual-band 2.4GHz AND 5GHz radios) then you should be using one of the three non-overlapping channels.

This would be channel 1, 6, or 11

The reasoning for choosing 1/6/11 is complex, but suffice to say that all of the 2.4GHz channels overlap with each other to some degree.

What does overlapping mean? It means that devices in nearby channels will interfere with each other, even though they aren’t in the same channel. Kinda defeats the purpose of having channels, doesn’t it? Don’t get me started.

So why choose 1, 6, or 11? Because it is the most efficient strategy.

If you need 3 wireless routers or access points in the same room, putting one on channel 1, one on channel 6, and one on channel 11 is the best strategy. No other choice would allow all three devices to operate without interfering with each other.

Sure, there are other non-overlapping choices you could make – channel 2 and 10 don’t overlap, for example. But 1/6/11 is the only choice that will give you three independent channels.

 

2.4ghz wifi channels

 

OK I’m using a recommended channel, now what?

Using channel one, six, or eleven makes it a little easier to avoid adjacent-channel interference – but only if the other wireless networks near you are using the same strategy. The problem comes in when someone nearby is using one of the other channels (2-5 or 7-10).

For example, if you were being good and chose channel 1 or 6, but your neighbor next door is using channel 3 or 4, your neighbor’s network is still going to interfere with yours. You could try changing your router to use a different channel, but it may be difficult to find one that doesn’t interfere with someone else, especially in multifamily housing or apartments.

If everyone would only use 1, 6, or 11, the world would be a better place – but unfortunately this is not the case. Still, you can do your part by picking one of these non-overlapping channels.

5GHz

5GHz Wi-Fi is the future and you should be using it now if your router AND your devices support it. I say ‘AND’ because many devices still only support 2.4GHz networks.

For example, just thinking of a few devices in my house, my Chromecast, Sony smart TV, robotic vacuum (Roomba clone), and my laptop all lack 5GHz radios. Yep, they only operate at 2.4GHz. This means that I must leave my 2.4GHz radio enabled on my router, or I will not have connectivity with these devices.

radio channel frequency

Why is 5GHz better?

The 5GHz spectrum is wider and supports more channels. In the US, there are 25 channels in the 5GHz spectrum, and all of them are non-overlapping.

In addition to the higher availability of non-overlapping channels, 5GHz radios also support higher throughput (albeit at slightly shorter range due to the higher frequency) and technologies like multiuser-MIMO, which acts as a sort of channel bonding.

 

Disclaimer: This article applies to users in the United States. If you live in a different country, check with your national communications regulatory/authority, as the laws regarding the frequencies you can use will likely be at least a little bit different.

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

Why do I have to keep resetting my router?

Pretty much the first thing anyone does when they start having problems with their internet connection, is reboot their router. After all, rebooting your router usually fixes the problem – but why?

Why power cycle?

finger pushing power button

What is it about a reset (power cycle) that fixes problems? Well, there are several things.

For starters, a router is similar to a computer. It has a power supply, a processor (CPU), memory (RAM), and even an operating system (firmware).

Just like your computer needs a good reboot from time to time, so does a router.

Some routers are more well built than others and don’t require a reset as often, but for the most part any consumer-grade router is going to need a power cycle occasionally.

Consumer routers are generally built with lower quality hardware, slower speed components, and less rigorous software engineering standards compared to the routers that your ISP uses. As a result, they generally can’t go as long without a reset as their business-grade counterparts can.

Drain the electricity from circuitry

A proper power cycle involves disconnecting power from the device for 5-10 seconds, which allows for all of the circuitry in the router to fully discharge.

There are capacitors inside the router that take a few seconds to discharge, during which time, if you were to reapply power, the device would start back up but could continue to have issues since it wasn’t fully reset.

Memory in a computer system (or a router, in this case) gets fully erased when the power is cut. This is called volatile memory.

Don’t worry – there are also non-volatile memory types, which is why we don’t lose the configuration on our router as well when it is power cycled.

When power is re-applied, the router’s operating system boots from a fresh state, which fresh memory,  and is completely re-initialized so it can run at maximum capacity again.

IP address issues

After rebooting, the router also verifies that its’ current IP address from your ISP is valid (called renewing the IP) or if necessary, it requests a new IP address from your ISP.

Sometimes there is a bit of a disconnect between the IP address your ISP is providing and the IP address your router is using – the reboot will synchronize your router with your ISP again.

Bandwidth hogs are shut down (at least temporarily)

bandwidth hog

Sometimes, an internet connection is not working well because of a bandwidth hog. A bandwidth hog is defined as a person or device on your network that is uploading or downloading a large amount of data.

It could be something like a roommate downloading a new game on their Xbox, or something more systematic, like a computer downloading an automatic update.

This large upload or download creates a data contention issue, where other user’s data is slowed down because of the lack of bandwidth.

During a router reboot, bandwidth hogs lose the internet connection along with everyone else. They will usually resume their upload or download once the internet connection becomes available again, but sometimes (like in the case of a software update) they will wait a while to resume the data transfer.

Sometimes this delay is all you need to finish what you were doing online.

Wi-Fi frequencies are re-scanned

Some routers have a dynamic channel allocation feature where they survey the other nearby Wi-Fi networks to see what channels are in use, and then they pick the channel that is least populated or has the least amount of interference.

Power cycling your router will force your router to perform this adjustment as soon as the router has finished its reboot, as opposed to waiting for the router to do it on it’s own.

What are your options?

If you are otherwise fairly happy with your current router, you may wish to simply continue putting up with the minor inconvenience of occasionally resetting it. You could also automate the resets so that you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself.

keyboard reset button

Therapeutic reboots

Depending on the model of your router, you may be able to schedule it to reboot at the same time daily or weekly. I do this with my router – I have scheduled therapeutic reboots to occur every day at 2:00 AM, when everyone in the house is sleeping and won’t notice the brief interruption associated with the reboot.

If your router doesn’t support scheduled reboots, you can also get smart power switches that can turn the power off or on depending on the time of day. You could obtain one of these switches and then connect your router through it and accomplish the same goal.

Get a new router

You could also just consider getting a new router. Here is a recommendation on a router that gets overwhelmingly positive reviews and most people report that it doesn’t need rebooting.

NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming WiFi Router- Powered by Netduma DumaOS AC2600 Dual band wireless Gigabit Ethernet speeds- Control your ping and latency- Works with Xbox, PlayStation, PC and more, (XR500)
  • QoS-Prioritize gaming devices and allocate bandwidth by device to eliminate lag due to queuing at the ISP network.
  • Geo Filter-Fix your gaming lag by limiting distance. Get a guaranteed local connection. Create a blacklist or whitelist of your preferred servers.
  • Gaming Dashboard-Personalize dashboard to view real-time bandwidth utilization by device, ping delays and more on a single screen.
  • Gaming VPN-Connect to the VPN server with a VPN client to protect your network identity.
  • Network Monitor-Check bandwidth utilization by device and application.

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

How to access my Netgear router

Accessing your Netgear router’s web interfacenetgear login page

The process for accessing a Netgear router’s configuration screen is actually a little bit easier than most other home router brands.

This is because Netgear uses the routerlogin.com (or routerlogin.net) URL to redirect you to the Netgear router on your own network. That way, you don’t have to remember the IP address of your router. Pretty slick.

To start, open your favorite web browser

  • Clear out anything and everything in the address bar
  • Type in www.routerlogin.com OR www.routerlogin.net (either one will work)
  • Press Enter

You should be directed to the router’s login screen and prompted for a username and password. If not, verify that you spelled www.routerlogin.com or www.routerlogin.net correctly.

If you spelled it correctly, try the other routerlogin varient – assuming you tried www.routerlogin.com the first time – try again, this time using www.routerlogin.net. Likewise, if you tried .net first, try switching to .com.

If it’s still not working, try a different web browser. Also, make sure the computer you are using is connected to your network, either via Wi-Fi or wired in directly.

Find the router’s IP address

If that still doesn’t work, try finding the router’s IP address. See this article for the procedure.

Once you’ve located the router’s IP address, go back to your favorite browser and clear out the address bar again. Now enter the IP address of the router and press enter.

You should finally receive a username and password prompt to login to your router.

Login Credentials

username password login prompt

Now you’ll need your router’s administrator credentials in order to login. For Netgear routers, the username is always admin. It cannot be changed to anything else.

The password is whatever you selected when you first set up the router. It is technically a different password than your Wi-Fi password, but it is possible that you used the same password for both, so give that password a try if you’re unsure.

If you still aren’t sure what the password is, try password or 1234 which are the default passwords for most Netgear devices. Perhaps you never changed the password from the default when you first set the router up.

Reset your router’s configuration to factory defaults

If you are still unsure of what your password is, and the default passwords don’t work either, your only choice is to reset your router to the factory default configuration.

Be advised that this will require you to go through the initial set up again – you will have to set up your Wi-Fi network name (SSID), the Wi-Fi password, the new administrator password, and any other special configurations you previously had in place such as static IP addresses, PPPoE usernames/passwords, port forwarding configurations, etc.

Your internet will likely stop functioning until your router is set up again. If your ISP requires you to use a username and password with their service, make sure you have that information accessible.

If you don’t have it, I recommend contacting them and requesting the information before you reset the router – that way you don’t end up without an internet connection longer than necessary.

computer router login screen

Reasons why you would need to access your router’s management interface

Below are some of the common reasons why a person would need to access the management interface on their router. It is certainly not an exhaustive list:

  • To change their Wi-Fi network name (SSID) or Wi-Fi password
  • To change the IP address of their router
  • To change the IP address of other devices on their network
  • To set up new port forwarding on their router so that they can access their home network via the internet
  • To set up a VPN connection
  • To access/change their PPPoE credentials provided by their ISP
  • To change the hostname of their router
  • To change the Wi-Fi channel their router uses
  • To enable or disable certain bands (2.4Ghz or 5.0Ghz)
  • To check their public IP address
  • To find out how many devices are connected to their network
  • To implement parental access controls
  • To view their bandwidth usage statistics
  • To upgrade their firmware or reboot their router
  • To modify their firewall settings

Remember the steps for next time

I recommend writing down the steps you used to access your router, and the working username and password.

It’s not every day that you need to change settings on your router, but the need does arise every so often. Save yourself a headache later and write the information down now while it is fresh in your head.

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

Does a better router improve Internet speed?

Question: Does a better router improve internet speed?
Answer: Sometimes. It depends. It’s complicated!

Allow me to elaborate…bandwidth speedometer

There are at least three factors that impact someone’s perception of how fast or slow an internet connection is. To help make my point, think of your internet connection as a pipeline.

The three factors that affect your speed as it relates to your pipeline are:

  1. The size of your pipeline (the amount of bandwidth you have)
  2. How quickly things flow through your pipeline (the amount of latency you have)
  3. Whether or not there are leaks in your pipeline (is data being dropped somewhere in the middle)

1. The size of your pipeline

Think of the amount of bandwidth you have. This is the number advertised by your ISP in Megabits per second (Mbps).

Some people have 1 Mbps, others have 1000 Mbps. This is the size of your pipeline.The more bandwidth you have, the more data that can flow through it at the same time and the less it gets clogged up.

Remember to also consider upload speed as well as your download speed, as they can both make a difference.

The amount of bandwidth you have is certainly important, but it is not the only factor in determining the speed of your internet connection.

2. How quickly things (data) flow through your pipeline

internet pipelineThis is referred to as latency – it is a measurement of the time it takes data to go from your computer, through the internet to a remote server (Facebook, Netflix, etc), and then all the way back (round trip).

Is the data moving slowly like sludge through the pipeline, or is it moving quickly like pure water?

If data moves back and forth quickly (low latency), it is likely that someone would perceive that connection as very fast, even if it were only a 10Mbps connection.

The reverse of this is also true – someone could have a large pipe with slow flow and they wouldn’t feel that it is a very fast connection. The best example of this is Satellite Internet, such as HughesNet.

Many satellite internet plans provide decent bandwidth (usually somewhere around 25Mbps) but are still known to be quite slow. The reason for this, is due to the added time it takes the signal to go all the way up into space and then be bounced back down to earth.

This results in a large pipe/slow flow scenario, and as such, many people with this type of service are generally unhappy with it.

3. Are there leaks in your pipeline?

This is referring to the reliability of your internet connection and all of the pathways your data takes through the internet on its way to/from a remote server.

If there is an issue, either with your ISP or somewhere upstream from them, you may experience packet loss. Packet loss will definitely slow down your internet connection.

See, your computer is very intelligent and can sense when packet loss is occuring. When this happens, it has to re-request the missing data and wait for it to arrive again.

This delay, depending on its severity, is typically noticeable to the user as lag/slowness. Alternatively, if there is no packet loss, then there is no need for data to be re-transmitted. This can result in favorable speeds and saved bandwidth.

Factors that impact your speed

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the three of the ways that speed is observed, lets discuss factors that will actually impact your speed.

router with lan cable

Congestion/Oversubscription

This is what happens when your pipeline gets full. It simply can’t move any more data simultaneously until either the size of the pipeline is increased, or the amount of existing data in the pipeline is reduced.

We’ve all noticed this before – a sudden burst of lag that occurs because someone else in the household is suddenly downloading or uploading a lot of data, like a movie or a game. This creates data contention issues, which is noticed as a slowdown.

Keep in mind that oversubscription could occur in your household (too many family members or roommates using the internet at the same time) or it could also occur at the ISP level – where there are too many customers eating up large amounts of data (usually during peak times of the day) and it ends up affecting other customers.

How well is your ISP connected to other networks/providers

cables in a datacenterThe internet is made up of thousands of pathways that connect various networks. In some instances, your data has to go through 20-30 routers before it reaches its intended destination (that is considered a lot of routers).

In other cases, maybe it only has to go through 8-10 routers. Generally speaking, the shorter the path your data has to take to reach its destination, the faster and more reliably it will get there.

These pathways are decided upon by your ISP.

If they have many connections to various upstream providers, including some direct connections (called peering arrangements) with major companies such as Apple, Google, Amazon etc – you will likely have a better experience than an ISP that only has one connection out to the internet.

Other miscellaneous issues that can impact your speed:

  • Equipment problems at your ISP or one of their upstream providers
  • Issues on the server side – if the remote server you are accessing is oversubscribed or malfunctioning, you will notice slowness
  • Local issues with your computer or your router, or perhaps a Wi-Fi issue

Here are some things that a new router could solve:

Wi-Fi environmental issues

Perhaps there are environmental issues impacting your Wireless performance. Maybe there is interference from too many people nearby on other Wi-Fi networks.

Maybe the guy next door uses a cordless phone or runs his microwave frequently (both of which can affect Wi-Fi). Or maybe the materials that your home is built out of is negatively impacting your signal.

There are technologies featured on newer routers such as beamforming, additional bands, etc that can overcome some of these environmental issues and deliver a better user experience.

New features and standards

Perhaps your old router only supports an older/slower wireless standard such as 802.11G or 802.11N, so upgrading to a newer standard such as 802.11AC will definitely give better data throughput and better range.

Additionally, many newer routers have quality of service (QoS) features that would make the internet connection feel faster/more reliable when data contention is in play.

The bottom line:laptop wired to router

You won’t know if a better router will improve your internet speed unless you do some testing:

  • You could just go out and buy a new router, plug it in, and hope everything improves
  • You could connect your computer directly to your router with a network cable to see if there is a performance issue related to your Wi-Fi (connecting directly will bypass your Wi-Fi)
  • Or you could bypass your router altogether – in some cases, you can plug a computer directly in to your modem to test

Whatever type of test you run, just make sure that you are consistent in your testing. Run speed tests before and after each change and document the results.

Be sure to use the same computer and same browser each time you test. Use the same speed test website/server each time, and try to test at the same time each day, since speeds with some providers differ depending on the time of day.

If you are testing a wired connection, make sure your computer is disconnected from the wireless network before you start testing.

Results:

If your internet speeds are identical when you bypass your router, it is unlikely that upgrading your router will have any noticeable effect. Perhaps you should contact your ISP instead to see if there is a problem with your connection.

But, if your internet speeds improve when you bypass your router, there is a good chance that a new router will give you the better performance you are craving.

Good Luck!

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

Which security option is best for a wireless router?

Wi-Fi security is paramount – without it, there are many things that someone could do on your wireless network – things that range from minor or barely noticeable all the way up to flat out illegal – and everything in between.

A case for security

arm coming through computer screen

Honestly, most people that are looking for Wi-Fi networks with no security or weak security are simply looking for free internet access. These people just want to check their email, surf the web, or download something without paying for internet access.

They don’t really have any hostile intent for your network.

However, there are also more sinister people looking to gain access to a wireless network for unsavory uses, such as:

  • To steal your data – perhaps they can get your credit card number or tax information to use it for fraud, or maybe they want to steal photos or other personally identifiable information and use it to blackmail or otherwise expose you
  • To invade your privacy, search for risque photos, or access sensitive financial information
  • To download or upload illegal content online without being traced back to them – things like copyrighted material, illegal software, or child pornography
  • To hack or attack other systems without being traced
  • To download or upload large amounts of data without it slowing down their own internet connection

Ultimately, it comes down to this – someone is using something of yours without paying for it and without your permission. Is that really something you are okay with?

You could be liablemasked computer hacker

Furthermore, if the perpetrator does something illegal online using your internet connection, the authorities can investigate the source IP address. This will lead them to your ISP – upon which they can subpoena your ISP to provide the associated subscriber’s name and address.

Guess whose door they will come knocking on next? Yours.

The scary part is, it could be the guy next door, someone parked in the street, or a neighbor down the road. It is very difficult to physically locate the person.

Isn’t it easier to just set up ample security from the start to ensure that you are keeping all potential unwanted guests out?

Security Methods

iphone wifi encryption selection

There are several different modes and methods you can use to secure your wireless network. The easiest, most common, and most effective solution is to enable the proper type of security and encryption protocols on your router.

This will not only prevent someone from joining your network who doesn’t have the password, it will also prevent anyone in the area from eavesdropping on what you are doing online.

The main security protocols are:

  • Open/None (AKA, no security)
  • WEP (weak security, very easily cracked)
  • WPA (better, but still weak)
  • WPA2 (best for home use)
  • WPA Enterprise (ok, for business)
  • WPA2 Enterprise (best, for business)

Can you use the Enterprise versions at home?

I can see why you would want to – the enterprise versions of each protocol renew/update their keys at a set interval, whereas their non-enterprise counterparts simply use a pre-shared key. This key update makes the enterprise versions rock-solid secure, since the key is always changing.

A typical user would not want to attempt using an Enterprise protocol at home due to the advanced knowledge required to set it up. Additionally it requires setting up a dedicated server to make everything operational.

The vanilla WPA2 protocol is enough for most users and is much easier to set up and manage.

The best security option

For home users, WPA2 is currently the best choice. If your router gives you the choice of using TKIP or AES with WPA2, choose AES.

 

wireless security signAdditional security settings

Utilizing WPA2 on your router with a strong passhrase provides plenty of security for most users. If you are extra paranoid, you can also employ some additional security methods.

Here are some additional security settings that can optionally be enabled to enhance security on your wireless network. These features are not as robust or as easy to implement as enabling WiFi security/encryption – they are intended merely to be supplements to the security of your network.

Basically, you should not enable these options without security/encryption and expect your network to be secure.

Disable SSID broadcast:

 

With the SSID broadcast disabled on your router, people won’t be able to see your Wi-Fi network, or they will only see an “unnamed network” in their list of available Wi-Fi networks. Connecting to a network with SSID broadcast disabled is more difficult – you will have to manually define your SSID in your computer’s network settings before it will connect.

Fewer people will notice your network, but advanced users can still easily find your network using the right tools. Simply disabling the SSID broadcast also does nothing to protect your privacy as information is transmitted through the air – you need security/encryption for that.

If you are connected to an Open Wi-Fi network (one that does not use encryption), anyone that knows what they are doing can intercept your traffic and view what you are doing online without you knowing it.

MAC address filtering:

 

Like disabling the SSID broadcast, utilizing MAC address filtering will also do nothing to protect your information from eavsdroppers.

It will, however, make it more difficult for an unauthorized user to access your network. MAC filtering works like a whitelist – where only MAC addresses that are defined on the list can communicate on the network.

That said, advanced users can ‘sniff’ for a valid/authorized MAC that is currently in-use on the network, and then spoof their MAC to use an authorized one.

Enabling MAC filtering also makes managing your own wireless network very cumbersome – any time you want to connect a new device to your wireless network, you first have to log in to your router and add the new device’s MAC address to the whitelist.

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

Best Router and Modem Combo

woman working on laptop

 

For most people, their cable modem and router are two separate devices, however this isn’t always the case. You can also get integrated “combo” devices, which feature a cable modem and a router in the same box.

Before we go any further – a brief note: In this article, we are referring to router and cable modem combos, not router and DSL modem combos. We will cover DSL modem combos in a future piece.

2-in-1cable modem plus router

So why would anyone want a router and cable modem combo in the first place?

Pros:

  • Saves Space
  • Uses less electricity
  • Simpler: Only one device to manage, only one IP address to remember
  • Many combo devices are very robust and feature the same features as their standalone counterparts, such as DOCSIS 3.x support on the cable modem side and 802.11 AC Wi-Fi on the router side – so you aren’t necessarily giving anything up by going with a combo device
  • Saves you money on your cable bill – no more needing to pay monthly for a modem rental
  • Fewer cables, less mess

Cons:

  • They are typically expensive since they are effectively two devices in one
  • If it fails, you either have to buy another combo device (expensive) or ditch the combo and buy a separate router and modem (two devices, also expensive)
  • Doesn’t always provide all of the features that a separate cable modem and router setup would provide – especially on the router side

 

What is the difference between a router and a modem?


Duties of a router:

A router performs many functions, however the primary purpose for a router in the home is to share your internet access among all of the people and devices in your home. Without a router, you would only be able to connect one computer at a time to your internet connection.

The router further enables sharing of your internet connection through the integrated switch ports and built-in wireless radios. Most home routers have an integrated 4 port switch for wired devices, as well as a built in wireless access point for Wi-Fi devices.

The router also enhances the security of your internal network within your home through technologies such as firewalling, packet inspection, and network address translation.

Duties of a modem:

The word “modem” originates from two words (modulator-demodulator) shortened and crammed together. Modems basically allow a provider to convert digital data into a waveform for transmission over a wire, with a set of modems on each end converting digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital again.

Many people are familiar with dial-up modems, which were primarily used in the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s to send data over voice-grade telephone lines. Today, cable modems function in a similar manner, sending modulated RF data over coaxial wiring.

The modem is what enables your internet service provider to actually deliver service to your home. Ultimately, a router is an optional accessory, since your internet service will function without one – however a modem is always required.

netgear router modem combo

A note from a Nerd:

Personally, I am not a fan of combo devices as they tend to be a “Jack of all trades and master of none”. I like having a lot of choices when it comes to my cable modem and router.

If I am selecting a combo device, my choices are much more limited because of the much smaller selection of them available on the market. However, I am an advanced/power user. For the typical user, these devices are an excellent choice.

That being said, here is our pick:

 

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 (24x8) DOCSIS 3.0 WiFi Cable Modem Router Combo (C7000) Certified for Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, more

 

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 (24x8) DOCSIS 3.0 WiFi Cable Modem Router Combo (C7000) Certified for Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, more

What we like about it:

  • Supports DOCSIS 3.0 – This thing absolutely screams and supports data transfer speeds up to approximately 1 Gigabit per second
  • The wired ports are all 10/100/1000 “Gigabit” ports
  • Simple to install (some of the installation is dependant on your Internet Service Provider, so results may vary)
  • Supports dual bands – it can be configured to operate on both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz spectrums
  • Excellent Wi-Fi coverage for small to medium size homes (up to ~2500 square feet)
  • Includes a USB port for network storage or network printing
  • The management web interface is consistent with other Netgear routers – if you have owned a different Netgear router in the past, you will likely be familiar with this one right out of the gate

What we dislike about it:

  • As with any cable modem swap, your Internet Service Provider may have to send a tech out to install it – however, most ISP’s can make the change remotely, and Comcast even lets you make the change on their website
  • The management interface is somewhat clunky and slow – this will only affect you when you are actually making changes to the router, not during regular internet use
  • One year warranty is a bit short – we would have liked to have seen a three year warranty

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 (24x8) DOCSIS 3.0 WiFi Cable Modem Router Combo (C7000) Certified for Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, more
  • Compatible with Xfinity from Comcast, Spectrum, Cox, CableONE & more. Not compatible with Cable bundled voice services;Dimensions: 9.66 x 8.31 x 1.7 inches
  • Three-in-one DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem + AC1900 WiFi Router+ 4 Gigabit Wired Switch
  • Up to 960Mbps modem speed and Dual-Band AC1900 (2.4GHz & 5GHz) WiFi speed. 24x8 channel bonding/ Approved for plans up to 500 Mbps
  • System requirements: Microsoft Windows 7, 8, Vista, XP, 2000, Mac OS, UNIX, or Linux, Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0, Firefox 2.0, Safari 1.4, or Google Chrome 11.0 browsers or higher. DOCSIS 3.0 unleashes 24x faster download speeds than DOCSIS 2.0
  • Ideal for streaming 4K HD videos, faster downloads, and high-speed online gaming

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

What is the best WiFi Router for Comcast?

comcast xfinity logoSo you just got new broadband service from Comcast and are interested to know which Wi-Fi router you should buy to go along with it?

 

Here’s a hint: Any modern consumer grade router available from Amazon, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, etc will work.

 

Unlike Google Fiber, which forces you to use their “Network Box” (which is equipment they place in your house, called a CPE), Comcast gives you the freedom to use your own router. Depending on the area you live in and the type of service you order, you may actually be required to have your own router.

Most of the time, a modem/router combo is installed – which spares the customer from having to provide a router if they don’t want to. We generally don’t like modem/router combos, since they are typically a jack of all trades and master of none.

Luckily, the Comcast modems can usually be put into “bridged mode”, which effectively disables the built in router functionality so that your preferred router can perform those duties. It is best to avoid connecting routers back-to-back after all, to prevent configuration and performance issues associated with double NAT.

 

So what is the best router? Our recommendation is the NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700):

 

NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)

We like that it is a Tri-band router that supports the newest wireless standard, 802.11AC. It has the capability to handle the speeds that you can get from Comcast.

With Comcast, in some areas, you can get Gigabit service (and beyond) via fiber, but the majority of consumers are still on their cable network with service being delivered via the DOCSIS standard on traditional Coax cable. Speeds available to these customers usually top out around 300Mbps currently, which is still smoking fast!

Many routers that are more than a couple of years old will still have a Fast Ethernet WAN port on them, meaning that they top out at 100Mbps. You wouldn’t want to use this type of router with a 300Mbps service for obvious reasons – you simply won’t get anywhere near the speeds you are paying for.

The R6700 has a gigabit WAN port and is built to actually provide a Gigabit worth of actual throughput. Not all routers can make this claim.

The wireless radio on the R6700 can also support full Gigabit – under the right environmental conditions, of course (which applies to all routers, regardless of brand).

 

What else?

 

NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)

A few other things we really liked about this router: It supports several additional features that you may or may not want to take advantage of, including Quality of Service (QoS). QoS can prevent bandwidth hogs (such as large downloads) from ruining the experience of any real time applications such as VOIP calls or video streaming that is going on at the same time.

After all, no one likes it when their Netflix stops to buffer. This router can prioritize streaming traffic so that the large download doesn’t affect anyone else in the house, for example.

The router also has excellent range for larger homes, has parental controls to help keep your kids safe online, and supports all of the current common WiFi security standards. It is also very reliable and doesn’t need to be rebooted frequently.

Additionally, it sports four wired Gigabit Ethernet ports as well as a USB 3.0 port – which can be connected to an external hardrive and then used as a NAS device to share files over the network.

Again, any recent router should work fine with Comcast, but the Netgear R6700 is our choice based on the features, performance, reliability, and price.

 

NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)
  • AC1900 WiFi-600+1300 Mbps speeds
  • 1GHz Dual Core Processor
  • Ideal for homes with 12 or more WiFi devices
  • Advanced features for lag-free gaming
  • Prioritized bandwidth for gaming, streaming videos, or music. 1 USB 2.0 and 1 USB 3.0 Port

 

 

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

What is the best Router for Google Fiber?

linksys gaming routerThe need for speed

If you are part of the small percentage of Americans that are lucky enough to live in a Google Fiber coverage area, you may be wondering, what is the best router to buy for use with your new Google Fiber service?

After all, if you are going to be getting an ultra high-speed direct fiber service to your home, you want to make sure that there are no bottlenecks in your internal network, right?

This is excellent thinking, and as a network professional, I had the same thoughts when considering Google Fiber.

Traditionally, we’ve been exposed to slow internet connections such as cable and DSL services. Typically, these services run at speeds of 25Mbps to 50Mbps, or maybe something closer to 100Mbps if you are lucky.

The speed of your internet service is limited by the slowest link in the chain. Traditionally, this was always your broadband internet connection, but that is changing.

Today, with Google Fiber and similar fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) services, you can get up to 1000Mbps (1 Gig) service at your home. Suddenly, the slowest link in the chain can easily become a device on your internal network, such as your router.

Some people still run routers that max out at 100Mbps. They literally don’t support Gigabit. And many people don’t realize it.

Google Fiber includes a router

Here’s the rub for Google Fiber subscribers: Their service includes a Wi-Fi router whether they like it for not. So, some people may not wish to buy a router for their Google Fiber service. After all, you technically already have everything you need.

When Google Fiber is installed at your home, there are at least two pieces of equipment provided. A “Fiber Jack”, which is really just a micro ONT (Optical Network Terminal) which terminates the GPON signal coming from the OLT (Optical Line Terminal) port at the nearest hut, outside plant cabinet, or data center.

Your Fiber Jack then connects to a little black box which Google has affectionately dubbed a “Network Box” (who named these things?). The network box acts as your router, terminating the service and allowing you to share the connection throughout your house.

It also supports WiFi, has a firewall, allows basic port forwarding, etc. Many of the features of your average consumer-grade router are supported by the Network Box.

What’s the problem?what chat bubble

The problem, is that per Google, the Network Box is required. Unfortunately, you can’t just plug your shiny new Netgear/Linksys/TP-Link router into the Fiber Jack and get online. You must use the Network Box – which is why the selection of a new router may be unnecessary (your traffic still goes through the Network Box, regardless of what you plug in).

So, for some users, there is no real need to use a regular router with their Google Fiber service – the Network Box is enough.

What if I want to use an aftermarket router?

Google says that you can still plug your router into the Network Box and use it, and indeed you can. You can unbox your new aftermarket router and install it just as you would with any other type of broadband internet service from Comcast, Cox, Centurylink, etc.

We should note that installing a router behind the Network Box will create a scenario where all of your traffic is getting NAT’d twice. This means that your traffic is getting translated from one type of IP address to another, twice. Usually this is only done once, but most users won’t notice a difference with their traffic being double NAT’d.

What to look for in a router to use with Google Fiber

Since you are buying a service that is high-speed, low-latency, and highly reliable, we recommend that you don’t skimp if you decide to purchase an aftermarket router. Specifically, you want a router that supports a Gigabit WAN port, the newest WiFi standard (802.11AC), and has a dual-core or better processor.

The following routers are our picks for use with Google Fiber. Any of them will work well with the service, though some are pricier than others.

Great performance at an affordable price!
NETGEAR R6700 Nighthawk AC1750 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router, Gigabit Ethernet (R6700)
Supports Gigabit connection to Google Network Box
802.11AC Support
Beamforming
Processor Cores
2
Prime
Linksys AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Router, Works with Amazon Alexa (Max Stream EA7500)
Supports Gigabit connection to Google Network Box
802.11AC Support
Beamforming
Processor Cores
2
Prime

But surely there is a way to bypass the Network Box?!

If you are a power user and feeling ambitious, there are supposedly ways to use Google Fiber’s service without a Network Box. This typically involves use of a Ubiquiti Edgerouter or setting up a PFSense box, and is completely unsupported by Google.

That information is beyond the scope of this article due to it’s advanced nature, so I’m not covering it here. But you should know that it is possible.

Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.

How to Reset a Router from a Computer

All routers need to be rebooted from time to time – it just just a fact of life. Unfortunately, consumer-grade home routers typically need to be rebooted more frequently due to the lower grade engineering and manufacturing that goes into them compared to their business/provider-grade counterparts.

First, let’s clear up the terms –

Before continuing, I should point out – resetting a router can mean two different things: rebooting it or resetting the configuration back to factory defaults. A simple reboot is most often what people actually mean when they say ‘reset’.

Either option is typically available remotely, but it differs depending on the make and model. Just make sure you don’t actually factory reset your router when you are only intending to reboot it.

Also, consider this:

While the need to reboot occasionally is normal, if you router frequently needs to be rebooted, you might want to look into other issues that may be causing the trouble, such as the need for a firmware upgrade, overheating or other environmental issues, or issues that need to be addressed by your ISP.

Why the need to reset a router?reset remotely button

Some of the reasons that you might need to reboot your router include:

  • router is frozen and completely unresponsive (your internet access is completely down)
  • performance is bad – the router is working but is slow or unreliable
  • certain features aren’t working – maybe you just changed a setting or enabled a feature, but it isn’t working properly
  • to rule things out – maybe you aren’t sure if the problem is your router or a problem with your ISP

Rebooting your router physically is pretty easy, simply unplug the power cord and plug it back in. But what if you want to reboot the router from a computer?

The most common reason for needing to reboot remotely, is when you are not home but need to access something on your home network like a computer, security camera, or smart home device. Or, maybe you are the most technical person in the household and a family member or roommate calls you at work to ask for help with fixing the internet.

Or perhaps you just want to reset the router without the inconvenience of going upstairs, downstairs, or across the house to physically reset it. The ability to reboot your router remotely in these cases can be very handy.

Requirements:

To accomplish a reset remotely, the following is required:

  • The router must be operational and currently passing/routing traffic. This is a big one, because often times people want to reboot their router BECAUSE it’s not currently operating. If the router is frozen or otherwise not responding, you are not going to be able to log in to it in order to reset it.
  • The routers’ admin username and password. This differs from your WiFi password and is required any time you are making configuration changes to the router. If you don’t know or can’t remember the password, be sure to try the default password – perhaps you never updated it when you first installed the router. The RouterPasswords site can help you find the default password for your make/model.
  • You need to know what the IP address of your router is. More on this in a second.

Procedure:

Determine the IP address of your router:

If you are accessing the router from home, simply run an ‘ipconfig’ (Windows) or ‘ifconfig’ (Mac and Linux) command to see your IP address information. Included in this information, is the default gateway. This is the IP address of your router.

If you are trying to access your router while away from home, the process is a bit trickier. You will need to know your public internet IP address, which can be found by going to IP Chicken before you leave the house.

Be advised, many ISP’s will change your public IP from time to time, so you might also with to explore setting up Dynamic DNS so that you don’t have to check each time to see if your IP address has changed.

router config remote management

There is also an extra option that usually needs to be configured on the router to allow management access from the internet. This is usually a simple checkbox that says “allow management access from internet, web, WAN”, etc. In the screenshot above it is called “remote management”.

Enable this feature after you have set a secure administrator password on your router. Don’t enable it if you are still using the default administrator password.

Login and Reboot!

Once you have obtained the IP address of your router, simply put it into the address bar of your favorite web browser and hit ‘enter’. Next, enter your admin username and password to log in.

The reboot option is different on every router, but will typically be found in the ‘status’, ‘tools’, or ‘administration’ sections of the menu. I’ve even had routers that had a ‘reboot’ button right on the first page. Check your router’s documentation if you can’t find the reset option.

router is rebooting message

Once you have issued the reset command, you will lose connectivity to it for a few minutes while it reboots. You can log back in to it once it boots back up.

Other Options:

In addition to logging in via the web interface, some routers have the option to log in to the command line via telnet or SSH. This can be quicker and sometimes works when the web interface won’t load.

This is also more advanced and sometimes requires knowledge of the command line syntax to properly issue a reboot command.

Additionally, some routers have a scheduled reboot option. For example, I currently have my home router scheduled to reboot every night at midnight. I know that everyone in my house is in bed at this time, so it won’t disturb anyone, and it ensures that my router is always running fresh.

We call these ‘theraputic reboots’ in the tech industry.

Check your router’s web interface or the documentation to see if your make/model supports scheduled reboots. Most third party firmware options like DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato have this option as well.

A simpler fix

Finally, you can also get a remote power switch and plug your router into it. Remote power switches provide a user with the ability to remotely turn the switch on and off, which would be equivalent to unplugging your router from the wall and plugging it back in to reset it.

These devices vary from remote-controlled units – which are the cheapest and most simple, but also require close proximity – to advanced IP-controlled units that can be operated from thousands of miles away via the Internet.

See below for a selection of remote power switches available from Amazon:


Andrew Namder is an experienced Network Engineer with 20+ years of experience in IT. He loves technology in general, but is truly passionate about computer networking and sharing his knowledge with others. He is a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and is working towards achieving the coveted CCIE certification. He can be reached at andrew@infravio.com.