Wi-Fi routers, home servers, virtual private networks, and more.
Jean wants to know if she should buy her own modem or not. She has DSL. Leo says that since she has DSL, she should just stick with the modem that DSL Extreme provided to her. Generally when Leo talks about replacing the modem to avoid the rental fee, he's talking about cable modems. He wouldn't mess with a DSL modem. As far as the router goes, Leo would recommend Jean get the TP-Link Archer C8, which is less than $80.
Sam lives in a 2 story condo, but with the Wi-Fi enabled cameras he's buying, should he get a new router? Leo says Wi-Fi security cameras are often a challenge because they tend to be in the periphery, but a single router should be able to cover his 1500 square feet. Leo suggests that Sam move his router and modem connection to another spot. He could actually leave the modem where it is, and just connect the router with a longer ethernet cable. Leo also says that Sam's Asus router has added some mesh-like features in a recent firmware update. So he should try updating it.
David has a Netgear router and he wants to upgrade the firmware. Netgear won't do it because his support has expired. Leo says that older routers all need to be updated manually, but he doesn't need a service agreement to update it. He'd just download the firmware and install it. In fact, there should be a utility within the router settings to update the firmware. Most newer models autoupdate. So if staying updated is important, and it is, it would pay to get a new router. It'll be faster too. Mesh routers will be the best option.
Ben runs a Drobo 5N, but after he updated Windows 10 to the 1803 update, he started having trouble with it. He reset Windows, and now the Drobo won't connect. He even tried to use the image backup and it didn't work. Leo says that Microsoft changed the way it handles the network stack in 1803, and it may require extra drivers from Drobo to fix it.
John upgraded his internet but his laptop says it only has 2.4 GHz available. Leo says that means his router is only 2.4 GHz. 802.11N routers are dual band with 2.4 and 5 Ghz bands. And there's even tri-band routers that offer two 5 GHz channels along with a 2.4 GHz channel. His laptop may also just be able to connect to 2.4 Ghz. John should look in his BIOS and software to see if the 5.0 GHz band is turned off.
Doug just bought a new, two story house and he needs a mesh router. What's the best? Leo says that mesh routers have taken over because Wi-Fi congestion causes devices to drop off. It's not uncommon to have over 50 devices connected to Wi-Fi! And that doesn't include neighbors. So Doug will need a better router to handle that traffic. Leo says the three best mesh routers for his money are the Netgear Obi, the Plume, and the Eero.
Bob is looking for software that can test all his network switches to see which is going bad. Leo says that there is an article on Tom's Hardware on how to test network switches. That includes some software to test it. GL Communications makes software ethernet and packet checker called Packet Check.
Matt is building a new house and has run cat 5 ethernet around the house. But should he also use a mesh router? Leo says he uses Eero at home, but here is one mesh system that's great specifically for Matt's situation: Plume. Plume sells tiny little access points that plug into the wall with an ethernet port. It's still part of a larger mesh network, but it creates very localized access from the ethernet.
Heidi is worried about the Russian VPN Filter hack. She bought a Netgear router to replace it. Is she safe? Leo says that some Netgear models aren't protected, but if she installs the latest firmware, she should be OK, and NetGear does update routers automatically.
Neil is worried that the VPN Filter hack will affect his Asus router because his model isn't protected. Should he be worried? Leo says first thing he can do is update his firmware. Asus keeps their firmware up to date regularly and uses open source DD-WRT firmware. So if there isn't one, he can patch it himself. But Asus routers are great because they update them constantly. Neil should reload the most current firmware, even if he has already updated it. That will wipe out any additional problems.