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  1. #1

    Home WiFi setup and tuning

    I hadn't thought of this until our internet was out this morning, but we now have 3 of our 4 family members working from home, and I am the defacto IT manager. So imagine my chagrin when our internet connection was down this morning. I hadn't thought of myself so much as the IT guy but, in essence, it's not just me depending on me, and our connection isn't just for personal email, internet shopping, and forum participation.

    A couple months ago I remarked to my college-age son, as I was thinking of weak spots in our home network, that our wifi router was sort of a single point of failure. We have an older, slower one that could be used as a backup. Not even sure it was at 100% health; that might be why it's mothballed. Anyway, without that router, there'd just be the option to plug in one computer via ethernet cable, until we could buy a new router.

    Last night as I headed to bed, I did my usual routine - pressed the "sleep" button on my computer's keyboard, which helpfully invokes the right routine. Usually. Curiously, this time the computer didn't go to sleep. I tried again, nothing, but I figured hey, it'll do it when ready. The screen will turn off on its own eventually. And it did (the latter). This AM the computer came up "too quickly", suggesting it never really went to sleep. The router's lights were not all on - specifically, no ethernet connection showed. As a result, I couldn't even reboot the router because I couldn't get to the router's browser-based interface. Even unplugging & re-plugging the router didn't do the trick. I had to force power-down the computer and reboot it, to get ethernet back up, and from there, I could login to the router and reboot the router, getting wifi back up. I'm skipping a lot of failed troubleshooting avenues - it took 45 minutes in all.

    When I breathed a sigh of relief, it occurred to me that suddenly I'm responsible for providing internet to multiple remote workers, and that is not an insignificant responsibility in these times. They probably can't just run out to Panera or Starbucks and connect there. Perhaps an iphone can be a wifi hotspot, IDK how that works. But I might want to have in reserve a backup router that is faster than the old one I have in the basement.

    Oh, and we have thunderstorms today. I thought wouldn't it be ironic if I recovered from this mess only to have equipment wiped out by lightning strike? Or our ISP go down for awhile due to a transformer blowing or whatever? Quite a bit depends on having an internet connection, and now that we're (almost) all home, we really have to have it working to do our own work.

    Just curious if any of my fellow DBR posters have similarly realized that their home internet connection has become much more essential and as a result, having backup plans (for hardware, software, config files, etc) is critical. I'm over 50; a continual internet connection has become increasingly vital. For most of us, it's not the case anymore that you can do almost all your work offline and just connect to send/receive email and file attachments, then go back to working offline until it's time to exchange stuff again. And just being computer savvy enough to set up a home network barely cuts it when the jobs of others depend on keeping that connection going without interruption. I'd welcome your stories and tips as newly-minted IT managers.

  2. #2

    Home Wifi Router

    Hey all. Might as well fill the time here.
    My current NetGear wifi router is about ten years old, which seems rather ridiculous at this particular time when we're all stuck at home. Mostly our signal gets maxed when we stream Netflix or what have you. We don't have any hardcore online gamers in our house, which - as I understand it - are the most strenuous on the bandwidth.

    Any recommendations? I'm hoping to spend maybe $70 on Amazon.

    Thanks!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durham, NC

    Home WiFi setup and tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by cspan37421 View Post
    I hadn't thought of this until our internet was out this morning, but we now have 3 of our 4 family members working from home, and I am the defacto IT manager. So imagine my chagrin when our internet connection was down this morning. I hadn't thought of myself so much as the IT guy but, in essence, it's not just me depending on me, and our connection isn't just for personal email, internet shopping, and forum participation.

    A couple months ago I remarked to my college-age son, as I was thinking of weak spots in our home network, that our wifi router was sort of a single point of failure. We have an older, slower one that could be used as a backup. Not even sure it was at 100% health; that might be why it's mothballed. Anyway, without that router, there'd just be the option to plug in one computer via ethernet cable, until we could buy a new router.

    Last night as I headed to bed, I did my usual routine - pressed the "sleep" button on my computer's keyboard, which helpfully invokes the right routine. Usually. Curiously, this time the computer didn't go to sleep. I tried again, nothing, but I figured hey, it'll do it when ready. The screen will turn off on its own eventually. And it did (the latter). This AM the computer came up "too quickly", suggesting it never really went to sleep. The router's lights were not all on - specifically, no ethernet connection showed. As a result, I couldn't even reboot the router because I couldn't get to the router's browser-based interface. Even unplugging & re-plugging the router didn't do the trick. I had to force power-down the computer and reboot it, to get ethernet back up, and from there, I could login to the router and reboot the router, getting wifi back up. I'm skipping a lot of failed troubleshooting avenues - it took 45 minutes in all.

    When I breathed a sigh of relief, it occurred to me that suddenly I'm responsible for providing internet to multiple remote workers, and that is not an insignificant responsibility in these times. They probably can't just run out to Panera or Starbucks and connect there. Perhaps an iphone can be a wifi hotspot, IDK how that works. But I might want to have in reserve a backup router that is faster than the old one I have in the basement.

    Oh, and we have thunderstorms today. I thought wouldn't it be ironic if I recovered from this mess only to have equipment wiped out by lightning strike? Or our ISP go down for awhile due to a transformer blowing or whatever? Quite a bit depends on having an internet connection, and now that we're (almost) all home, we really have to have it working to do our own work.

    Just curious if any of my fellow DBR posters have similarly realized that their home internet connection has become much more essential and as a result, having backup plans (for hardware, software, config files, etc) is critical. I'm over 50; a continual internet connection has become increasingly vital. For most of us, it's not the case anymore that you can do almost all your work offline and just connect to send/receive email and file attachments, then go back to working offline until it's time to exchange stuff again. And just being computer savvy enough to set up a home network barely cuts it when the jobs of others depend on keeping that connection going without interruption. I'd welcome your stories and tips as newly-minted IT managers.
    Don't know if this will help your situation or fit your budget, but when I was having trouble with our router I bought this and haven't had a problem since:

    https://store.google.com/us/product/...wifi_first_gen

    Maybe there is a second gen, I don't know.

    Howard

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Mtn.Devil.91.92.01.10.15 View Post
    Hey all. Might as well fill the time here.
    My current NetGear wifi router is about ten years old, which seems rather ridiculous at this particular time when we're all stuck at home. Mostly our signal gets maxed when we stream Netflix or what have you. We don't have any hardcore online gamers in our house, which - as I understand it - are the most strenuous on the bandwidth.

    Any recommendations? I'm hoping to spend maybe $70 on Amazon.

    Thanks!
    Two questions:

    1) Is the router the bottleneck or the internet connection? What's your download speed? Sometimes powering down the modem and the router will restore speed.

    2) Is coverage an issue or does your current router cover the parts of the house you want?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Southbury, CT
    Quote Originally Posted by Mtn.Devil.91.92.01.10.15 View Post
    Hey all. Might as well fill the time here.
    My current NetGear wifi router is about ten years old, which seems rather ridiculous at this particular time when we're all stuck at home. Mostly our signal gets maxed when we stream Netflix or what have you. We don't have any hardcore online gamers in our house, which - as I understand it - are the most strenuous on the bandwidth.

    Any recommendations? I'm hoping to spend maybe $70 on Amazon.

    Thanks!
    Quote Originally Posted by Kdogg View Post
    Two questions:

    1) Is the router the bottleneck or the internet connection? What's your download speed? Sometimes powering down the modem and the router will restore speed.

    2) Is coverage an issue or does your current router cover the parts of the house you want?

    We recently switched to Google Mesh wireless router system -- bought the 3 pack -- and couldn't be happier. We used to have a ton of issues with lagging/freezing on our living room TV and thought it was a problem with our older TV/Amazon Fire Stick setup. But when we switched to the new router/mesh system the troubles all went away. We also have much better coverage throughout the house, including on the back deck near my grill which was a problem before!

    The router was super easy to setup. I love the feature where you can prioritize traffic to a particular device via the mobile app. This is very helpful with two teenagers in the house...
    Good people drink good beer. -Hunter S. Thompson

  6. #6
    Yeah, please post your router specs or model number.

    We are running a TP-Link Archer 1200 dual band thing here. I think it's nominally able to transmit 867/300 Mbps, depending on which band. Our backup router is 300 Mbps. Our service is 300 as well. It was well-rated (fwiw) on Amazon at the time we bought it; since then, I noticed it garnered a lot more negative reviews. I've generally found it reliable but sometimes have to reboot it. Couple to a few times a year. It's within your budget. Ours is a couple years old.

    In the Coronavirus thread, I earlier today recounted my realization that I'm now the IT manager for 2 more people suddenly working from our home. So keeping this thing going is pretty important! Howardlander responded and recommended as a backup the Google Wifi device, currently runs $100. [or I could make it my primary and turn my TP-Link to my backup]. The one I've seen at Costco sells (Netgear Nighthawk) seem to be rather expensive ($200 ish) and intended for a massive gaming household. Our gamer is away at college. Sort of (online classes only now).

    As for your speeds, it depends on your router, ISP service, and also on the network abilities of the devices connecting to it. Your router being 10 years old may be a bottleneck, but if you also have 10 yr old laptops and connect to Netflix via a 10 yr old interface, you could have multiple bottlenecks. Still, if it's all you're running you should still be good, down to 5 Mbps for HD quality (per netflix; 25 recommended).

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by cspan37421 View Post
    Yeah, please post your router specs or model number.

    We are running a TP-Link Archer 1200 dual band thing here. I think it's nominally able to transmit 867/300 Mbps, depending on which band. Our backup router is 300 Mbps. Our service is 300 as well. It was well-rated (fwiw) on Amazon at the time we bought it; since then, I noticed it garnered a lot more negative reviews. I've generally found it reliable but sometimes have to reboot it. Couple to a few times a year. It's within your budget. Ours is a couple years old.

    In the Coronavirus thread, I earlier today recounted my realization that I'm now the IT manager for 2 more people suddenly working from our home. So keeping this thing going is pretty important! Howardlander responded and recommended as a backup the Google Wifi device, currently runs $100. [or I could make it my primary and turn my TP-Link to my backup]. The one I've seen at Costco sells (Netgear Nighthawk) seem to be rather expensive ($200 ish) and intended for a massive gaming household. Our gamer is away at college. Sort of (online classes only now).

    As for your speeds, it depends on your router, ISP service, and also on the network abilities of the devices connecting to it. Your router being 10 years old may be a bottleneck, but if you also have 10 yr old laptops and connect to Netflix via a 10 yr old interface, you could have multiple bottlenecks. Still, if it's all you're running you should still be good, down to 5 Mbps for HD quality (per netflix; 25 recommended).
    Your post was what made me decide to post this.

    Both my router and modem are ten years old, so I intend to replace both. Like O say, not experiencing issues, but just looking to pre-emptively upgrade, ad I figure we will be streaming a lot the next few months.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by cspan37421 View Post
    When I breathed a sigh of relief, it occurred to me that suddenly I'm responsible for providing internet to multiple remote workers, and that is not an insignificant responsibility in these times. They probably can't just run out to Panera or Starbucks and connect there. Perhaps an iphone can be a wifi hotspot, IDK how that works. But I might want to have in reserve a backup router that is faster than the old one I have in the basement.
    I have never done it before with a hotspot but in theory you should be able to bridge your router to the iphone incase the ISP gones down. That way you are not limited to the range of the the iPhone hotspot. Of course it will not help if the router is bad.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Washington, DC area

    Home WiFi setup and tuning

    Quote Originally Posted by cspan37421 View Post
    I hadn't thought of this until our internet was out this morning, but we now have 3 of our 4 family members working from home, and I am the defacto IT manager. ...
    I sent a variation of this to our neighborhood listserv, where we live in single family houses fairly close together - and way too many kids streaming multiple devices at once right now. It would apply even more to people living in apartments, condos, and townhouse communities. Neighborhood interference isn't really a problem with houses on spacious lots, but might have trouble within the house. Feel free to share it around, just include the link back to DBR!

    Wifi runs on two frequencies, 2.4 and 5 GHz. A 5 GHz signal fades fairly quickly (it frequently won't reach from one end of a house to the other), and otherwise doesn't create many problems - use the 5 GHz band whenever possible. Hard wire any video streaming device you can - netflix will chew a ton of bandwidth. Use the 5 GHz bands for streaming video if you must go with wifi. You can also avoid 4k streams when on wifi, and if you don't need HD, watch SD. (Streaming audio doesn't use much bandwidth, though.) 2.4 GHz signals push much farther through walls and furniture than 5 GHz, which is useful. But 2.4 GHz also pushes into neighbors' houses, competing for limited bandwidth. Most of the rest deals with 2.4 GHz.

    Due to spec limits, 2.4 GHz should only be using channels 1, 6, or 11. Please don't "channel bond" in this range either for theoretical extra speed, it's not effective when other wifi routers or access points are nearby. (For convenience, I'll refer to routers and access points as just APs.) If one AP is on channel 11 and another is on 10, for instance, they can't negotiate to share the space, they just blast signals like a college dorm stereo war. (Are you old enough to remember those?) No one really wins. We want wifi to behave more like earbuds.

    Within your house, you can do a few things to improve performance. Run network cable wherever practical - those things that stay put such as desktops, printers, TVs (and their wired streaming devices), and your wifi APs themselves.

    Wifi is line of sight and everything the signal passes through lessens it, some things more than others.

    Position APs accounting for the existing building. Generally place APs high in a room when you can - just walking in front of an AP weakens its signal albeit briefly. Walls, appliances, mirrors, or a full bookcase can cut the signal, as can a chimney, flue, or duct work. Be aware that some APs have directional antennas ("antennae" for us zealots ), with a stronger signal going in certain directions. Think about where it points. Finally, adding an AP almost always helps your coverage but also crowds the airwaves. Each home is different, with different needs.

    Ideally, wifi is set up in a way that meets our needs and doesn't make things worse for our neighbors. If you really want to get in the weeds, you can collectively turn your AP signal strengths down to the lowest where it still works well in each of your homes. For robust connections, you generally want something in the range of -65 dBm or stronger to stream video, where you use it. Going stronger than that won't really help (a smaller number is stronger). Weaker than -80 dBm and it's mostly unusable. (FWIW, RSSI is a different measure with different thresholds.) Signal strength tuning is usually a solution more useful in apartments or dense office spaces. (And this is why doing wifi in a big football stadium is so hard; limited bandwidth and tons of clients and APs, all way too close together.)

    A nice, free tool to see wifi signals and signal strength near you is inSSIDer for Windows (there's also a Mac version in beta).

    As a practical example: I have two hard-wired APs with directional antennae using channels 1 and 11 (as well as using the 5 GHz space). The one closer to my downhill neighbor (less than 20' between us) is pointed horizontally away from their house on a wall mount. The one closer to my uphill neighbor is pointed down from a ceiling mount. All my video equipment - TiVo, Apple TV, Blu Ray, and receiver - is hard-wired, as are the two printers and any computers being used in our home office.

    https://forums.dukebasketballreport...39#post1242239

    -jk

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey
    Quote Originally Posted by Mtn.Devil.91.92.01.10.15 View Post
    Hey all. Might as well fill the time here.
    My current NetGear wifi router is about ten years old, which seems rather ridiculous at this particular time when we're all stuck at home. Mostly our signal gets maxed when we stream Netflix or what have you. We don't have any hardcore online gamers in our house, which - as I understand it - are the most strenuous on the bandwidth.

    Any recommendations? I'm hoping to spend maybe $70 on Amazon.

    Thanks!
    If you want to stick with Netgear, I bought the Orbi with one satellite (mesh network). It easily covers my whole house (~2500 sq. feet) and I've been happy with it. The price is much more than what you're considering though.
    Rich
    "Failure is Not a Destination"
    Coach K on the Dan Patrick Show, December 22, 2016

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    If you want to stick with Netgear, I bought the Orbi with one satellite (mesh network). It easily covers my whole house (~2500 sq. feet) and I've been happy with it. The price is much more than what you're considering though.
    I have an Orbi and Orbi extender for work, and they are great.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by -jk View Post
    I sent a variation of this to our neighborhood listserv, where we live in single family houses fairly close together - and way too many kids streaming multiple devices at once right now. It would apply even more to people living in apartments, condos, and townhouse communities. Neighborhood interference isn't really a problem with houses on spacious lots, but might have trouble within the house. Feel free to share it around, just include the link back to DBR!

    Wifi runs on two frequencies, 2.4 and 5 GHz. A 5 GHz signal fades fairly quickly (it frequently won't reach from one end of a house to the other), and otherwise doesn't create many problems - use the 5 GHz band whenever possible. Hard wire any video streaming device you can - netflix will chew a ton of bandwidth. Use the 5 GHz bands for streaming video if you must go with wifi. You can also avoid 4k streams when on wifi, and if you don't need HD, watch SD. (Streaming audio doesn't use much bandwidth, though.) 2.4 GHz signals push much farther through walls and furniture than 5 GHz, which is useful. But 2.4 GHz also pushes into neighbors' houses, competing for limited bandwidth. Most of the rest deals with 2.4 GHz.

    Due to spec limits, 2.4 GHz should only be using channels 1, 6, or 11. Please don't "channel bond" in this range either for theoretical extra speed, it's not effective when other wifi routers or access points are nearby. (For convenience, I'll refer to routers and access points as just APs.) If one AP is on channel 11 and another is on 10, for instance, they can't negotiate to share the space, they just blast signals like a college dorm stereo war. (Are you old enough to remember those?) No one really wins. We want wifi to behave more like earbuds.

    Within your house, you can do a few things to improve performance. Run network cable wherever practical - those things that stay put such as desktops, printers, TVs (and their wired streaming devices), and your wifi APs themselves.

    Wifi is line of sight and everything the signal passes through lessens it, some things more than others.

    Position APs accounting for the existing building. Generally place APs high in a room when you can - just walking in front of an AP weakens its signal albeit briefly. Walls, appliances, mirrors, or a full bookcase can cut the signal, as can a chimney, flue, or duct work. Be aware that some APs have directional antennas ("antennae" for us zealots ), with a stronger signal going in certain directions. Think about where it points. Finally, adding an AP almost always helps your coverage but also crowds the airwaves. Each home is different, with different needs.

    Ideally, wifi is set up in a way that meets our needs and doesn't make things worse for our neighbors. If you really want to get in the weeds, you can collectively turn your AP signal strengths down to the lowest where it still works well in each of your homes. For robust connections, you generally want something in the range of -65 dBm or stronger to stream video, where you use it. Going stronger than that won't really help (a smaller number is stronger). Weaker than -80 dBm and it's mostly unusable. (FWIW, RSSI is a different measure with different thresholds.) Signal strength tuning is usually a solution more useful in apartments or dense office spaces. (And this is why doing wifi in a big football stadium is so hard; limited bandwidth and tons of clients and APs, all way too close together.)

    A nice, free tool to see wifi signals and signal strength near you is inSSIDer for Windows (there's also a Mac version in beta).

    As a practical example: I have two hard-wired APs with directional antennae using channels 1 and 11 (as well as using the 5 GHz space). The one closer to my downhill neighbor (less than 20' between us) is pointed horizontally away from their house on a wall mount. The one closer to my uphill neighbor is pointed down from a ceiling mount. All my video equipment - TiVo, Apple TV, Blu Ray, and receiver - is hard-wired, as are the two printers and any computers being used in our home office.

    https://forums.dukebasketballreport...39#post1242239

    -jk
    Wow, lots of practical information. Thanks!

  13. #13
    I have the Amplifi HD and 2 extenders, which work great.

    Id recommend checking out the new Amplifi Alien if you want to keep your home network simple.

    I will likely end up going with a full Ubiquiti setup when I make future upgrades.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    Texas
    "Hardwire when practical" is good advice, but if you're averse to running cables there are other options to help take devices off of WiFi. I picked up the Netgear Orbi 3-pack from Costco a few years ago on a Black Friday deal. Overkill for my 2100 sq ft ranch, but I also use the satellites as wireless bridges to connect multiple hardwired devices. For example, one satellite is in my office and has my desktop, printer, NAS, and docking station for my work laptop connected to it. They still connect wirelessly to the main router, but using the dedicated back-haul channel from the satellite and not with 4 separate connections.

    I also use PowerLine AV2 adapters to connect devices in some rooms, such as speakers or a TiVo mini.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Summerville ,S.C.
    NETGEAR - Nighthawk AC2300 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 5 Router
    Is the router we use. i am happy with it.
    Its around 150 online 200 at best buy.
    I absolutely love the device manager software and app.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Summerville ,S.C.

    You can set a guest channel and password on it aswell .
    I run 9 or 10 devices .sometimes a few more .

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