Home Networking Q & A

How do you extend a wireless signal? Should you rent a modem and router, or buy your own? Tech Talker answers some of your questions about home networking.

Eric Escobar
6-minute read
Episode #156

Hey everyone! This week, I’m going to answer some of the questions you've been asking about home networking..

I’ve covered a lot of home networking topics already, such as the difference between a router, hub and switch, and I’ve also done a full podcast on how to pick out a router. I highly recommend checking out these episodes if you’re looking for more information on setting up your home network, as they lay a good foundation for the topic.

And now, on to your questions!

Question #1: "In What Order Do I Connect My Devices?"

I’ve received this question quite a bit since my last episode on home networks, so I thought it would be a great starting point.

For most residential setups, you connect your cable modem to your router and your router to a switch, if you have one. The order is pretty important, due to how all of the equipment works. Your internet comes from a DSL line or coaxial cable from your internet provider, then your modem converts that signal to an ethernet port. That ethernet port then plugs into your router, and your router provides you wireless internet. From there, if you need more physical ports. you’d get a switch, and if you need a larger wireless range, you would get a repeater - which I’ll talk about later on.

Sometimes this configuration is a little bit different, because cable companies will provide a device that combines your cable modem and your router into a single device. This would be similar to something like AT&T’s Uverse. The reason for this order really comes down to how internet service providers address your traffic.

Residential networks only allow you to have one public IP address. Think of this single IP address as a wall plug. If you needed more plug spots you would need a power strip. The power strip would convert your single plug into multiple plugs for all of your devices. A router does the job of the power strip, only it divides your internet connection so that all of your devices can communicate with the outside world on a single address.

A lot of people want to connect their network as a modem attached to a switch, which is attached to a router. Many devices are now smart enough to figure this out and reroute your traffic so that this configuration works. However, this can also often lead to a lot of networking issues - so I say, just remember "modem, router, switch."

Question #2: "Should I Rent or Own?"

The question of whether to rent a modem and router from your internet service provider or buy your own is another popular one. The simple answer is to buy your own.

Most companies will charge you a fee in order to use their modem and their router, but many people don’t realize that we have the ability to buy and use our own equipment. A nice router and top of the line modem will set you back about $200 - but after that, you never have to pay that monthly fee to use your internet service provider’s equipment again!

If you’re looking for some recommendations, I have some great ones here for routers and modems.


About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.