Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tech Column: The Most Important Device in Your Home, Your Router

by Bill Adler

Roofs aren't sexy. Refrigerators aren't --pardon the pun-- cool. And while we rarely think about or admire our roofs or fridges when they work, we obsess about them when they don't work. And for good reason: Without working roofs and refrigerators, home life is pretty miserable.

How often do you think about your router? Not often, I bet. Me, neither. The router is probably the most important technology in your home, but it's often such an obscure (and like a roof, boring) piece of technology that we don't consider it when things go wrong. People are apt to point a finger at their
internet service provider when they lose their connection to the internet, but most of the time, it's the router that's at fault.

A router that's working right lets you access the internet at full speed.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how power cycling electrical devices can often fix things that aren't working: That should be your first step when you lose the internet or when the internet seems to be moving at the speed of the Beltway during rush hour.

Losing your connection and having a slow internet aren't the only problems that routers present: Lack of wireless range is another. For that problem, the Amped Smart Repeater is a solution: It will can double your wireless router's range, letting you use your iPad in the kitchen or your Kindle Fire in the bath (if you dare.)

But what about the router itself? If you haven't bought a new router in eons, then you may be missing out on a faster and more reliable internet connection. Like all things tech, routers have improved over the years -- not just with speed, but with security and reliability, too. I'm currently using a D-Link DIR-655, which I like a lot and highly recommend: . But I have my eye on the Netgear N900, , which Gizmodo calls the "fastest router we've ever tested."

So you've got a new, great router. What else can you do to keep your router humming along, and your internet connection secure, fast and always-on? Check to see if your router needs a firmware update from time to time. (Every router has a different procedure for doing this, so I can't give you instructions here on
how to do that.) Also make sure that your cordless phone and all other wireless devices don't live close to your router. My cordless phone used to be just a few inches from my router and used to knock the wifi signal off the air. After moving the phone several feet, all was right again in my wireless world.

If your wireless connection is slow or pokey, change the router's channel. (Sorry, but you'll have to delve into your router's FAQ for that, as each router is a bit different.) Changing the channel changes the frequency at which your router operates and that can dramatically improve your wireless speed. You may
need to do this every now and then.

Don't suffer with a slow or unhappy router. If you live and breathe on the internet, a fully-functioning router will make your days and nights better.


Bill Adler is the co-publisher of the Cleveland Park Listserv, He is the author of "Boys and Their Toys: Understanding Men by Understanding Their Relationship with Gadgets," He tweets at @billadler.

No comments:

Post a Comment