Setting Up a Home Network for Beginners [Huge Guide]

Setting up a home network for beginners is not the challenge of the year. In fact, thee steps are quite easy and if you plan enough in the beginning, you can save both time, money and frustration and who doesn’t want that?

So, in this home network guide, you will learn how to plan your network to get the best use out of it, you’ll get help to configure your new router as well as learning what kind of cool stuff you can do with a home network.

But first, planning!

Stage 1: Planning Your Home Network

Before you go out to purchase new hardware, you should have a general idea about what you should get. How much power do you need? What is your network used for? You should also have an idea of how much money you are ready to spend on a network. There are a few things you will need to get started with a new home network, which you can read more about in my blog post What equipment is needed for a home network.

So, what are you and your family doing on the internet?

Determine What You Need from a Network

What is your network being used for?

Be surprised, but a family of two people will not use the network as much as a family of four, with two kids, in most cases at least. Different activities will also require different speeds and because of this, you should have an idea of what your network will be used for.

Try to count how many devices you have at home that will require a network at the same time. For example, if you are two people in the household, it’s not unthinkable to say that both of you have a smartphone that could be used at the same time, while a Netflix show is running on the TV maybe. This is not very demanding and will not generate that much network traffic.

However, if you are a family of four with kids that are playing online games and watching streams will you try to watch a Netflix show and at the same time, your loved one is trying to get some work done in the room next door. That will require good network gear in order to run smoothly. You don’t want to get the cheapest solution for that situation.

And just to make it clear, I am not just talking about the network speed from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) here, which should be at least 25 Mbps if you are closer to my second example. No, this will be relevant for what router you should get as well, as some routers are designed to handle more traffic at the same time.

Your Options When Setting up a New Home Network

By now, you should have a general idea of what your network is/will be used for. If you plan to run it lightly with just a couple of smartphones and a TV, maybe an iPad, then a fully wireless solution might be a good idea. There is no need to run cables through the whole home and it can be very easy to setup.

Go Fully Wireless with a Mesh Network

The solution to this situation would be to get a mesh network. A mesh network is multiple devices called nodes that you place around your house. One of them is the main node and that has to be connected with an ethernet cable, the other ones just require power. The nodes will work together to provide the best wireless network possible. These devices are often smart enough to know where it’s interference and try to work around it.

If you are interested in a mesh network, I would recommend you to check out my blog post What is a Mesh Network where I explain more about what a mesh network is and how you can benefit from one. You can also read my article Recommended Mesh Network to find the best mesh network right now.


Google Mesh - My recommended mesh network

Go for a Powerful, Traditional Router

If you are closer to my second example with kids playing games and watching streams all nights long, then you should probably get a traditional router and run some cables to the computers that use the network the most.

A modern router is made for these types of situations, where a lot is going on at the same time and network access is needed from everything. Because of this, there’s a technology called MU-MIMO which will help the router handle the traffic. Traditionally, a router could just take care of one device at the time, meaning it had to circle each device that sent a request. This is what’s happening when your video is buffering, to give you an example.

To solve this, MU-MIMO was invented. MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User, Multiple-input, Multiple-Output and does essentially what the name suggests. A router that supports any form of MU-MIMO can handle multiple inputs and outputs of traffic for multiple users at the same time. Maybe you can start to see the benefit of this?

Routers that support MU-MIMO will also specify how many devices they can handle at the same time. For example, the router that I recommend in 2019, the Asus RT-AC68U supports 3x3 MU-MIMO, meaning it can handle 3 connections at the same time. The maximum a router can do is 4x4, which is 4 open connections.

If you want to learn more about which router is the most suitable for you, you should read my blog post How to Know Which Router to Buy where I’ll cover this topic more in-depth.

Should You Get a Firewall?

A question that often comes up when speaking of a new network, is firewalls. Do you need a firewall for your home network to be secure? The simple answer is no. A firewall is great for Enterprise where the demands are higher, and the risk is bigger. For home networks, a firewall is just a waste of money.

Firstly, a good router has a built-in firewall that can take care of the most obvious bad traffic that is trying to access your network.  On top of that, a software firewall is built into most operating systems such as Windows or OSX. These firewalls with further protect you from bad stuff.

This is a huge topic that I have already covered in my article Do You Need a Firewall to Protect Your Home Network and I suggest that you read that post if you are interested in learning more about why you don’t need a firewall.

Stage 2: Setting Up Your Home Network

Time for configuration!

Step one is done, and you should have chosen between a mesh network and a traditional router by now. A mesh network is usually much easier to set up than a traditional router, as you do it with your mobile phone, simply clicking next most of the time.

This is true for routers as well, but it can require some extra steps. That is why I have made a guide for the five most popular brands when it comes to routers, which you can find down below. Please keep in mind that the routers I used wasn’t the latest and greatest and things might be different between models, but the general idea should be the same.

Setting Up Your Asus Router

Congratulations on your new Asus router. Asus has done a great job with their first-time setup and during this setup, you will do the most important steps. The first thing you need to do is to connect your new router to your modem. The cable should go from the modem to the router’s WAN port, or internet port (it’s the same thing but router manufacturers are labeling it differently).

Next, you connect a cable from the router to a computer. Make sure the router is powered on, some routers have an on/off button, and then open a web browser and type 192.168.1.1/ in the address field. This will open the routers configuration page, and this is where you will configure the settings.

Choose Automatic Setting on the first page. When doing so, you let the router do the heavy work to see what type of internet access you have, and it can do most of the configuration itself.

On the next page, you set up your login to the router. It is strongly recommended that you do not leave this as default and that you change both router login name and the password. Asus will show you how strong your password is, and you want it to be as strong as possible of course.

Next, you get to choose if you want the router to be in router mode or access point mode. In AP-mode, it will only provide WiFi and not do any of the router stuff, so you want it to be in Wireless router mode.

On the next page, you get to choose the type of connection you have to your ISP (Internet Service Provider). In 99% of the time, you have Automatic IP (DHCP) so that is what you should choose. If you have anything else, you have most likely made that choice and know about it.

Next page lets your setup your SSIDs. Here, you have two networks to set up, and this is because modern routers offer to kind of networks, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz provides longer range at a slower speed, making it good for smartphones or tablets, where you just surf the web. The 5 GHz has a shorter range but provides faster speeds, making it great for streaming and gaming.

Name your networks, preferably something anonymous and be sure to have some fun with it. You should also set up a password for both networks. As a default, Asus gives the 5 GHz network the same password as you give the 2.4 GHz networks. If you want to have it like that or not is up to you. When happy with the names and passwords, hit Apply.

On the final page, you get to review your settings and making sure that they all look OK. If you are happy with everything, simply click on Complete.

After doing so, you will get to the overview page of the router. Here, you can see how many clients are connected to your network, you can configure other settings in the router and you can update the firmware. But that is for another article.

Setting Up Your Netgear Router

Congratulations on your new Netgear router. Netgear has improved their first-time setup guide for the latest years but they still have a few things to work on. To start, connect your routers WAN7internet port to your modem with an ethernet cable. Next, take another ethernet port and connect LAN 1 on the router to a computer.

Make sure that your router is on (some routers have on/off-buttons) and then open your favorite web browser. In the address bar, type 192.168.0.1/ or 192.168.1.1/ and you will connect to the router. Netgear has routers with both 0.1 and 1.1 on their IP addresses so it will depend on your model which one you have. There is no difference between them other than a number.

Before you get to the setup, you will need to agree to Netgear’s terms of services and a privacy note and once you have done so, the router will search your network for another router (for some reason) and then an internet connection, which can take up to a minute. Once it’s finished, you get asked if you want help to configure your internet connection or not. Choose Yes and click Next.

On the next page, you will set up your admin account settings. This is not your wireless password but the password for accessing your router configuration. Unfortunately, you can’t change the username but setting up a strong and secure password is a must here. You will also choose two security questions in case you forget the password. When done, click next.

On this page, Netgear will show you the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz SSID name and passwords. Netgear has configured this for you so you don’t have to. You will also see your router admin settings at the bottom. You have the option to print this information if you want it stored on a paper. Click next when ready.

Netgear also has some bloatware they want to install on your computer. If you want this software, keep it checked, but I recommend to not use it, there are better software for backing up your computer.

Next, you can upgrade the firmware on your router. This is something I recommend that you do so click yes and allow the router to download the new firmware and install it. You should always make sure to have the latest firmware on your router as that is the only protection between your devices and the internet.

Once the upgrade is done, you are done. However, if you want to change the name and password of your wireless network, which I recommended that you do, go to your router configuration (192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1) and log in with the information you entered before. Click on the Wireless box and here, you can change the name and password of your SSIDs. Once you are happy with your new name and password, click on Apply and wait for the router to update the settings. Now you are done!

Setting Up Your Linksys Router

Congratulations on your new Linksys router. Linksys routers are easy to set up, so you have made a good choice if you are a beginner. The first step is to connect everything, and you do this by connecting an ethernet cable from your modem to the router’s WAN/Internet port. Next up, you connect an ethernet cable from LAN 1 on the router to the computers network port. When this is done, make sure the router is on (some routers have on/off-buttons) and then open your favorite web browser.

In the address bar at the top, enter 192.168.1.1, which will take you to the router’s configuration page. Starting, you will need to accept the Linksys terms and choose if you want to send information to Linksys for further helping them improve their products. Click next when you are ready.

The router will now make sure that everything is good, that there is an internet connection and see if there are any updates. This can take up to a minute so just wait while the router is doing its thing. Once finished, it will ask you if you want to update (if updates were found) and I would recommend you do that, as updates are for a reason (security, features and stability improvements).

On the next page, you will set up your wireless network name and password. As you notice, there are one 2.4 GHz and one 5 GHz networks. The 2.4 GHz is older technology with longer-range but slower speed while the 5 GHz technology is newer and faster but provide a shorter range.

Give both of them a name, preferably something anonymous like “home” or “what’s my wifi” or similar. The password should be strong and unique so that unauthorized users can’t guess it and access your network. Once happy, click next.

The router will do a little more of its thing and once done, it will ask you to choose a router password. This is not the wireless password that you just configured, but the password to access the router configuration. Don’t use the same password as you did before, choose something else. Once happy, click next.

On the final step, you can review the settings that you have configured. Make sure everything looks good and that you remember the passwords and then click next to create a Linksys Smart WiFi account if you want that. What it does is that you can check up on your network from anywhere in the world. If you don’t specifically need this, I’ll suggest not using it.

When clicking next, you will get to the dashboard of your Linksys router. This means that you are done with the configuration and you have a secure wireless home network.

Setting Up Your TP-Link Router

Congratulations on your new TP-Link router. TP-Link has one of the better start-ups guides I’ve seen and they continue to improve it. To start, you need to connect your modem to the WAN/ISP port on the router with an ethernet cable. Next, you need to connect the computer to LAN 1 on the router with another ethernet cable. Then, make sure the router is turned on (some routers have on/off-buttons) and open your favorite browser on the computer.

In the address bar, go to 192.168.1.1. The first thing you are asked to do is to set up an admin password for accessing the router configuration. This is not your wireless network password. On the next page, you will choose your time zone and after that, you choose the connection type to your ISP (Internet Service Provider). If you don’t know, you can choose Auto Detect and the router will help you choose. But most likely, you have Dynamic as that is what most people have.

Click next and then next again, as the MAC address settings will, in 90% of the cases, not apply to you. On the page you end up on, you configure your wireless networks. You have the option to set up two networks, one 2.4 GHz and one 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz is older technology with longer-range but the slower speed and is great for smartphones and tablets that don’t need as much. The 5 GHz is newer and faster but with shorter range. This network is good for streaming and gaming.

Configure your names and passwords and make them unique and funny instead of boring and personal. For example, name the first one “Does this network work” and the other one “I am not sure” instead of “Family Brown’s Network”. The passwords should be hard to guess so that no unauthorized can access your network. When you are happy with your settings, click Next.

On the final page, there is a summary of the settings that you have chosen. Review them and if you are happy, click Save. The router will reboot, and you will see a progress bar at the bottom showing how far it has come. When finished, TP-Link wants you to use the TP-Link Cloud. If you are using it, you can log in, otherwise, you can skip it.

Now you are done configuring your TP-Link router. Click Finish to access the router configuration to further cartomizer the router or close the web page and enjoy your new network.

Setting Up Your D-Link Router

Congratulations on your new D-Link router. D-Link has a lot to work on with their first-time set up so there are a few key things that need to be done afterward. The first thing you need to do is to connect the router to the internet through an ethernet cable. Connect a cable to the WAN/Internet port of the router and the other end to your modem that you got from your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Next, you connect another ethernet cable from LAN 1on the router to a computer.

Make sure the router is powered on (some routers have an on/off button) and then open your favorite web browser and enter 192.168.0.1/ in the address field. This will let you access the router configuration page, which will automatically open the first-time setup for you.

On this page, you can see that your computer is connected to the router, but your router is not yet connected to the internet. This is OK as of right now. Under WAN Setup, you choose the type of connection you have to your ISP, which is 99% of the time is DHCP. If you have another set here, you have probably configured it manually and know about it.

Next up, under Wireless Setup, you choose what you want your SSID name to be. Choose something funny or random, don’t go with “Family Brown’s Network”. You will also set the password for the network, which should be a strong password that someone else cannot guess easily. When you are happy, click on Save and Connect.

On the next page, you will need to login to the router configuration menu. The default login is Admin and no password, so what you do here is to simply click on Login and you will be logged into the router.

Now, go to the Wireless tab on the top menu. If you can’t see a tab named Wireless, go to Setup and then you should find Wireless Basics / Wireless setup in the side menu. Here, you can see the wireless settings that you chose earlier. Under that, in Security Options, make sure that says WPA-PASK/WPA2-PSK AES. If not, choose that option. This will make sure that you use the best encryption for your wireless network.

There is one more step that needs to be done and that is to change your router username and login. Right now, it’s Admin with no password but that is not good as unauthorized users can access the configuration of your router. To do this, go to Tools and under Admin Password, you have the option to set your password. Make it something strong that other users can’t guess. When happy, click on Save Settings and you are done.

Home Network Security

By now, your router has been configured and setup, which means that you have a fully working home network and you can leave this behind you. Well, that’s one way to see and frankly, this is also what most people do. But I would argue that adding some extra security to your new network is always a good idea.

Even if you are not targeted for a specific reason, criminals are always looking for easy targets and while having a password for your wireless network (which you should have configured in the steps above), is the strongest protection, there are a few other things you can do to help yourself.

If your router supports remote access from the outside, you should make sure that this is disabled. By default, on my Asus router, this is enabled, which I don’t understand at all. This feature allows you to connect to your router from outside your home and while there can be benefits for this, it shouldn’t be on by default in my opinion.

This might be a little later, but you should also make your SSID name anonymous. The reason for this is to hide what network is yours. Naming it something like “The Johnson Family” makes it easy for targets to find your network.

Finally, you should always make sure that you are running the latest firmware on your network devices. Take a few minutes every second month to login to your router configuration and see if there are any new updates to install. These updates protect you from new vulnerabilities, can sometimes give new features and generally provides stability improvements.

There are of course other steps you can take to further increase your security. It’s these small steps that will count in the end. If you are interested, I have written a post named 7 Easy Security Tips for Your Home Network. Check it out to learn more about network security and what you can do about it.

You are your own security guard...

Troubleshooting the Network if it Doesn’t Work

Sometimes it happens, it doesn’t work as expected. Without knowing much about networks or routers, this can be frustrating, and I wanted to have a section trying to help you if you are currently yelling at the router to start working (we’ll all been there).

I know this sounds like a cliché and very unhelpful but restarting the router will solve most of the problems. Yes, I’ve been working with IT support so I’ve used that phrase for quite some time but there is a reason why the IT helpdesk always tells you to reboot. Does the problem persist even after the router has been rebooted? There are other things you can do to troubleshoot.

Now it’s time to isolate the problem. Since a restart did not help, we need to dig further and one way to do that is to bypass the router to make sure that the internet is working as it’s supposed to do.

The way you do this is to take the ethernet cable that goes from the modem to the router and put it between a computer and the modem instead. If you get internet access by doing this, it’s the router. However, if you don’t have internet, you should call your ISP because then, it’s most likely on their side.

You should also try with multiple computers if you experience problems. It is unlikely, but it has happened more than once for me when you try troubleshooting something and it ends up being the computer that doesn’t work. If you have more than one available, try both of them to see if they both have the same problem.

In my post 7 Troubleshooting Steps if You Nothing About Routers, I’ve added some more steps than just three. If you continue to experience a problem, that is probably the article you want to read.

Stage 3: Enjoy Your New Home Network

By now, you should have bought everything you need to create your new home network and your router should be configured and ready, congratulations. You are essentially done setting up the basics of your home network now but there are more things that you can do to improve, learn and use your network more.

In step 3 of this guide, you will learn how you can improve your network with upgrades, storage solutions, further expansion in the future and of course, test your new home network to see how fast it goes.

See How Fast Your New Home Network is

You can measure your network speed by simply transferring a file from your computer to a NAS or another type of network storage. If you don’t have any network storage, you can connect a USB drive to your router (if it has USB which most newer routers have). Choose a big file and then copy it to the network drive.

You will then get a popup showing how fast the copy goes. If you have a graph like in the picture below, there the speed is 100 MB/s or more, that is a good connection and you will not get faster than that without buying completely new hardware (like a new router and a new network card for your computer) and frankly, it’s not worth it.

If your speed is slower than this, it might be that you are trying it on a computer that doesn’t support this speed or that you have something in your network that isn’t supporting the speed. It could be a switch for example. Another reason could be that you are on a wireless network and is getting interference from other devices in your home, like the microwave.

Generally, a wireless network is always slower than going with cable so if you want to go as fast as possible, running an ethernet cable is your best option.

Another way to test your speed is with a tool called TotuSoft LANSpeed. This software will send a package up to 200MB to measure the speed of your network. It’s a small program that is easy to use, even for non-networking people.

If you want to learn more about network speed, LAN speed and how to improve your speed, you can read my blog post here where I talk more about this topic.

Cool Things You Can Do with Your New Home Network

A network is something most people have at home and now you do as well. But wouldn’t it be cool to do more with your network? A network allows you to create solutions that will make your life easier. Just check out some of these suggestions that you can do.

Setting Up a NAS (Network-Attached Storage)

A NAS is storage on your network that any computer or device can reach. This is making sharing files between computers (and users) much easier. You can have a folder with all your images and anyone on your network can see them, for example.

There are multiple ways to set up a NAS. One way is to buy a pre-built NAS and some hard drives, which I recommend doing. You can also keep it simple and have an external drive in the USB port of your router and transfer files to this drive. That’s also a NAS.

A NAS will be required for most of the other suggestions down below and if you would purchase a pre-built NAS, it can be configured very easy with built-in apps. If you want to learn more about a NAS, what it is and what you can do with it, be sure to check out my blog post here where I go more in-depth.

Setting Up a Printer Server

If you still have a printer at home, you know how annoying it is to see something on your phone and then have to send it to yourself just so that you can open it on your computer to print it out. Well, no more. Most routers actually have a printer server built-in which means that you can connect a printer to the USB port of the router and then do a small configuration on the router.

This will allow all your devices on your network to reach the printer and the next time you find something on your phone, you can print directly from the phone, saving some hassle. On top of that, the rest of your family can use the printer from their devices as well.

Do you still have a printer at home?

Setting Up a Backup Solution

I’m sure that you have heard this before, that you should back up your files and folders if the worst would happen. This is not just something people are saying, it’s something you very much should be doing. But it takes time, you forget and suddenly everything is gone. Well, it doesn’t have to be like this.

This will also work best if you have a NAS or some kind of storage solution. Most routers have built-in backup software that you can use to automatically take backups of your computers and devices so that you don’t have to. It will then be stored on your network and if your computer would crash, you will have your files ready to be copied over to the new computer.

It’s an easy way to keep your information, files and folders protected.

Setting Up a Media Server

This works best if you have a NAS or a home server but will work on a computer as well. You can install something called Plex, which is a centralized media software. With Plex, you can create your own Netflix and Spotify. You create a movie-library in Plex and point it to a folder on the server/computer where you have all your movies.

Once that is done, you can go to the Plex server address in your web browser and get the cover of the moves, summaries, Rotten Tomato scores, trailer, music and much more, simply from having a movie file. The same thing applies to music or tv-shows. It’s a great way to digitize all the movies and music you have on DVD, Blu-Ray and CDs (or however you get your movies…).

Get your own Netflix with Plex!

Setting Up a Home Server

You can also build your own home server. With a home server, you can do all of the above and much more. For example, I have a home server that is running Plex, the UniFi Controller, virtual machines, acting as a NAS and it also takes backups of my computers at home. You may not need all of this, but it shows the flexibility of a home server.

This option is a fun idea if you are at least a little interested in networking and/or computers as it would require you to build a computer and install an operating system on it. If you still want to do all of these things but not sure how to build a computer, I’ll recommend a pre-built NAS as they can do many of the things as well, but in a much easier and more user-friendly way.

Expanding Your Wireless Network in the Future

While your router is doing a great job at covering your network right now, it may change in the future. If this is the case, you don’t necessarily need to buy a new router, there are other ways you can go about to expand your wireless network. A popular way to do this is by using range extenders.

A range extender is a little device that sits in a power outlet and picks up the wireless network from your router. It will then boost that signal so that the network reaches further away. This is a cheap solution to extend your WiFi and it works fairly well. There is a big drawback with it and that is the speed. It will not be as good as if you were connected directly to the router. But if you are just surfing the web, you will no notice anything.

I have previously written a blog post about range extenders, what it is, how they work and how they can benefit you. You can find the blog post here if you are interested.

Connecting multiple routers together can increase your WiFi

Another way would be to buy an access point. An access point will also boost your network further away but will be connected to the router through a cable instead, making it more stable and not lose as much speed as a range extender. This solution is more expensive but can work great.

You can use the same solution with another router as well. Yes, you can connect two routers together to provide WiFi. This will also give you the benefit of having more LAN ports in another place in your house. The way it works is that you turn off all the router functionality in one of the routers so that it will act only as an access point.

This is not as complicated as you might think but if you want a guide to follow, you can find a blog post I have written here, where I show you how to connect two routers together while still having the same SSID.

Conclusion

This guide is finally coming to an end. It turned out to be much longer than anticipated but hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about networking now.

Step one in any build is to start with a plan and see what is needed. There is no point in buying the biggest router if you don’t need it. At the same time, it’s worth knowing what your network will be used for so that you can plan better and make a better purchase.

Step two is to configure the new router that you bought in step one. All routers look differently so it may require some YouTube or Google to fully understand all functions, but you should at least be able to set up an admin login and password as well as a wireless network once you are done with step 2.

Step 3 is all about expanding your network and making it more useful then it was before. Here, you learned how to check the speed of your network and fun things you can do with your network to make it more helpful. Also, how you can expand your network in the future, which is something most of us have to do some time.

Now, there’s not much else for me to say than congratulations on your new network and be sure to check out my other blog posts and recommendations. Enjoy!

How to Install UniFi on Ubuntu 18.04

Thinking of getting UniFi-products but don’t want to pay extra for a cloud key? No worries, the software can be installed for free. In this article, you’ll learn how to install UniFi on Ubuntu 18.04 server version.  I’ll explain the errors that I got so that you can quickly fix them if you get them.

(more…)

What Equipment is Needed for a Home Network?

It’s time to build a new home network but the problem is that you don’t know what equipment is needed to build a home network. This is the post for you because here, I will tell you what you need to get your new network up and running. It might seem obvious but it’s not for everyone.

But I am not stopping there. I want you to maximize the use of your network and thus, I’ve included some optional equipment that is sure going to expand your network and make your life easier. Big promise? Not really, you’ll see what I mean.

A Modem from Your ISP

But before that, some devices are needed if you want to reach the internet from your home. The very first thing is to get an internet subscription (duh) from your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Usually, the house you live in is connected to one or two ISPs that you can choose from.

Before choosing, do some research about the companies you have to choose from to see which one is the best. A simple tip I have is to call their customer service, asking some questions. This will let you know how the service is towards their customers. This tells a lot about a company.

Once you have chosen your ISP, they will usually send a modem to you that you should connect to the wall. You connect the modem to the wall with a coaxial cable (in most cases), which looks like the antenna cable on a TV. The modem will then connect to the ISP and connect to the internet from there.

A modem also has a network port or RJ45 as it’s also called, where you will connect your network device. Before routers were a thing for home networks, people did connect their computer directly to the modem to access the internet. However, today, you are connecting your router to this port to provide your whole home with a network.

A DSL modem connects to the internet through the phone jack

The modem works as a bridge between your own devices and the ISP. The modem is often borrowed by the ISP so when you end your subscription or move out, you will need to return it. Because of this, it’s good to be careful with the modem so you don’t have to pay for a replacement. If you have pets or small children, you should not have the modem on the floor, have it higher up where it cannot be reached.

A Router to Handle Network Traffic

The router is the heart of your home network. The router is usually the thing that will determine if you are happy with your network or not. This is especially true if you are more than two in your household, with many devices that need access to the internet at all times.

A router is a device that will route the network traffic that is coming in and going out (guess where the name come from…). When it is connected to the modem and get access to the internet, it will share that internet connection with the LAN ports on the back (usually) of the router as well as to send it out wirelessly.

Because all network traffic is going through the router, the router can easily be overwhelmed if you would purchase a cheap router that can’t handle the traffic. The router I recommend is the Asus RT-AC68U, a great router that can handle any type of traffic that you throw at it, to an affordable price as well.

A router provides many features to a home network

A router can also offer other features other than just routing traffic. Some routers have USB ports so that you can connect an external drive and share files between your devices, both wired and wirelessly. Another common feature is to connect a printer and being able to print with any device in your home.

Something that I see people do (I am looking extra hard at you mom) is that they place the router next to the modem, in the corner of the apartment or the house. They then wonder why there is such a bad connection in the other end of the home. WiFi signals are not a fan of walls, which can block the signal quite much. That’s why you should always try to have your router as close to the middle as possible or get an access point in the other end of your home.

If you want to learn more about routers and how to choose the best one for you and your family, you should read my post How to Know Which Router to Buy: A Complete Guide.

Network Cables Running Between Devices

The last equipment that is needed for a home network is, of course, the cables between all your devices. While this is an obvious one, I still want it as its heading as two network cables aren’t necessarily the same. There are different categories of network cables and which one you should get will depend on the use.

The most common cable that you can get today is CAT 5e. This is a cable that supports up to 1Gbit/s, which is good enough for 99% of users, as home devices seldom support higher speeds than that. However, the current trend is going towards the next step of 10Gbit/s so if you want to secure for the future, you should get a cable with CAT6 or CAT6a support.

Some network cables are also shielded. This means that there is a protective layer inside the cable, that is protecting the wires inside from statics from other cables, such as electric cables. These cables are usually running in the same cable pipes in the walls and having an unshielded network cable cam decrease the performance of the network. However, for simply connecting a computer to a router or similar, using unshielded cables is fine.

So that is the equipment that you need for a home network. Of course, you can always expand on your network to provide you with more features and better performance.

Optional: Access Point for Better Wireless WiFi

An access point mounted in the roof providing a wireless network.

If you live in a big home and your router has trouble reaching the whole house with good WiFi, you can purchase an access point. This is an antenna that you mount in the part of the house with bad WiFi and then connect it with a cable to the router. The access point will then provide stable WiFi even if the router is far away.

Another thing that you can do if want to expand your WiFi but also have some LAN ports on the other side of the house, is to purchase another router. A router can act as an access point and let another router to the router-specific things. This is great if you have multiple computers that need a wired connection far away. You can read more about it and how you set it up in my post How to Connect Two Routers & Have the Same SSID.

Some routers don’t offer WiFi which means that you will need an access point if you want to have a wireless network as well. Most access points are also very easy to install, in most cases, it’s plug and play. If you are interested in an access point, you should check out my recommended access point here.

Optional: A Switch for More Network Ports

If wireless is not the problem but wired is, then a switch is what you want. The router you want (or have) probably have four LAN ports on the back of it, but if you have more than four devices at home that need a wired connection, getting a switch is the solution.

A switch is a device with multiple LAN ports ranging from 4 to 48. You connect the switch with a cable to one of the LAN ports on the router and the switch will then provide LAN access for the other ports. Make sure that you get a switch with enough ports as a switch with 8 ports, you will be able to connect devices to 7 of those ports and the last one will connect to the router.

A switch can offer something called PoE, Power over Ethernet. This means that the ethernet cable (a normal network cable) can provide power as well as the internet connection. While it will power a computer, smaller like things access points can be powered this way. So, if you connect an access point with PoE support to a switch with PoE, no other form of power is necessary.

A switch that I recommend is the Ubiquiti 8-60W. It’s a switch with 8 LAN ports and PoE. It also has a management interface that is very user-friendly where you can see traffic that is going through the ports. If that is more advanced then you need, then the Netgear GS105 on Amazon is great. The most plug and the play-friendly switch I ever used.

Optional: A NAS for Multimedia and File Sharing

A NAS can give you your streaming platform.

If you have a lot of movies on your hard drive, then you should get a NAS. A NAS is a Network-Attached Storage, meaning that it’s a box with hard drives that you can connect to your network through cable. A NAS can do many other things other than just providing storage for all your devices, the biggest brands Synology and QNAP offers app stores where you can download apps, adding more features.

For example, some apps can help you do daily backups or your systems, apps that can help you create your cloud instead of using Google, OneDrive or Dropbox (or any other cloud service). But the most popular app that you can download to your NAS is PLEX, creating your own media center.

PLEX is a service much like Netflix, but its content is based on what you have. PLEX scans your media files like movies, tv shows, and music, and present it to you in a much better way. It downloads movie covers, trailers, soundtrack and information from the internet, populating the library. You can connect to it with any of your devices, both inside and outside your home, and watch a movie.

PLEX offers no content by itself, so it’s up to you to provide it. How you do that is not my thing to say… If you want to get a NAS, I’ll suggest you check out my recommended NAS which is sure to provide you with some cool stuff.

Conclusion

When it comes to equipment that is needed for a home network, it doesn’t have to be hard. It’s easy to pick up a router and connect it to a modem and be done with it. But networks are so much more and adding some extras can make your life easier.

If you have ever tried using Windows Home Sharing (there’s a reason it doesn’t exist anymore), you will understand the power of having a NAS. If you have a big home with not enough WiFi coverage, you will understand the power of an access point once you get one.

You don’t need to be a systems administrator to understand these things anymore, they have been made easy for everyone. Creating a powerful network is something that anyone can do. Why don’t you?

Who Puts all the Information on the Internet?

In 2018, it’s hard to think about a life without the internet. The Internet has opened so many new possibilities. If someone told me 10 years ago that I would walk around with a watch that I can talk to and tell it to turn off the lights at home, I would not believe a second of it. Yet, here we are.

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What is a Protocol in Computing & Networking

Since I am working with networking and computers, I need to have some basic knowledge about protocols and what they are. In one way, it’s the worst, since all these abbreviations are complicated and very technical. On the other side, they are such a big part of computing and networking, so you quickly learn the most important ones.

But what is a protocol? In short, it’s a set of rules in networking. Protocols are making sure that both sides of a conversation (let’s say a client and a server) speak the same language and handle information the same way. Without protocols, all computers and servers would handle things differently and nothing would work together.

Protocols have existed since the end of the 1960s and since then, many protocols have been created and updated. Many protocols are common things that the everyday user would recognize while other protocols are techier. Come along for a ride when we take a deep dive into protocols and check out some common protocols.

What is a Protocol?

To help computers talk to each other, there needs to be some form of standard communication that both computers know. This is what protocols are defining. A protocol is a set of rules that define how the communication between two computer or other devices will talk to each other.

There is a long list of protocols that define how communication should work. Many of these protocols are something that you are familiar with already, like WiFi or Bluetooth. These are what you could call Wireless Network Protocols. This is why WiFi in an ASUS laptop and an Apple iPhone works the same way, even if they are different devices with different manufacturers; because a protocol exists.

When looking at many of the names in networking like TCP, UTP, IP, HTTP, FTP and so on, there is always a P in the end. That P stands for protocol, which means that all these functions above are a protocol. This is because everything has to be standardized if it should work with many different devices.

Who Decides About Protocols?

Before the internet existed, during ARPANET, engineers needed some form of documentation. In 1969, an internet engineer named Steve Crocker invented something called Request for Comments, or RFC for short. RFC was invented to record unofficial notes during the development of ARPANET. However, it has become more than that since.

RFCs are today the official documentation for the internet. In this documentation, you can find internet specifications, events or protocols. There are a couple of organizations that are handling the RFC documentation, like IETF, IRTF or IAB.

These are also the types of organizations that are deciding about protocols but in their different genre, so to speak. For example, the organization that is deciding about the Bluetooth-protocol is the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (Bluetooth SIG) while the HTTP protocol is being handled by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Protocols make sure that everyone can understand each other

5 Common Protocols for Networking

As you might know by now, there is a lot of protocols when it comes to networks, computers, and communication. It’s impossible to list them all but l would still like to expand the most common protocols that are being used in networking today. If you are interested to learn more about networking protocols, Wikipedia has a great collection-page where you can read more on protocols.

HTTP

If you are on this website, you have probably heard of HTTP. If you are on any website, you have probably heard of HTTP. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and is a network protocol for the web. This is the type of protocol that the web browser you are using and the webserver that the website is on, is using to communicate with each other.

HTTP was created in the 90s and has since then been updated several times. In 2015, the latest HTTP standard was approved by IESG (Internet Engineering Steering Group), the HTTP 2.0 or HTTP/2. HTTP/2 comes with several new features that improve the speed of HTTP, making it faster to reach the website you want.

A problem with HTTP is that the communication between the browser and the server is unencrypted. Because of this, HTTPS (HTTP Secure) exist. This is an extension of the original protocol but with HTTPS, the communication is encrypted, thus making it much more secure, as the name suggests. If you see a green lock icon in your web browser URL field, the connection to the webserver is secure, using HTTPS.

TCP/IP

TCP/IP is two protocols that are working together to make sure that everything is going where it’s supposed to without any faults on the way. TCP stands for Transmission Control Protocol and is a protocol used in anything that has to do with the internet, like routers, computers, phones, laptops and much more.

When you are sending a message over Facebook or a Skype chat, the TCP will split that message into bits and pieces and make packages out of it. These packages are then sent over to the destination using the internet. Once at the destination, the packages can be unpacked, and the message can be put together again. This is because the transmission control protocol handles both the packaging and unpacking, making sure that the sender and the receiver understand each other.

The Internet Protocol (IP) is making sure that the packages mentioned above actually reach the correct destination. As you may know, networks are using IP numbers as their address, so that the network can be identified. How hard wouldn’t it be for your package to reach your house if you didn’t have any address? It’s the same thing with network packages.

Oldschool Internet Kiosk

DHCP

The DHCP is that kind of protocol that you never think about but if it didn’t exist, it would be a real hassle every time you had friends over. DHCP stands for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and it’s responsible for giving out IP addresses to the devices that connect to the network.

For a device to be able to connect to the internet or use any form of network feature at all, it needs an IP address. When a new device connects to a network, the DHCP server (usually the router) will give the device an IP address as well as other network details such as the DNS server address(es) and the default gateway.

In the configuration settings of a router, you can usually set the range of the IP addresses that DHCP should work with. If you do that, you can make sure that there will be no IP conflicts on your network. This is often not a problem unless you have set some static IP addresses on your network, then I suggest that you make sure these addresses are not in the DHCP range.

If DHCP didn’t exist, you would need to get the MAC address (unique network car identifier on all devices) of your friend’s phone and then go into the settings of your router to manually add an IP address to the phone. For a company with thousands of employees, that would be a huge workload. Thanks, DHCP, for your existence.

DNS

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a protocol that is translating IP addresses into names and vice versa. Instead of having to enter the IP address and the port of a web server, you can instead type the address of the website, and DNS servers will work in the background to find the correct web server for you.

You can test this for yourself, by doing the opposite of the above. If you would enter 216.58.211.14/ in your web browser, you would be taken to google.com. DNS servers are working together to get you where you want. The very first DNS server is your router, which will know all the devices in your LAN. When you go to a website, your router will forward the request to a DNS server outside your network, usually the ISP’s DNS.

A DNS can hold a lot of records. This is special pointers that will help the DNS to point in the correct direction. There are, for example, something called MX records. These type of records point to a mail server and is used for email. A (or AAAA) records are used for translating IP addresses (as in the example above) while NS records point to other name servers.

Before Email 🙂

FTP

Something we all do is to share files with each other. I bet that many of you are uploading files to OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox or any other form of cloud storage. If you do, you are using a protocol called File Transfer Protocol, or FTP for short.

The name of the protocol is pretty much explaining itself. It’s a protocol that is being used for transferring files between a client and a server. The client is often your laptop, your phone or your PC while the server is whatever service you are using (OneDrive, DropBox, etc).

When using FTP, you usually need to authenticate yourself with a username and a password. However, FTP has the same problem as HTTP, that the communication and file transfer is unencrypted. To solve this, SFTP (Secure FTP) is often used instead, which will encrypt the username, password and the files being transferred.

How to Measure & Increase Your LAN Speed

When I bought my first NAS, I put it in a closet, far away from me or anyone else. The goal was to transfer movies and files fast over the network. I expected speeds of 100MB/s but ended up with 30-40/MB/s, something that I wasn’t happy with at all. Something had to be done so I could get the most out of my new NAS. If you are here, I guess you are in the same boat as I once was.

For measuring your LAN speed, you can drag and drop a big file and see how fast it will go. There are also tools, like Totusoft Lan speed, to test your LAN speed. To increase the speed of your LAN, you need to investigate your network to find the block, purchase new network cables if the current ones are old enough and some other tricks mentioned in this article.

It should be mentioned that I will only talk about a wired network in this article. Wireless networks are not as stable as wired networks and will introduce a ton of other factors. If you want to move files to a server or NAS, wired is the way to go, if you want to get the best speed possible from your home network.

What is a LAN?

To make any sense of this article, you will first need to understand what a LAN is. LAN stands for Local Area Network and is essentially you home network. You probably have a router and that router is connected to everything in your house. Your router is giving out IP addresses to your devices and is handling all the traffic between these devices. This is a LAN.

LANs is very useful when you have a group of computers or devices that need to share the same resources. For example, at my home, I have a network printer (yeah, I know, a printer in 2018…) that I can print out from any of my computers or phones. The printer is connected to my LAN and since all my devices are that as well, they can see the printer.

A LAN is not something that you have to explicitly set, it is just is. When you connect a computer to your router, you have a LAN with 1 router and 1 computer. This is the smallest LAN you can have but you can then grow it with more devices. A LAN can be as big as it needs to be, with thousands of devices. In that case, you probably have multiple servers, switches and other network devices to control your LAN. It is something that companies have, not home users.

You might have heard about the term “LAN Party”. This is when a group of people take their computer and go to one place to play games. Since they are all under the same roof on the same network, they are connected to the same LAN. One of the biggest LANs is Dreamhack Winter in Jönköping, Sweden. In 2013, they had the largest LAN party, according to Guinness World Record, with 22 810 visitors.

How to Measure Your LAN Speed

Measuring your LAN speed can be used either with software or manually by moving files back and forth. If you have a NAS or another file storage on your network, you can try moving a bigger file (5-6GB) over to it and see how fast it will go. It must be one big file instead of multiple small files. This is because smaller files tend to take longer time. If the system has to start with one file, end that, and then move on to another, it will take a longer time than if it just takes one big file.

Because of that, if you don’t have a bigger file, I recommend that you zip some files together to make it one big file. Zip is a form of compression which is making the files smaller and easier to manage. However, if you zip several files, you will not see a big compression and the file size will still be big enough for transfer.

However, the easiest way is to use software. I use TotuSoft LAN Speed. It’s a small software that is easy to use and measure with. I use that to see if I have any blocks in my network. One thing to note is that you will need permission to access the computer that you are testing to. The tool will create a file, transfer it to the computer and then transfer it back so if you don’t have permission, you will not be able to use it.

After running the test, I got a result of 68MB/s write and 93MB/s read. I know that one of my cables is broken and I need to change it to get back up to higher speeds, I’m just too lazy to do it. However, using this software can be a good way to measure your LAN speed to find out how fast your local area network is.

How to Increase Your LAN Speed

It is possible to increase your LAN speed? Isn’t your network as fast as it already can be? Well, yes, you are correct about that. There is no magic software that can unlock your LAN to become superfast. Your network is only as fast as the slowest device in your network. For example, if you have a network like the one below.

If all these devices can handle 1GB/s except the switch, which can only handle 100MB/s, client 1 and 2 are in trouble. Client 3 would be able to copy a file from the NAS almost 10 times faster than client 1 and 2 because they are limited by the switch. The speed to the internet will then depend on how much your ISP can deliver but that is outside the dotted line, outside the LAN.

And that is the whole story of increasing your LAN speed. There is a bottleneck somewhere and it can be a real hassle to find it. Limiting LAN speed is always because some hardware in the network that can’t handle big numbers, thus reducing it. Take network cables for example. Some older cables maxed out at 100MB/s and if you are using them, you will need to change cables. Customcable.ca has a great guide on network cables that I recommend reading if you are interested in network cables.

Something that you should always look for when purchasing a new computer or other types of a network device that will be present on you LAN, is to make sure that that it can handle 1GB/s. If it can do that, it will not be a bottleneck. Sure, you can go over the top and get a LAN for 10GB/s but that will cost you serious money as it’s mostly datacenters that need this kind of speed, not a home network where you want to transfer some files to your NAS.

Troubleshooting Slow LAN Speed

Troubleshooting your network for speed issues is trying to measure the speed using the software that I mentioned earlier in this article. But to make it easier, I also recommend an awesome tool that can measure the speed of the network cables. It’s called a LAN Tester and you get one from Amazon for almost nothing.  Using this tool, you can test to see how much your cables can handle and quickly see if one of them is broken. Check out the video below to see how it works (not made by me, credit to the channel Life-Changing Skills).

Have you tried restarting the router? Many times, restarting a router can solve these types of problems. There can be many reasons why it would fail at the router, a package can get stuck or a configuration is wrong. Restarting the router will generally remove these types of bottlenecks if there is one.

But the simplest solution to slow network speed could be because another person in your LAN is currently using a lot of bandwidth. Maybe they are watching a 4K movie on Netflix or transferring big files to the file storage. If you have more members in your LAN other than yourself, go around and ask them what they are doing. This is, of course, a quick-fix solution. If your LAN is slow overall, you will need to investigate further.

In the end, increasing the network speed isn’t possible with software, it’s hardware. If you feel that your LAN is slow, invest in better network devices and you are all set after that. Also, use a wired network, wireless is too unstable.