Routers provide users with a means of extending an Internet connection to more than one computer. Some routers require the user to connect cables to each computer to be networked while others do not. Additionally, some routers can extend these networks over much greater distances than others. However, all routers achieve the end result of splitting the bandwidth provided by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) into separate data streams.
The Two Types of Routers
Routers come in the "wired" variety and the "wireless" variety. Wired routers rely on Ethernet cables to transmit data from a modem to a computer. Wireless routers, on the other hand, contain hardware that converts the signal from the modem into radio waves that can be interpreted by a computer. Before you can determine whether you have to connect a router to a computer, you must know which type of router you're dealing with. The easiest way to determine this is to count the number of Ethernet jacks that the router contains. Wired routers will always contain significantly more jacks than wireless routers.
Configuring a Router
Both types of routers must be connected to the modem that was provided by the ISP. This is done by connecting one end of an Ethernet cable into the modem's Ethernet jack, and the other end into the appropriate jack on the router. This jack is usually colored differently from the rest. Once connected, the router's software is installed to one of the household's computers and the rest of the router configuration proceeds on-screen.
Configuring a Wireless Router
A wireless router typically doesn't provide support for more than one computer to connect directly to it. Computer users who own wireless routers won't have to connect them via Ethernet cable as long as the computer contains a wireless LAN card. If it does, Windows will place a wireless Internet icon in the lower right-hand side of the screen. The user can then connect to the router remotely by clicking this icon and selecting the network name.
Connecting to a Standard Router
To connect to a standard router, you insert a second Ethernet cable into an available Ethernet jack and then connect its other end to the computer's Ethernet jack. This is the only way that a standard router can provide Internet access to a computer. Standard routers typically contain around five Ethernet jacks, and unlike wireless routers, the extent of the network is limited to the length of the cable.
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