Help my grandparents connect to the internet!
February 15, 2010 7:57 PM   Subscribe

My aunt is asking for recommendations for wireless routers for my grandparents' computers. I don't know much about routers and my aunt knows less. Can you give me some advice/info that I can pass along?

Okay, here is what I know:

My grandparents have Comcast cable/high speed internet. They have a desktop that is currently hooked up to the internet. I'm assuming Comcast set it up for them because there is no one else there that would know what to do. This past Christmas, my grandmother got my grandfather a laptop and now they want both computers to have internet access. My aunt has decided to get a wireless router for them but has no idea what kind. I told her they need one that allows for both wired and wireless, but I'm not sure she really understands what that means. I can't give her a specific recommendation because the one I have is the one Verizon gave me. I also suggested that they call Comcast to see if they have options but I don't think that has happened.

So, my questions are:
1. Does anyone know if Comcast can provide routers that will work for both computers?
2. Does anyone have any recommendations for routers that would work that are not terribly expensive (assuming Comcast is not an option)?
3. Desktop is upstairs and laptop is probably going to be mainly downstairs... Is this going to be a problem and if so, what is the way to fix it?

I'm hoping to arm my aunt with some information before she buys something they don't need or can't use. If there is any other info you need just ask. Thanks, in advance.
posted by Nolechick11 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
1) Last time I talked to Comcast about multiple computers on one network, they told me I needed to pay extra per month for multiple IP addresses. This was years ago, but it may still be the case. Still, I'd ignore them.

2) Just buy a Linksys wireless router--or a Netgear, or whatever. It will have ethernet ports on the back. Setting it up, assuming that they don't live in an apartment or a rowhome, is pretty trivial. You plug the line from the cable modem into the port labeled "Ineternet" or "WLAN" on the router. Then you plug the desktop into the router. Then you have the laptop connect to the "linksys" network. You can obviously change the name of the network and whatnot, but it doesn't sound like any of you are really up for it.

3) Doesn't matter, unless they live in a mansion. A standard Linksys router is capable of throwing a signal at least 60 feet through a house.
posted by Netzapper at 8:10 PM on February 15, 2010

Regarding can matter depending on the construction of the house. Some construction techniques are not conducive for allowing the signal to pass through. If you run into problems, well, write back with another question. :)
posted by mmascolino at 8:20 PM on February 15, 2010

If their house is a Mac house, get a real Apple Airport base station, any model. The Apple software is very slick and good for grandparents.

If it's a PC or mixed house, get a Linksys. The web interface is less nifty, but works well.

In either case they almost certainly will not need N-speed, so a cheaper/older model that only does G-speed will serve well enough.

I'm sure someone here will say the opposite of this, but: I've had no end of trouble with NetGear and other cheap brands, but Linksys/Cisco has always worked well for me. Probably a dozen networks (mine, mine, family, friends, mine again, etc.)
posted by rokusan at 8:23 PM on February 15, 2010

Seconding Rokusan- linksys good, netgear flakey.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:32 PM on February 15, 2010

Regarding point 3, it's a nightmare if there are plaster walls, which often incorporate fine chicken wire-style metal mesh. Otherwise, you should be fine.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 8:33 PM on February 15, 2010

Last time I talked to Comcast about multiple computers on one network, they told me I needed to pay extra per month for multiple IP addresses.

Under the current terms, I believe us Comcast customers are allowed to access the internet on 5 "computing devices" through the cable modem. These devices include desktops, laptops, game consoles, etc.

To answer the OP:

1) Comcast will provide a wireless router, although with a monthly rental fee. Upside is that they will provide support should anything go awry with the router, which might be useful for your grandparents. Comcast won't provide support if your grandparents buy their own router. (Obviously, it will be cheaper for your grandparents to buy a router rather than rent one long-term.)

2) We've had our Linksys WRT54GL without any major problems for 5 years or so.

3) Don't see a problem.

I told her they need one that allows for both wired and wireless, but I'm not sure she really understands what that means.

As far as I know, all wireless routers include wired ports (one for connecting to the cable modem and several to connect to computers), so your aunt shouldn't worry about this point.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:53 PM on February 15, 2010

I can't say for sure about Comcast, but AT&T now provides a modem-router-wireless access point when you sign up with them (it's free-after-rebate). If your grandparents got theirs a while ago, they may have gotten only a modem. If you call Comcast they may be able to provide you with the current standard, though you might have to pay. Or just threaten to switch providers.
posted by alexei at 11:23 PM on February 15, 2010

The move to wireless-n has really changed the the conventional wisdom of which brand is the best for a home router. I've found the Linksys N offerings to be sub-par and in fact returned a wrt400n because it cant handle a simple pptp tunnel. Nor does Linksys seem to care as the last firmware update was the original one from 2008. I looked a little more into this and found that some of these models are designed whole hog by Athereos or other companies and just branded Linksys. I bought a Netgear wrn2000v2 and have been happy with it. It was almost half the price too.

I dont understand the Netgear hate. They've always been on par with Linksys and have some pretty nice SOHO products, especially the ReadyNAS devices. I have found D-Link and Belkin to be without merit though. They're just terrible companies with terrible products.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:45 AM on February 16, 2010

I have to add that I have had a hell of a time with wireless routers and therefore suggest getting the one from Comcast. I hate to recommend this because I'm the kind of person that has an answering machine rather than pay for voice mail but the only time I've had a wireless router work in under an hour was when I bought mine from my ISP. I seriously only had to plug it in and enter the password and it worked. I've been through multiple ISPs and multiple wireless routers and it's always been a headache.
posted by Gor-ella at 7:22 AM on February 16, 2010

There are wireless boxes that do not contain a wired router, these generally are called access points. The WRT54GL mentioned above is a good model to choose, I've had little problems with mine, though I recently installed a WRT320N just to use as a gigabit switch and 802.11n access point.

I've had great luck with Netgear PCI cards and router/switches, but so-so luck with Netgear wireless routers, some have worked great (and continue to work) others died within months. But that was several years ago and may have just been a bad batch.
posted by beowulf573 at 8:25 AM on February 16, 2010

I dont understand the Netgear hate. They've always been on par with Linksys...

I can't speak for others' hate, but mine is all from personal experience. I've returned or replaced five different Netgear routers over the years, but never had a problem with a Linksys product, whether from pre- or post-Cisco days.

Perhaps this is part of the reason: every network I've touched has been either all-Mac or mixed Mac-Windows. Maybe Netgear has better results on Windows-only networks.

Just a theory.
posted by rokusan at 10:11 AM on February 16, 2010

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