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.
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 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
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
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.
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?