routers

Do I Need to Use the Router and Modem Provided by my ISP?

Netgear

Episode 1638

David from Bethesda, MD

David has a router/modem combo. Is this common? Leo says it's common for an ISP to provide those. But keep in mind that he'd be paying about $10 per month to rent it, and it's likely not as up to date or fully featured as one you can buy. That's why Leo recommends buying a separate router and modem. DOCSIS 3 or 3.1 should work. NetGear is recommended by TheWirecutter. Just make sure the gear is supported by the ISP, and call the ISP and they have to "ping it" and disable the rental gear.

Can I install open source firmware on my router?

DD-WRT

Episode 1633

Karen from Olympia, WA

Karen wants to know if she should flash her firmware on her router to get it to work better. Leo says that in a way, you flash that firmware almost every time you update. But if you're talking about using third-party firmware, they can be very good, but they are limited in the routers they support. Check out DD-WRT.com and look in the router database to see if it's compatible. Most routers don't support it, sadly. What Leo recommends is ASUS routers, because they use their own flavor of DD-WRT. 

How should I install my VPN?

Tiny Hardwire Firewall

Episode 1631

Karen from Olympia, WA

Karen wants to know if putting a VPN on her router would keep her secure. Leo says that it would encrypt stuff in your network, but in order to get your traffic encrypted going out, you need to have the software on your desktop. Leo likes to use the Tiny Hardware Firewall VPN because it's in between your computer and the outside world. It's a great way to go. 

Are Mesh routers secure?

eero Mesh Router

Episode 1631

Paul from Columbus, OH

Paul wants to know more about Mesh Routers and Internet of Things, but is concerned about security. Leo says that if you stick to main brands like Eero and Netgear, they will keep their firmware updated for security purposes. Leo recommends the Eero. But you may have to pay a monthly security subscription, which Leo hates.

How can I measure bandwidth?

Ubiquity Edge Router X

Episode 1631

Travis from Norman, OK

Travis wants to know how he can measure his bandwidth to see if he's getting what he's paying for. Leo says that Windows 10 has a bandwidth monitor built-in, but that will only measure what your machine is using. Modern routers also have bandwidth monitors, but if you've been given a router by your ISP, it likely won't. That's why Leo always recommends buying your own router. He recommends the Ubiquity Edge Router X. And you won't be paying a rental fee on that gear either.

What are the Best Current WiFi Routers?

Eero

Episode 1630

Seth from Long Beach, CA

Seth wants to know what the best consumer-grade WiFi routers are. Leo says it's constantly changing. And now, WiFi 6 (aka 802.11AX) is here. Designed to make IoT devices more efficient, WiFi 6 will certainly change up the game. Leo recommends the new MESH routers. They are more expensive, but they are much better for homes, especially those with spotty WiFi coverage. Leo also says that the older Eero Beacons can be used with Ethernet, so if users have their home wired for Ethernet, they can plug in for even better performance. The other alternative is Powerline networking.

Can I use my own router for my WISP internet service?

Brainstorm Internet

Episode 1625

Tim from Oxford, CO

Tim's internet is terrible because he lives in a rural area. His router managed to give him decent speed, but it went bad. So his wireless ISP gave him another one and it's terrible. Leo says that Brainstorm is a WISP, or wireless internet service provider, and you're most likely required to use their dedicated hardware. But you may be able to use your own router. But Leo suspects the problem is on their end. Routers to look at are TPLINK. Asus. NetGear. Check out  thewirecutter.com for their recommendations.

How far does my WiFi go?

Netgear Orbi

Episode 1623

Jerry from La Habra Heights, California

Jerry wants to get his WiFi signal out to his backyard garage, about 300 feet away. Leo says that WiFi is meant to travel 150 feet or less. You'll probably need a directional wifi transmitter/receiver. Check out radiolabs.com to learn more.

But to your backyard patio, a mesh router would work. Leo recommends the NetGear Orbi, and you can get an outdoor island receiver, and that could possibly get to your garage. 

Can Jerry get his own and save on the rental fee from his ISP? Leo says absolutely. Save the money: it'll pay for itself in a year.

Can I monitor my bandwidth use?

DD-WRT interface

Episode 1617

Dave from Palm Beach, FL

Dave wants to know how to find out how much bandwidth he uses every month. Leo says that if your router supports DD-WRT firmware, you can. But your router may already keep track. So look in your router settings to find out. If not, and your router supports it, you can install DD-WRT firmware. Check out dd-wrt.com. But understand, that flashing the firmware on your router could void the warranty. If you need a new one, get the ASUS router, it uses a flavor of DD-WRT already out of the box.