Router Vs. Switch

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by camilletom, May 31, 2010.

  1. camilletom macrumors member

    camilletom

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2007
    #1
    Hello everyone.
    I currently have one mac in my home and I would like to purchase another one that will be approximately 50 feet away from the 1st one.
    Since I do not wish to have wifi in my apartment (for health reasons), I thought of buying a long ethernet cable.
    Now, the question I am asking myself, is if I should purchase a router or a switch.
    I have no idea what the difference is between the two. What I do know is that I would like to have the fastest possible internet speed for both computers.
    So if someone knows what would be the best option for me, I would be more than happy to follow your advice...

    Thank you so much.
    Best,
    Camille.
     
  2. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location:
    USA
    #2
    Health concerns? Are you kidding? You live in an environment with many sources of electromagnetic radiation including but not limited to 60 Hz power line radiation, microwave ovens, cordless phones, Wi-Fi from your neighbors, and many, many more. Your computer itself emits a significant fraction of the EM radiation in your computing environment. And if you are really serious, then don't go out into the Sun, for God's sake.

    Now to the issue of routers and switches. Routers distribute network connections among various devices--giving each its own IP-address. Everything on the Wide Area Network (WAN) side of the router sees only the IP-address of the router. On the Local Area Network (LAN) side of the router, more than 200 devices may communicate with each other and with the outside world through the router. A router is required if you want multiple devices to communicate with the outside world simultaneously.

    Switches multiply the number of LAN connections. If you connect the WAN side of a switch to a router, then each device on the LAN side of the switch can have its own IP-address. If you have only a switch connected to your broadband modem, then you will be able to connect to the Internet with only one device at a time. Furthermore, you may also have to reset the modem whenever you want to use a different device.

    If you got the impression that I was making fun of your fear of EM radiation in my comments above, then you may rest assured that I was indeed making fun of you. You betray how little you know and understand about your environment. That said, not all routers are wireless. You may even disable the Wi-Fi signal from a wireless router. You may also setup your computer as a router. Without a router of some sort, your Internet experience using multiple devices will be severely crippled.
     
  3. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #3
    OK. MisterMe gave a nice description of what the differences are, and hopefully will help you decide between the two. :)

    Now as per wireless vs. Ethernet (wire), is the system to be purchased capable of WiFi, or would it need an adapter?

    If that system is only equiped with an Ethernet port, it would be cheaper to get a cable and run that (works with whichever product you choose to the switch/router). A 50' CAT5e cable is only $5.47USD on eBay BTW (free shipping).

    Personally, I don't care much for wireless (I disable the wireless feature in my router), and opt for Ethernet. Better security and fewer problems that way.
     
  4. camilletom thread starter macrumors member

    camilletom

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2007
    #4
    @MisterMe: thank you very much for your help and sarcastic jokes:D. Much appreciated. I think I'll buy the router then... By the way, II do not wish to have a wifi connection not only for health issues, but also because the connection will be slower and less secure.

    @Nanofrog: I have the new 21.5 iMac, so its capable of wifi and ethernet, and I am choosing the ethernet. Should I buy a wifi router and disable this feature, or just a router only capable of ethernet?
    THank you!
     
  5. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #5
    The wireless versions are widely available, and inexpensive. So I went with one, and disabled the wireless feature. Easy enough to do, and if you should ever get/use a laptop in the apt./house,... in the future, you can opt to not use a cable for convenience.

    At least the option is there, and it's not going to add to the cost. Ethernet only is still possible, but the price difference when I looked last (consumer units) wasn't enough to make a difference to me (and I was in a hurry, as my existing unit is a replacement for a defective unit used prior).

    Up to you. ;)

    BTW, you might want to disable the wireless adapter in the iMac as well, unless that's needed for other things.
     
  6. camilletom thread starter macrumors member

    camilletom

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2007
    #6
    Thank you nanofrog!
    I think I will buy a wifi router then :).

    And when u say to turn the wifi off on my mac, u mean to do so in the network settings in system preference? And why should I do that?
     
  7. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #7
    Yes. You don't have to, but it's a tad safer, as a computer an be used as a router as well (software router utilities exist).
     
  8. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
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    USA
    #8
    Not necessarily. You can use MAC address filtering, which will limit access only to specific devices on your network. Most router administrators don't bother to filter MAC addresses for wired connections.
     
  9. steviem macrumors 68020

    steviem

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    May 26, 2006
    Location:
    New York, Baby!
    #9
    It'll be putting out the radiation that you're trying to avoid by not using wireless because it'll be searching for available networks.
     
  10. belvdr macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    #10
    If you're speaking of MAC filtering on wireless networks, that is useless. MAC addresses are not encrypted on wireless so it only takes a couple seconds of scans to determine valid MAC addresses.
     
  11. anim8or macrumors 65816

    anim8or

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    Aug 16, 2006
    Location:
    Scotland, UK
    #11
    In regards to MisterMe's post releating to modem to switch connections only allowing 1 WAN connection at a time...

    I think it needs to be pointed out that most broadband modems these days are in fact modem/routers therefor connecting the modem/router to a switch would allow all devices connected to the switch to share the WAN connection.

    This point needs to be clear so that the decision on what hardware to buy is made with all options available.

    I would recommend buying a Gigabit Modem/Router in the OP's situation.
     
  12. belvdr macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2005
    #12
    Also keep in mind that many ISPs now limit how many IPv4 addresses you can use on your line. Getting a gigabit (if you even need that speed between the two systems) router would be better, so that you are not limited to the number of machines on your LAN as well as being more secure.
     
  13. camilletom thread starter macrumors member

    camilletom

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2007
    #13
    Thank you all for your answers, I appreciate it!

    @anim8or: My ISP is Time Warner Cable, so how can I know if the modem they gave me will let
    me have several computers be connected to the net with a switch?
    BTW, if a switch is not much cheaper than a router, then I think we could agree it doesn’t actually matter to find out. Do u know if it’s generally cheaper?

    @belvdr: Me and my family would have at most 3 macs in our apartment, so should I worry about how many IPv4s addresses I can use on my line and buy a gigabit router, or it doesn’t matter?

    Thank you so much!
     
  14. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2002
    Location:
    USA
    #14
    A switch is cheaper than a router. However, a router has substantially more functionality than a switch. The small price premium that you will pay for a router over a switch is well worth it.

    Three Macs? With a router, the number of devices--computers, iPhones, iPads, Blu-ray players, Internet-ready TV sets, security cameras, video game consoles--is effectively unlimited.
     
  15. brentsg macrumors 68040

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    Oct 15, 2008
    #15
    I've yet to use an ISP that allowed me more than one IP address so you need to just get a router. It's very unlikely that TW is going to keep handing you IPs.
     
  16. steve2112 macrumors 68040

    steve2112

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    Feb 20, 2009
    Location:
    East of Lyra, Northwest of Pegasus
    #16
    Check your network settings on your local machine connected to the modem. If you have a network address in a range like 192.168.x.x or 10.x.x.x then it is creating a private, internal network. In that case, it doesn't really matter, since you can have as many devices as you want, and still only have one public IP address.

    Don't worry too much about the difference between a switch and router, as most Wi-Fi routers have 4 or so switch ports built in these days. If you need more than 4 machines hooked up, then you may need a switch with more capacity connected to the router. For example, I have an 8 port switch connected to my router, which is then connected to my cable modem.

    Theoretically, your ISP could see what you have hanging off the modem/router they provided and block you, but most won't. I still like to run my own stuff behind the modem, though.
     
  17. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #17
    It has to do with the lack of adequate infrastructure to demand a signal/line per system, so they allow a single point to be distributed within a dwelling. Even if they had the infrastructure, there'd be a massive backlash IMO from their customers, causing a significant loss in income (infrastructure could conceivably end up operating at a loss in certain markets). And they are aware of this potential issue.
     
  18. steve2112 macrumors 68040

    steve2112

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    East of Lyra, Northwest of Pegasus
    #18
    I'm a network admin, so I know all about running out of IPv4 addresses. What I was talking about is if you look at the user agreements from some ISPs, they will say something like you can only have 1 computer on their service. AT&T DSL, for example, used to have a extra paid "service" that allowed you to network your home. They would say only one computer per service, but you could get around that by connecting a router to the ISP modem. That way, the ISP only sees one MAC address and is happy. What I was saying is that if your ISP has a policy like that, you might do well to connect your own router to their equipment so that they only see one device. You can then connect your computers to your router.

    Most cable providers only allow one MAC address to connect to their service, which is why you need to hang your stuff behind their router. Basically, though, if their equipment is a combo cable modem/router, I don't see a problem sticking with it for most people.
     
  19. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #19
    I definitely recall this in detail, as I've worked for AT&T as an engineer (mostly contract design and analysis work). But as I said, they didn't actually have (nor do they at this time), have the infrastructure to attempt to force users to have one line per system. 2x lines is the max possible (physical cable dropped to most homes, not businesses, which if in the right location, have access to other signals, such as Tx, Sonet,...), and in some areas, they can't even provide that (AT&T has 3x zones, A, B, and C, C being the lowest priority). For C zones, most are maxed out @ 1 DSL signal per address.

    And it's from the additional fee you mention that they're well aware of consumer backlash. ;)

    A router not only solves the issue for consumers (save bandwidth limitations), but it saves the necessitation of upgrading the infrastructure to meet a billing policy (expensive, and why they like to coincide it with government projects; 1. they can get the gov. <fed, state, and on occasion, local> to help fund the upgrades due to forced moving of physical cables, but 2. it's also far easier in terms of permits).

    Ultimately, they had to compromise on their greed (more $$$ per physical location in cases of multiple systems within it). ;)

    Given the physical capabilities of the infrastructure, they're willing to allow for a router and not complain for consumers. For businesses however, it can be a bit of a different story, depending on both size, and available services (DSL, Tx, Sonet).

    I've not worked with Cable providers directly, but wouldn't be surprised at all that they're in the same situation as the DSL providers in terms of infrastructure issues. And again, greed has resulted in the single MAC address per line, but will allow a router to be used without issue (i.e. I am familiar with Comcast providing modem + router devices at the location). For other cable based providers, I can't be absolutely certain, but wouldn't be surprised if they did the same (would make sense anyway).
     
  20. camilletom thread starter macrumors member

    camilletom

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2007
    #20
    Thank you very much everybody. I appreciate your help!
    Peace.
     
  21. spaceballl macrumors 68030

    spaceballl

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    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    #21
    If you live in a normal apartment, you are most likely going to be showered with your neighbors' wifi and cell signals so I wouldn't worry too much about adding one more router into the mix....
     

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