by Staff Writer
More and more electronic devices are becoming network capable, meaning you can connect them to the Internet or to one another. You can connect your computers, hand-held electronics and your HDTV using home networking. The most common way to set up a home network is by using a router to share an Internet connection. This router buying guide will help you learn how to buy routers, hubs and switches that will allow you to interconnect your devices and discover new possibilities for all your electronics.
What a router does: In networking speak, the term "routing" means determining the paths to get information from one network to another. Broadband routers work well for routing small amounts of information between computers in small offices or home networks. A router in your home can help create two types of networks:
Local: Local area networks (LAN) connect multiple computers and other devices to one another and the Internet.
Ad hoc: Ad hoc networks can work with or without a router, connecting one computer to another for transferring files.
Wired connections: Computers typically connect to routers through an Ethernet connection, which looks very similar to a phone line, only larger. Ethernet connections tend to be faster than wireless connections. Most routers have multiple Ethernet ports to allow connections for multiple computers. An Ethernet connection is also the most common connection between the router and cable or DSL modems.
Wireless connections: Wireless routers are probably the most popular computer networking tools, since they can be used by multiple devices without cables. Different wireless frequencies have been in use during the last decade, including 802.11a and 802.11b. Now, wireless-G routers and wireless-N routers are more popular because of their speed. If you want to use a device on a wireless network with one of these routers, it will need to be compatible with wireless-G and wireless-N routers.
Router-modem combinations: A router is often combined with a broadband or DSL modem, eliminating the need for separate devices. These routers will plug directly into your DSL or cable connection. They can also be easier to install, since separate modems and routers sometimes have trouble linking during setup.
Ethernet switches: These devices connect different computers in a local area network through Ethernet cables. They typically don't have wireless capabilities and may not connect to a modem for Internet access.
Wireless network security: Because wireless signals are broadcast, they can be picked up by anyone. You can increase the security of your network by encrypting your wireless signals, blocking unauthorized access with a password and making sure that your computers and other devices are protected by a firewall.