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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.

#8: The mistake: Poor router placement. 
Many people often place their home wireless routers in a corner, on a shelf or even inside a metal cabinet. This can severely limit the wireless performance of the router.

The fix: Most vendors recommend placing the router in an open space -- hallways are optimal -- and to be as close to the center to the home as possible. The higher up the antenna, the better. Figure out where you're going to need most of the wireless network coverage (living room, den or kids' bedroom?), and place the router there if possible. If you can't place the router in an optimal location, look into wireless range extenders or powerline adapters to help boost the dead spots that non-optimal placement may create.

#7: The mistake: Connecting a new wireless router to an existing home network without powering down the broadband router. 
Many home network modems will lock to the first media access control address they see on the network, and won't give another IP address to a new router unless a new power cycle occurs.

The fix: Power down the modem when connecting a new system. Then power up the modem, wait two minutes, then power up the new router.

#6 The mistake: Plugging the Ethernet cable from the modem to the router into a LAN port instead of the WAN/Internet port. 
This might be considered a rookie mistake, but it's likely the one that most vendors hear about, or is the first recommendation when they get on the phone with customers. Plugging the cable into the incorrect port prevents the router from acquiring an Internet connection, which is required for further configuration for many of today's wireless routers.

The fix: When going from your broadband modem to the router, make sure it goes into the WAN/Internet port of the wireless router. Note, however, that you can add a secondary router, configured as an access point, to get more channels; in this case, plugging in the new router to a LAN port is essential. Our advice: assign static IP addresses to your infrastructure gear (routers, switches, adapters, even printers) and use DHCP only for clients (notebooks, desktops, tablets, phones, etc.). Static IP addresses for infrastructure makes it easier to login to it for configuration.

#5: The mistake: Leaving everything to default mode. 
The biggest error here is not configuring Wi-Fi security (leaving an open network is the cardinal sin of Wi-Fi routers), but this can also include not changing the default password to get into the router itself (many people know the admin (username) / password (password) backdoor). Also -- turn off remote management. If you're noticing performance issues with Wi-Fi, change the channel for the Wi-Fi frequency -- most routers pick a default channel, which most likely is the same channel number as your neighbors. Free tools can help you analyze your home network's wireless signal strength to help you determine channels with less "noise".


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