Home networking is something we all have to deal with, but it can be confusing as heck. This week, we’re going to turn you into a networking wizard, starting with getting to know the most important device on your network: the router.
Your router is the glue that holds your home network together. It connects all your computers to one another, either through Ethernet cables or a wireless connection. A router is different than a modem: your modem connects you to the internet, while your router connects your computers to one another. When you hook up your router to the modem, however, you’re then able to share that internet connection with all of the computers on your network. Sometimes modems will come with routers built-in, but this isn’t always the case.
Devices that connect to your router—that is, the computers, tablets, smartphones, DVRs, game systems, and so on—are called clients. Each client on the network is given an IP address, which helps your router direct traffic. Clients within the network get a local IP address, while your modem gets a global IP address. Global IP addresses are like street addresses, while local IP addresses are like apartment numbers: one lets you find the building in relation to the rest of the world, while the other lets you find the specific location within the complex. These addresses make sure the right information from the outside world gets to the right computer on your network.
Routers have a number of different features, so we’ll go through some of the most common router specs and how they affect your home network.