Router Tips



Sharing Your Highspeed Connection

I'm only going to give you a few pointers here. Everything will be covered in detail in the manual that comes with your router. If you didn't find it in your router manual perhaps you bought the wrong one! The Linksys befsr-41 has an excellent manual and also includes a cd-rom with video tutorials for problem solving.

Tip #1: if you plan to share a printer on you network with an older 10mbit interface you must set your router to not enable DHCP server and you need to stick to static IP addresses as I've shown for the basic network setup in this networking section. ie. would be assigned by you to the first computer and so on. The reason being is that older printers (devices) can't request an IP address from a DHCP server.

Tip #2: if you won't be using older devices on your network (ie.2001 and newer) then set the router's DHCP to ENABLED. Then change each of your computers or devices to ENABLE them to AUTOMATICALLY REQUEST IP ADDRESS in the CONTROL PANEL, NETWORK, TCP/IP settings for your network card.

DHCP server setup in the router makes for an easier network setup with many computers. You lose some individual control because it's much harder to for instance ban a user from the internet if they turn off their machine and are assigned a new IP address by the router the next time they turn it on. Static addressing works perfectly fine if you keep a list of the IP addresses for every computer on your network. You can also go into START, RUN, and type "CONFIGIP" at the prompt and find out that computer's IP address even if it is "dynamic".

Tip #3: DHCP (I believe) is Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. As you turn on each computer on your network it says,"Hello, I'm here, give me an identification number please so I can share my files, etc". The DHCP server or your DHCP router (you can only have one DHCP server or DHCP router on your network otherwise they will conflict with each other) will then give that calling computer an IP address. You can have up to 253 computers hooked up to your cable/dsl router provided you have enough ports available... in other words a lot of hubs/switches.

Tip #4: Your ISP whether it is the telco or Rogers or Shaw cannot see anything past your firewall/router. All the connection information that normally is entered into your network settings in your computer and some of your browser/email settings are actually entered into the router's setup window. When the router is then connected to your cable/dsl connection it looks just like a single computer as far as your ISP is concerned. The router invisibly will "route" all the information to and from the internet from each of your networked computers seamlessly using NAT (Network Address Translation). So whether you have one or 200 computers in your network you will only be charged for one (1) IP address that usually comes with your cable/dsl connection. Cable ISP's generally charge $9.95 a month extra so that $200 router will have paid for itself in 20 months, faster if you opt for the single port version. That's also if you don't include the added advantage of having a fast hardware firewall.

You could buy a single port router today and add a switch or hub to it tomorrow but in general you'll get the best deal by buying a 4 or 5 port hispeed switch built-into the router.

Tip #5: Choosing a brand of router/network card. I've had no problem with DLink, Linksys, or Netgear network cards. I can't speak for any others. As far as hubs and switches go I've had two DLink's fail. Basically the little 1inch cooling fan inside the unit doesn't use ball-bearings and usually fails before even the warrantee is up. This sucks. I must admit their customer service is excellent and I had a replacement in a few days. Thank you DLink. After the dualspeed 5 port 10/100 hub died the second time they sent me an autosensing 10/100 hub that is still alive to this day. If you have your hub/switch close to you or in a very quiet room the cooling fan on the Dlink units will drive you or your spouse nuts! I've never had any problem with Linksys hubs/switches so far. I have heard of some really heavy high bandwidth users overheating them and failing to work after some time but I can't say mine has ever gone past even lukewarm so I'm not sure if that's a legitimate claim or not.

I shouldn't push or cut down any specific brands here anyhow. There are many other brands such as 3Com, etc so do yourself a favour and read lots of reviews before you buy something. Basically most major brands use the same chips and components.

Tip #6: When setting up a shared network through a router for internet access, of course you must either select DHCP or Static IP addressing in the router, set your computer's individual IP addresses, Subnet Mask, same Workgroup name. Along with that, before you can browse the internet with your browser you must go into START, CONTROL PANEL, NETWORK (or NETWORKING & DIALUP), find the LAN (Local Area Network) icon, right click on it, select PROPERTIES, open the DNS tab. Here you must enter the name of your computer (can be your first name), the domain name (this is your ISP so just put in "" or "@home", just below that you need to enter the DNS numbers. Normally this is set "obtain automatically", however, because the router/firewall unit receives these addresses "automatically" we must retrieve the addresses from the router setup.

[If your network has been setup properly, except for DNS settings you should still be able to load your browser up, hit STOP to stop whatever page will try to load, in the www address line type the IP of your router (in Linksys's case it's ENTER, put in the appropriate password. Once in the router there will probably be a STATUS tab or ADVANCED TAB where it will show the DNS server numbers. Usually they are something like 24.x.x.x , write these down. Usually it's two sets.]

Enter first DNS number of the first set, press the ADD button, then enter the second DNS number and hit ADD again. They should both be shown in the window below. That's it, hit the APPLY & OK buttons to exit NETWORK SETUP. You may have to do a RESTART.

Your internet browsing should function now. MS Outlook Express or other email programs will work independently of the DNS settings for web browsing. If you ever encounter that your web browser isn't working but your email still works, most likely your ISP has changed DNS servers. Follow the instructions as Tip #6 to update the DNS numbers. Occasionally you may have to reset the router or have it "let go" of it's current DNS, IP settings and REFRESH to pull new DNS numbers. Generally most routers keep these settings for 24 hrs and refresh themselves automatically. If you go into the browser of the router you will usually find a clock count-down for when this expires and is refreshed.

Win95, 98, 2000 are all similar in networking setup.

Tip #7: If your setup is not functioning correctly, obviously check the LED's which show the network status on each network card and the router to make sure your wiring is correct. Then open an MS-DOS session in windows (START, PROGRAM FILES, MS-DOS) or in win2000, START, RUN, type in "cmd" <ENTER>. Once in a DOS prompt type in "PING" <ENTER>. If there is no response either you have a cabling problem, network card troubles, you're not using the same WORKGROUP name, you have different SUBNET addresses, etc. If it comes back with a response showing the time in milliseconds and packets sent/received the network is functioning.

Tip #8: Never let your ISP talk you into disabling your router and connecting your computer straight to the modem. SECURITY ALERT This is a high risk situation! My brother's girlfriend called the ISP's technical help line and they had her disconnect the router/firewall. When my brother got home and turned off his computer there were 6 other users logged onto his machine (he doesn't have a network with other local computers!). This means there were 6 unauthorized users accessing his machine looking at his files!! Simply because your ISP does not support router/networks doesn't mean the router is at fault. If it's anything it's usually you don't have current DNS numbers configured in your machines. Otherwise the router will never be the failure in the network link.

Tip #9: Generally, you cannot have two separate routers on one network unless you change the base IP address of the second router. I just found that out the other day by accident when I found another BEFSR-41 Linksys router at a garage sale for a mere $10! I was going to use it only as a 10/100 network switch for the moment. Anyhow, I have to change it's IP address otherwise it renders your network inoperable because it is competing with the first router. Theoretically it is possible to have two routers on one network but the computers on the network would have to be setup to point to either gateway #1 or gateway #2 to function correctly. There are some new routers out now where you have the ability to connect two WAN cables (one cable connection and one adsl for instance) for network redundancy or load sharing. I'm not sure if the cheaper units will double your internet speeds, generally they choose one or the other WAN connections for throughput.

As well, when you are behind a firewall you can enable FILE & PRINTER SHARING. This must be DISABLED if you are not behind a firewall otherwise hackers may gain access to your system quite easily. Inexperienced users that under the ISP's advice connect their networked PC directly to the modem are at high risk since they usually have FILE & PRINTER SHARING enabled.


Copyright 2001-2003  Peter Ferlow