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Where should I place my cable modem?

Learn how cable modem placement will affect your wireless network connection, in this expert response with Lisa Phifer.

I wish to place a cable modem in a workshop building next to my house. This is the closest point to the cable service entrance and was recommended by the cable technician. I'll use a wired Ethernet network in the new building but I'd like to have wireless in the main house. My thought was to plug the cable modem's Ethernet into a six-port Ethernet hub or switch, then take one of those ports and run an Ethernet cable into the main house, when I'd put a wireless Ethernet adapter. What's wrong with this approach and how should I do it correctly?

First, a wireless Ethernet adapter like the Actiontec Wireless G Ethernet Adapter or the Belkin Wireless G Gaming Adapter is designed to connect a single Ethernet device to an existing wireless network. For example, if you already had a wireless router in your home and you wanted to add a Tivo or an XBox that had only an Ethernet port to that wireless network.

But that is not what you want to do. You want to accomplish two separate things:

  1. You want to connect multiple devices (wired and wireless) to your cable modem. Modems can only connect one device. To connect multiple devices and let them share your cable Internet service, you need a router. Given your scenario, you should buy a Broadband Router with built-in Ethernet switch ports (for example, the Linksys BEFSR41) which you would place in your workshop, connected to your cable modem's Ethernet.
  2. You want to connect several wireless devices in your home to the workshop network created in step #1. To connect multiple wireless devices, you must install a wireless AP (not a wireless Ethernet adapter). Given your scenario, you should install a wireless AP in your home (for example, the Linksys WAP54G), connected to the Ethernet cable that you plan to run from the workshop switch).
The result would look something like this:

In answering your question, I have assumed that your home is too far away for one wireless broadband router (installed in your workshop) to cover both buildings. I have also assumed that you already have a cable modem from your service provider (not a combined modem and router). Finally, I have assumed you don't mind running that Ethernet cable between the workshop and your home. The recommendations above should get you going by spending about $100 on a broadband router and wireless AP.

This was last published in August 2007

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