Pick the right LAN definition for yourself

Easy Home Network

Typical home network setups

Home computer networks fit the definition of a LAN (local area network). They cover a small area and are generally simple in design.

They come in 3 basic forms:

  • Wired network
  • Wireless network
  • Mixed

A wired network is one in which all the components are connected with network cable. If different devices are spread out, network cable will have to be run from the router to the device. PC Magazine has an article about how to go about running network cable in the neatest and most convenient fashion.

Wired Network

In a wireless network everything is connected without any wires by radio waves. The only exception is the wire from your ISP to your broadband modem and from there to your router.

Wireless Network

A mixed network, as the name implies, is one in which some parts are connected with wires and other parts are connected wirelessly.

Mixed Network

Factors for choosing how to set up your computer network

The following items will help you make your choice:

  • ease of installation - In terms of where you put the computers and network equipment, wireless is easier. You can place devices anywhere you want as long as the radio signals can reach it. You can also move the item around to any place that is in range. Wired setup is more complicated because you have to run wires to whatever you want to connect. If the pieces of your network are on different floors, getting the wiring place can be a job.

    However, setting up the router for a wired connection is simpler than setting up a wireless router. You have to do a number of items in order to secure a wireless router and prevent people from stealing your bandwidth (part of your connection to the internet). Software set up on the computers and devices can also be more complicated

  • security - Security precautions are necessary on any type of network. However, there are extra security issues with a wireless network. A wired network's transmissions are carried on the wires in your house and unless someone has tapped the lines, they can't intercept your signals. Wireless networks broadcast their signals and these signals can be picked up by people outside your home. You need network data encryption to scramble and encode the data so that if someone picks it up they can't do anything with it.

    In most cases, following basic security precautions is enough to prevent others from using your connection, getting on your system or getting access to your data. However, if you are especially concerned, the most secure connection is a wired one.

  • network speed - Speed within your network won't usually be affected much by choosing between wired or wireless. Unless you are constantly copying huge files from one computer to another, current wireless speeds of 54 mbps (megabits per second) is more than enough.

    Internet download speed will also not be affected since the highest download speeds are around 3mbps. A really fast download connection would be 10 mbps. The slowest wireless network speed is 11 mbps which is faster than the generally available fastest internet.

    However, speeds change all the time. In general, wired is much faster than wireless. Current wired systems run at 100 mbps while the fastest wireless is 54 mbps. For most of the world, the wireless speed is more than enough. In the future, speeds will certainly increase but wireless technologies will also improve. If you are a real speed freak then wired is for you and you should start wiring for gigabit speeds right now.

  • price - Wireless technology is more sophisticated than wired and so it needs fancier hardware. This causes it to be more expensive. However, you have to add in the cost for network cable and setting up the cabling for a wired network. The price difference between the 2 systems is generally not large.
  • appearance - Since you can put the wireless parts anywhere and you don't need any wires to connect them, you can set up any way you like and you also don't have the problem of hiding unsightly wiring. Wireless wins in this category.
  • portability - Unless you have network wire all over your property, you don't have many choices in moving wired items.

    Wireless devices can be moved anywhere the wireless signal will reach them.

    An added benefit of wireless laptops is that they can be used anywhere there is an available WiFi network. WiFi basically means a wireless network which follows certain standards. The vast majority of home networks follow these standards.

    Free WiFi is available today at many public places such as airports, public libraries and coffee shops. Since modern laptops are nearly always outfitted with wireless adapters, all you have to do is take your laptop to one of these places and with a few simple steps you can connect to the internet.


The bottom line is that, for most home users, a wireless network is the way to an easy home network. If you really need extra speed or are concerned about security, you can wire part or all of your network.

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