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Ins and outs of wireless routers

Laptops and frequent Internet browsing have created a high demand for in-home wireless routers. Internet service providers — Verizon and Brighthouse — typically install a router, and will now install a wireless router free or for an additional monthly fee. For casual laptop and smart-phone use, and for a clutter-free networking solution, a wireless access point is a must. If you do not currently have a wireless router and your ISP did not install one, contact them and they may provide one free of charge or with an extension of service.

Wireless routers typically cover a 120- to 180-foot range indoors, if there is minimal interference. Wireless coverage area varies depending on the router’s antennas, concrete walls, cordless phone signals and other factors. External antennas provide a stronger signal, but are less discrete and somewhat prone to breakage. High-end routers may have as many as six internal antennas to provide greater range. A wireless signal can occasionally be dropped due to signal strength, so if constant connection is crucial, use a wired Internet connection. Wireless routers provide outlets for wired connections as well.

To purchase one yourself, cost varies between $60 and several hundred dollars, depending on the features provided. The current technology is 802.11N, which uses either the 2.4 or 5 GHz band. Earlier B and G standards use only the 2.4 GHz band. To support both new and older equipment, select a router utilizing the 2.4 GHz band, or a router with dual band capabilities. Pricier dual band models will automatically connect devices to the appropriate band without user intervention. Samara Lynn of PCMag.com has written an excellent buyers guide, outlining features and providing model names and prices. Find her article at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2347539,00.asp.

It is true that wireless is slower than wired Internet access. Most home users utilize their network primarily for Internet access, so transfer speeds can be deceptive. The fastest wired router provides access at 1000 megabits per second. The newest and fastest wireless routers, wireless N, provide access at a maximum of 128mbps. Even though wired sounds much faster, the fastest Internet connections today only reach about 50mbps, which wireless G and N can easily handle. You will only be utilizing a wired network’s potential if you are sharing files between computers in your home.

Microsoft offers solutions to wireless issues at http://www.microsoft.com/athome/setup/wirelesstips.aspx. To maximize signal strength, visit this website for a clear troubleshooting guide. Secondary access points such as repeaters or other range extenders can be installed to maximize wireless connectivity.

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277 or patty@cr-bradenton.com.

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