Wifi is the most common and obvious solution for getting the internet throughout your entire house. A single router broadcasts a wireless signal that passes through walls, floors, ceilings, and any other obstacles.
Of course, wifi has its own downsides and limitations. An improperly secured network leaves your internet open to nefarious individuals who might violate your privacy. Also, wireless access is not yet as robust as a wired connection for use with online games, where any interruption to the flow of data can spell doom and gloom. Wifi also won't always penetrate thick walls, especially if that wall isn't standard stud-and-drywall construction or there are several walls between your router and the device trying to use its signal.
For those reasons and more, you might prefer an actual cable for providing internet service to your bedrooms, office, and other rooms in your home. You have options besides a simple wifi network for getting the internet into each room.
Run some cable
Your router probably has jacks on the back for a couple of additional ethernet cables. While the cable that came with your computer might only be a few feet long, this type of cable is also available in huge spools. You probably see where this is going — instead of using a wifi connection, you can run the ethernet cable through the walls, floors, and ceilings of your house so that a cable or jack (or two) is available in every room.
Doing this presents a few challenges. First, compared to most houses, the internet is actually relatively young. Home networking just wasn't a home-building concern 10 to 15 years ago, and putting in networking cables and jacks still isn't a universal practice for most home construction. If your home doesn't already include it, setting up internet cable behind walls will take some know-how and elbow grease.
While poking a hole in drywall isn't a terribly difficult task, building and construction codes may regulate where your network cable can be placed; you can't just throw the cable behind some drywall and expect to satisfy code. For example, many jurisdictions require that networking cable must be several inches away from electrical wiring. Running that cable will require drilling holes in your studs so the cable can pass through. You'll also have to avoid any duct work, plumbing, and other obstacles within the walls.
In addition, you'll generally want a wall port (like a power outlet for internet cable) for each room, instead of leaving a cable dangling out into the room. You will also need a hub for all these cables if you're running them to more places than your cable modem has ports, which usually means setting aside a small network nook (or building a LackRack) where your modem and routing equipment can reside. Running network cables throughout your house is pretty straightforward, but it is definitely a serious DIY project and maybe even something you'll want to hire professionals to do.
If the idea of running network cable through your walls fills you with dread, powerline networking might be more up your alley, since your home probably enjoys electricity in each room already. All those outlets mean your house has a huge system of connected cables for moving electricity around. Powerline networking uses that system for internet communication in addition to its current task. A powerline network won't keep you from using those electrical wires for their normal purpose even while you're using them for network traffic as well.
To set up your network, you'll need a set of powerline networking adapters, which cost around $100 and are available at numerous retailers. You essentially put one adapter in a power outlet to receive the signal coming from your router and put another adapter in the room where you'd like to connect to the internet. The task of setting up a powerline network can get a little more complicated when you do multiple rooms, but the basic practice will stay the same.
The internet coming from powerline adapters can feel a little slower than a standard network, but it's very reliable. The biggest drawback of powerline adapters is their bulky size. The adapter needs to be plugged directly into the wall outlet, since plugging into a power strip can slow down the connection speed, and adding a surge protector to the equation might scrub the data signal altogether. In many outlet-starved homes, the powerline adapters' large size could be a significant inconvenience. It's still probably easier than dragging network cables behind drywall and through studs, though.
Powerline networking isn't the only way to avoid putting in new cables or resorting to wifi. You can do something similar with your phone lines and television cables using a method commonly referred to as HomePNA. HomePNA uses your existing phone wires and coaxial cable to stand in for internet cable. Using coax and phone lines is especially handy, since most homes have plenty of cable TV hookups and telephone jacks.
HomePNA isn't much more complicated than powerline networking to setup, though you need to be sure you buy the right adapters. For example, an adapter with ports for your cable television cable's coax connection won't necessarily have a place for a phone jack. As more folks eschew traditional landline phones in favor of cell phones, HomePNA is an attractive way to get a little more life out of all the phone jacks already present in your home.
You have options!
If you're ready to embrace the internet-in-every-room lifestyle, you have options. You could just default to wifi, of course, but that signal might not be strong enough. You can string networking cable throughout the house, make use of some powerline networking, or give your coaxial and telephone lines a new lease on life with HomePNA. Universal internet is definitely here, but getting it into every room doesn't have to be a headache or hassle.
This article originally appeared on Tecca ›
More from Tecca:
- Your guide to residential broadband bandwidth caps
- Just Show Me: How to connect the Kindle Fire to your wifi network
- What is network-attached storage and when do you need it?
- Internet & Networking
- Technology & Electronics