Linksys WRT330N Wireless N RouterHome networking has revolutionized the way individual households approach computing. With connected networks and computers, printers the whole home or office can share, and even dedicated storage available over wireless networks, these over the air connections are becoming absolutely vital. But even with these technological advancements, home and wireless networking continue to be plagued with reliability issues. Here are a few facts, tips, and suggestions that will help you shore up your own wireless network.

Lost Connections
This is one of the most common network products. The quickest solution is to try rebooting your modem, network router, and maybe even the PC itself. But take care, because if you have to do this repeatedly, your router and PC settings are the most likely reasons for the loss of connection.

  • DHCP Lease Time
    To start, extend your router’s DHCP lease time. This is the amount of time the router reserves an IP address for a device on your network. The length of time should be at least a week. You can usually do this by using your router’s firmware.
  • Laptop Issues
    If the lost connections are happening to a laptop, you should check the power management setting for the network adapter. Find the Network Adapters area in Device Manager. Select properties, and select the power management tab. You’ll need to disable the link that turns off the adapter when power saving kicks in. This will drain the battery quicker, but it will ensure a more stable connection.
  • Domain-name System (DNS) Service
    DNS services could also be contributing to your networks finicky behavior. DNS servers are the PCs on which your ISP stores the databases that it uses to translate individual URLs into their appropriate IP addresses on the Web. If your browser can’t find webpages or retrieve emails, then you might want to try this solution. Use the DNS servers at OpenDNS.com in place of those at your ISP. Access the WAN (Wide Area Network) settings in your browser’s firmware. Change the IP addresses for DNS to 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.222.220. The best part is OpenDNS is free, and it can defeat identified Phishing sites.
  • Disappearing Printers
    Nowadays, you can easily install a printer that can be accessed by any computer on your network. This is usually done via USB connection. But sometimes your All-in-One comes and goes seemingly at will. Here are some reasons why your printer is going AWOL.

  • Sleeping PCs
    It’s possible that the machine you’ve attached your printer to is going into hibernation and thus disrupting access to the printer from other parts of your network. To fix this simple problem, just attach the printer to a desktop PC (as opposed to a laptop).
  • Connection Setup Issues (Windows XP)
    You’ll need to make sure that the “file and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks” is installed on all of your network adapters. This will make sure that switching between wired and wireless networks doesn’t disable the printer sharing. You do this in Windows XP by opening Control Panel and accessing Network Connections. You’ll need to right-click on the network adapter and select Properties. If you don’t see “File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks in the window that pops up, you’ll have to install it. That’s accomplished by clicking the Install icon. Simple!
  • Print Server
    A better solution to this problem is to set up a print server so that you won’t have to work through a host PC. Some new routers have built-in USB printer ports. You can also use a stand-alone print server that plugs into your router. D-Link DP-301U is a high quality print server that will meet your needs.It is important to know that if you use a multifunction device (such as an All-In-One) for print jobs, then you’ll need a print server that supports scanning as well. There are plenty of products like this from companies like D-Link and other manufacturers.

    Invisible PCs
    When you can’t find a PC that is supposedly on your network, the culprit is that the PC (or its work group) has been named improperly. There are several things you can easily do to make sure these things don’t go wrong.

  • Naming Names
    Avoid using generic names like “Acer” or “Desktop” for your computer’s network name. These are easy to get mixed up and can lead to problems. Also, don’t use spaces when naming the PC. Newer OS versions are ready for it, but older setups might not be able to handle it. Limit the length of names to less than 15 characters long. Make sure that all the PCs in one workgroup share that workgroup name. You can change these workgroup or computer name in XP, click the Start menu and go to the control panel. Go to the system menu and choose the computer name tab. It’s all there.
  • Security: Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe
    Keeping your network secure is a huge step towards maintaining a strong, reliable connection.There’s only one tried-and-true way to keep your network safe: wall it off from the rest of the planet. But for those of us that still value contact with the wide world (and World Wide Web) there are steps that can ensure your network remains as safe as possible.

  • Building Walls
    Start your build towards a secure home network with a hardware firewall. Most routers carry this feature, but some rely on NAT (Network Address Translation) rather than utilizing the superior SPI, or Stateful Packet Inspection, technology. This is a much better type of solution that is designed to ensure that your PC only receives information and data that it specifically requested. As always (and it bears repeating) make sure that you change your router’s default password when you set it up, and periodically as time goes by.
  • Other Preventative Measures
    You can also turn on Automatic Windows Updates as a secondary security measure. You should also invest in antivirus, anti-spyware, and personal firewall software. Whatever you do, don’t rely solely on Window’s Firewall for protection. It can filter incoming data only, while most other third party firewalls are bidirectional, protecting both incoming and outgoing information. It turns out that Windows Vista’s firewall is bidirectional too, but you’ll have to configure it by typing in a command prompt in the appropriate place. Keep things simple by using the same protective utilities (a cheap way to do this is to shop for “Family Packs”)
  • Creating a Second Network
    There are plenty of reasons to create a second router for a secure subnetwork. If you are opening ports on your routers for games, hosting video chats, or if you want to run a home Web Server or Public Wi-Fi Network, then this is the way to go. These activities are risky in that they invite outside influence into your network. To make a long story short, you can plug one router into the original and assign each a different starting IP address. Then you attach the PCs most likely to be engaged in perilous activities to the router that’s directly connected to your broadband modem. Put all the computers you want to protect on the secondary router. Ingoing and Outgoing traffic to the original router won’t reach the secure second network.
  • Still Got Problems?
    You might want to consider switching to Windows Vista if you are still experiencing problems. Microsoft’s Vista operating system has a Network and Sharing center that lets you know which sharing features are currently enabled and makes configuration easy. Vista’s Link Layer Topology Discovery automatically detects local network devices, allowing you to plot their locations on a handy Network Map. Vista’s Firewall is also smart enough to permit sharing within a workgroup. If that doesn’t work, then try a third party firewall application.

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