- How big is the area to be covered? If you live in a small apartment or a very large multi-story home, you will want to purchase a router that will appropriately cover the area. For those of you in a small apartment, you probably don’t need the more expensive ones that have a large range. Look carefully at the box or the specifications if purchasing online to see what the covered area is. Typically, a higher-end router will be the 802.11n technology and will have higher speeds such as 100Mbps.
- How will you use the network? If you are planning on streaming movies, playing interactive video games or downloading a lot of files, you will want to look at the higher-end routers such as 802.11n with higher speeds that support a lot of activity. Compare the bandwidth supported as well as the listed speed specifications for your router options.
- Consider multiple networks. If you have friends that visit frequently and want to use your network, look into routers that allow multiple networks. You can set one up for you and one for your friends.
- Placement. The router should normally be in a central location in your home, and preferably out of sight, such as in a basement. It may be necessary to vary from a central location because of obstructions such as ductwork or large areas of metal.
- Don’t broadcast your network name. When you set up your network, make sure you select the option to NOT broadcast the network name. Anyone trying to use your network must first know the network name, so this will offer more protection against a casual hacker. If you do broadcast the network name, choose a more obscure name that will not identify the network as yours as the name will be visible to your neighbors, particularly in an apartment building.
- Use a password. When you set up the network, make absolutely certain that you use encryption (put a password on the network). An unsecured network means that anyone can access the computers in your home. Make the password especially strong – use special characters (@,#,%, etc.) and don’t use proper names or words. To help you remember your password, write the network name and password on a small piece of paper and tape it to the bottom of your router (unless the router is very easy to locate in your home – if so, choose another spot to secure your password). If you set up multiple networks, be sure to secure each one.
- Read product reviews. Before choosing a router, be sure to read the product reviews at reputable sites such as Amazon. Some routers are easier to work with than others, but if you want particular features some of the more complex routers will be worth the effort.
Have you set up your own home network? Do you have any additonal tips or hints you can share?