Update November 2020 – still current
When WiFi works it tends to work quite well but it can have security issues and reliability problems and poor performance. The latest WiFi kit has resolved most of the problems but WiFi is a radio signal and will always be subject to “interference”.
If you are away from home and need to connect to the Internet, your choices are limited. Most “pubs” and hotels now offer free WiFi but if there are a few others using the free WiFi, you will struggle with performance. You could also use the mobile phone Data networks and use 3G/4G instead of WiFi, if you can get a good signal!
If you are doing something that needs a secure connection (Internet banking etc), a VPN connection would help; with both WiFi and mobile.
However, when you are home you can dispense with WiFi altogether on any “static” Desktops 🖥 and use something called “Homeplug“. You will need a minimum of 2 adapters and these plug in to your mains electrical wall socket. You have one adapter near your Internet (Gateway) router, which becomes the main / master / static and another (roving) adapter in whichever room you want to use another PC. You can have more than one (roving / slave) adapters.
Homeplug can be used to extend WiFi coverage – see bottom of page.
The adapter near the router, you connect a Ethernet cable between the router and the Homeplug adapter and the other “roving /slave” adapter has an Ethernet cable between it and the desktop PC. Data is then transmitted between the 2 adapters over the mains wiring – cool.
Don’t worry it’s very safe and from a data point of view it’s very secure so no worries about Internet banking and no need for a VPN.
Setup is easy, the adapters only provide a “vehicle” for your data signals. Instead of using Ethernet cables or radio (WiFi) signals, the adapters use your mains wiring to squirt your data signals between them. I often wonder how it works but work it does.
This system is also called “Ethernet over mains” and most often you can have up to 15 of these devices on your “network” but most people would manage quite well with just the 2 or 3 adapters. Once the adapters have been setup you can unplug the “roving” one and put it in a different room without having to set it up again.
In my experience, the “Homeplug” system tends to be more reliable and more secure than WiFi and it is certainly a lot lower cost than installing Ethernet cables all round the house. In most cases its fit n forget!
There are quite a lot of choices with Homeplug devices and they range from sensible prices to OMG how much! Most of the PC Parts suppliers will have something to fit your pocket or you could check out Solwise and find out what Homeplug is all about. Solwise products work very well.
The main downside to the “homeplug” method (and Ethernet) is the lack of freedom to to “roam”. With WiFi, you can just carry your device around and if it remains connected to the WAP (Wireless Access Point / router) you’re free to roam 🙂
The “Homeplug” system can be used to “extend” your WiFi coverage! Lets face it, WiFi gives you freedom to roam, without being tethered to a cable of finite length 🙂 Ethernet rocks when it come to reliability and security but WiFi gives you freedom! If you have a tablet / iPad, you can only use WiFi or “mobile data”. If you have a laptop, you won’t really want to use Ethernet and be “tethered” by a cable.
If you have “WiFi black spots” in your home or maybe you want to use WiFi with several devices at the bottom of your garden, homeplug can help!
The homeplug setup is the same. A master (adapter) near the Internet (gateway) Router and a “slave” wherever you want. In the case of the garden (where you have a garden building (shed etc) that has an electrical supply,) you connect the “slave” adapter to a wall socket / outlet (in the shed) and then connect a extra WAP (Wireless Access Point) to it using an Ethernet cable. The extra WAP would give you WiFi access for several devices, at the bottom of the garden.
Having a 2nd WAP for access to your LAN (and ultimately to the Internet) can have some security issues. If you have “File & Printer sharing” enabled, any device can (in theory) access any other device on your LAN. With this in mind, you need to consider carefully who you are going to give the “network password” to for your second WAP. See “Lets Network“. If you want your guests to be able to access the Internet (from the bottom of your garden) but NOT your devices on your LAN, the “position” of the 2nd WAP is critical.
You need to decide what you want to achieve. e.g. an extension of your “Guest LAN” or an extension of your LAN. Generally, a guest LAN basically allows a direct connection to the Internet and doesn’t allow access to your “home” LAN.
If your current (ISP provided) WAP range doesn’t extend to the bottom of the garden and all you need to do is to be able to access the Internet, then all you need is a pair of “homeplug adaptors”, this will basically give you a “network point” at the bottom of the garden.
IMO, “Homeplug” is a much better solution to using “WiFi range extenders” because there is no loss of “connection speed”. It does have the minor disadvantage of having to connect to a different WAP with a different SSID but you still get Internet access ultimately via your Internet router.
All told, “Homeplug” is an option to get to know! It is a problem solver!