So you have your router setup and its working fine. The next step is to connect your devices to it.
Depending on your device, there are two ways that you can connect to your router.
The simplest way is to use an Ethernet cable – This is a special cable designed for networking and is capable of quite high speed. There are a number of benefits to using a cable, and of course some downsides.
Ethernet Cable Benefits
Simple to connect, just a matter of plugging it into the router then into your device.
An Ethernet port and plug looks like this:
If you have more devices, that connect by an Ethernet cable, than there are ports on your router then you can purchase a switch, that gives you more ports. An example of such a switch is shown below:
Another benefit of an Ethernet cable is security – Because it’s a physical media you would have to have physical access to one end of the cable to access the information passing through it.
Signal strength is also another benefit, yes there may be some deterioration, depending on the length of the cable but nothing like the deterioration possible with Wi-Fi (the strength of a Wi-Fi signal is reduced as it passes through different mediums, such as walls, doors, ceilings or glass).
Ethernet Cable Negatives
There are two main negatives with using a Ethernet cable:
Firstly the device you are connecting too may not be in the same room as a router, so you have to run the cable around the house. This maybe on skirting boards or under carpets. This means that if you decide to move the device to another room, or to a different place in the room means taking the cable up.
Ethernet cables are mainly used in only certain devices, that by nature are not moved around much (if at all). Examples of this are desktop computers, TVs and Set Top Boxes. Yes you can connect a laptop, but this means the laptop ceases to be a mobile device. Phones, tablets and smart speakers don’t connect to an Ethernet cable.
Your other option is to use Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi is the name of a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide wireless high-speed Internet and network connections. In 2020 most routers come with two different bands 2.4GHz and 5GHz. What these bands mean is something outside the scope of this website, indeed whole websites have been created on the subject. If you are interested in learning more then use a search engine, like www.google.com or www.bing.com..
In general, it boils downs to wireless range vs. speed. If you want better range, use 2.4 GHz. If you need higher performance or speed, the 5GHz band should be used. However, and there’s normally a however, not all devices support 5GHz, so check that the device you are trying to connect is compatible before trying to connect it to that band (some can handle both bands).
As with Ethernet cables there are some benefits and negatives – This list isn’t exhaustive but gives the picture.
Benefits of Wi-Fi
With Wi-Fi you can connect to multiple devices at once.
You can access internet anywhere (where the signals are available) and remain connected as you move about the house
An indoor router has an approximate range of 50 metres (but as I mentioned above there are a number of factors that can reduce this). As the distance from the router to the Wi-Fi device increases so the signal strength drops.
You can expand the network with using Wi-Fi Extenders – a device that repeats the wireless signal from your router to expand its coverage.
You can save the cost of cables and can access the internet easily.
Wi-Fi network speed is not powerful as the cable network.
Signal depends on the distance and the interference walls and other objects.
Wi-Fi is also effected by other electrical devices, such as a microwave.
To use Wi-Fi securely you need to have a security key setup, otherwise everybody in range can use your Wi-Fi. The router’s Wi-Fi key is usually on the router, somewhere, and needs to be keyed into each device, you want connected, individually.
Nevertheless Wi-Fi is a great method of connection enabling an internet almost everywhere in the world, and once you have entered a network key into your device, it is remembered. The benefit of this is that as you move from one saved network to another, your device will usually connect automatically, without intervention from yourself. There are some exceptions to this, which are explained in the article below.
A word of caution – Some Wi-Fi networks, for example at coffee shops don’t require a password or have one publicly displayed. Whilst it’s reasonably ok to connect to these networks you should never do any sort of financial transaction on them, like online banking or a card purchase, as it has been known for people to snoop on these networks capturing private information.
This downloadable article explains how to connect to a Wi-Fi network on several popular device types.