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What is a Router?

by Ronald Elias

1. A Router -- Explained

Before we help you get the most out of your router and your home network, we wanted to start by explaining what exactly a router is.

Essentially, a router is a box that connects to the greater internet and then broadcasts that internet signal throughout your home. For example, instead of your computer connecting directly to the internet like your cell phone does, your computer first connects to your router, which is then connected to the internet.

If you are like most people, you probably got your router from your internet provider when you signed up for service, and you may or may not still be using it. We’ll get back to that later -- but if you aren’t sure where your router is, it is probably near -- and connected to -- your cable modem. 

Too long, didn’t read: A router is a magical device that connects the devices inside your house to the world wide web outside your house.


2. Wireless vs. Wired

Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, we can dig a little deeper into what routers are, how they work, and the different types. 

The first main designating factor is whether you have a wireless or a wired router. Most routers are wireless these days, but if you are still plugging in, then you are working with a wired router (and some can be both, as well). 

Both types of routers have advantages and disadvantages. Wireless routers allow you to connect a whole bunch of devices all over your house, without needing them to be hard wired in. 

However, when it comes to speed, a wired connection is always going to be faster and more stable than a wireless one. It just aesthetically doesn’t always look great -- especially if your computer is really far away from your router and you need to run ethernet cable across the whole house.


3. Router Quality

Like most electronics, not all routers are made equal.

We said we’d get back to talking about routers provided by your internet provider -- and it’s time to have a heart-to-heart. If you want to have a fast and enjoyable time surfing the internet or streaming music or movies, you most likely won’t get that with the basic, free router they give you. 

Instead, we always recommend going and picking out your own router. It’s going to have more options, more speed potential, and just  give you an all around better internet experience. 

If you want specific router suggestions, give us a call! We’d be glad to help you find the perfect router for your home network.

 

4. Identifying Interference 

Now that you’ve upgraded your router, there are still a bunch of things you can do to help keep your network operating in shipshape. 

If you live in a dense city or apartment complex, Wi-Fi interference could be an issue. If you go into your router settings on your computer (usually just by typing in 192.168.1.1 into an internet browser), you can often change what channel the router is operating on. Most people don’t do this, so most routers end up working on the same channel. Messing with these settings can help on the wireless end, at least.

The positioning of your router is also important -- you want to keep your router as unobstructed as possible. This means that putting it under your couch, inside a cabinet, or behind a bunch of other furniture can interfere with its ability to broadcast Wi-Fi.

 

5. Last But Not Least

OK, OK, one last piece of advice before we let you go. There’s an easy way to keep your router optimized and running at its best: making sure its firmware is updated. Most routers can also be set to automatically update software and reboot themselves. These are good features to enable, as they can take care of many common router issues. 

 

Phew, and there we have it! You are now a certified router expert, ready to tackle most common problems that could be plaguing your network. 

Of course, if you still have questions about routers, or are having problems with your home network, give us a call! As your local electronics retailer, we’d be glad to help out in any way that we can.