networking 101

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by jhu2, Jan 15, 2008.

  1. jhu2 macrumors member

    Nov 6, 2007
    Ok so we have 9 computers in the house at the moment, 2 macbooks 3 pc desktops, and 3 pc laptops. We are currently running a 16 mb/sec cable line through a single 4 port router (a dlink dgl-4300) with wireless. the 3 desktops are connected via ethernet, one of the two macbooks uses the last port sometimes but most of the other laptops run wirelessly. Usually at most we have 5-6 computers on at once. 3 desktops and 3 laptops . The router works fine on the second and third floor of the house but its horrible on the first floor + kitchen, and the basement. The router is placed in my room which is on the third floor. would placing the router on the second or maybe even first floor make a difference in the wireless? The router is also a 802.11g router so it kinda can't let the macbooks run wireless on its full potential.

    My question is how do i satisfy my family? they want a better wireless connection and better networking, for the least amount of money. Should i buy an airport extreme, or any of the new draft n routers? I don't know much about wireless networking but i know the basics. I'm willing to rerun ethernet cords across the house to move the placement of the router or wire a new wireless access point to achieve better service. Thanks guys!

    Oh yea, one more thing, whats the difference between cat5, cat5e, cat6, and crossover cabling?
  2. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    I'll start, anyway.

    First, moving the router to the 2nd floor may well help. If you moved it to the 1st floor, you'd probably get a good connection there and on the 2nd floor, but now the 3rd floor would have a poor signal.

    Options for improving wireless coverage would be:

    1) Move the router to the 2nd floor and see if the coverage at that point is good enough.

    2) Buy a new router with big antennas (or one to which you can connect a big 3rd party one), and probably put it on the 2nd floor, as near the center of the house as possible. This should help somewhat. Or, if your router already has removable antenna(s), you could try buying a bigger one and just adding it to yours, though the fact that you're trying to cover such a large area, both horizontally and vertically, makes picking the right one a little tougher.

    3) Get more than one router and tie them together to expand coverage. Apple's base stations and airport express units are supposed to be able to do this pretty easily, and other companies provide similar functionality--read through the manual of yours (it might be ready for this with the addition of a compatible 2nd router) and see what it says.

    Other things to note are that if you're not doing computer-to-computer file transfers, upgrading the network to n wireless won't make any speed difference, since g is still way faster than your internet connection. However, n does theoretically have better range than g, so that might make a difference (particularly if you already have/get n-compatible cards for your other computers).

    As for ethernet cable, that I know for sure: Cat5e is an "improved" version of Cat5, but physically looks identical. It's actually pretty hard to find old-fashioned Cat5 anymore. Functionally, Cat5 will probably have trouble with gigabit signals, but should be ok through 100Mbit, while Cat5e will be fine up through gigabit so long as you have all four pairs wired.

    Cat6 is a newer, beefier standard, although it uses the same four wire pairs as Cat5 and the same connectors--the only physical difference I've seen is that Cat6 is somewhat thicker (though I don't know that that's even a given).

    Cat6 should theoretically be good up through 10Gbit... but since there isn't any consumer-level 10G equipment available, and even if there were 10G is WAY over the transfer rate of most hard drives (even SATA2 is only 3Gbit), so it would be totally useless for the average home user, and will continue to be for a while.

    For reference, real-world transfer rates on gigabit ethernet are in the 50-100MB/s range (I've seen above 50MB/s on my home and office network, but in both cases that's limited by the transfer rate of the hard drive).

    Crossover cables (versus patch cables) are just a different way of matching the pairs in ethernet cables. On older systems, if you wanted to connect two computers directly to each other (without a hub in between), you needed a crossover cable--essentially so the "in" on one computer would match the "out" on the other, and vice versa.

    Any computer made in the last few years, however, should automatically make this adjustment, so crossover cables aren't something to be concerned with unless you're using fairly old hardware.

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