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10 biggest home networking mistakes (and how to fix them)

Keith Shaw | July 2, 2013
The chances are pretty good that you have a wireless home network, or you've been asked by friends, family or co-workers to help install one in their home.

The chances are pretty good that you have a wireless home network, or you've been asked by friends, family or co-workers to help install one in their home.

While we're sure that you've never made a mistake during these setups, advances in home networking equipment (new configurations, wireless standards, etc.) have also introduced some new complexities that could confuse non-IT customers who don't live, eat and breathe this stuff every day. For most people, connecting to the home network is a set-and-forget scenario. This causes potential problems once something bad happens -- like the freak thunderstorm that knocks out power, and you get the phone call asking for help again (our first tip -- have the router connected to an uninterruptible power supply).

We've asked a bunch of home networking companies and other experts to provide us with a bunch of scenarios where they're seeing a majority of customer service requests, along with how you can quickly fix these "mistakes". We've ordered the list from the mistakes made at the beginning of the setup process, to mistakes made during configuration and post-network setup.

#10 The mistake: Failing to determine a network's needs before buying a router. 
Most people buying networking gear (especially wireless equipment) are just looking to provide Internet access for a new notebook, phone or tablet. Problems arise when they don't consider the amount of coverage they may need, how many other devices might connect to the network and the types of walls/floors they have in their home.

The fix: Do some pre-planning, and know the layout (square footage) of the home you want to cover.In addition, read the user manual (not just the Quick Start Guide). There are tons of features in modern residential routers -- even if you don't use all of them, it's beneficial to be familiar with them. For example, it's great to know how to add an external drive or a printer to a router, or delve into basic QoS prioritization settings.

#9 The mistake: Not recording older router settings before upgrading. 
When most customers want to upgrade their router from an old system to the newer one, they often tend to rip-and-replace without writing down information like usernames, passwords and other settings. This creates more work in configuring the new router, especially for things like port forwarding and QoS prioritization.

The fix: When performing the initial setup, write down the old router's settings, passcode and any other customized settings. This is especially important if you want to make it easier for client devices (like phones, tablets, notebooks) to access the new router once it's configured. Create a spreadsheet that tracks your network's IP addresses, SSIDs, passwords and other important information. Make it clear not only for yourself, but for spouses/friends who might need to fix/reset your network if you're away on a trip (usually the most-likely time of a home network failure).


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