Steve Riley on Security

Formerly of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group.

[OT rant] Are there any home WiFi routers that DON'T SUCK?

[OT rant] Are there any home WiFi routers that DON'T SUCK?

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Warning: rant ahead, and names named.

When I'm not traveling, I like to work from home some days rather than endure the trek from Seattle to Redmond (although it's much better now that our own employee transit service has expanded into my neighborhood -- the existence of which is sad commentary on the availability and reliability of Seattle's public transit companies).

This means, of course, that I need fast and stable network connections. Comcast with their PowerBoost is working very well for me. But I just can't find a decent wireless router at all. My Lenovo T61p (with Intel 4965abgn adapter) just won't stay connected to my D-Link DIR-628 and IT'S DRIVING ME CRAZY! (Yes, I've tried various driver versions, from both Lenovo and Intel.)

My house is in an area with a lot of wireless activity -- sometimes I can see nine or ten SSIDs. I'm running draft N on 2.4GHz (which occupies two non-adjacent channels, currently 1 and 4), and I suspect the problem is collision interference. I could shift the router to 5.2GHz, which I probably would help, but then the rest of the computers in my house won't connect. Why, you ask? Well get this: the DIR-628 is part of D-Link's RangeBooster N family. So I stayed in the family and got two DWA-542 adapters for the desktop computers. Yet they only do 2.4GHz! Silly me, I assumed that being in the same family means full support of the router's capabilities.

I'm very tempted to replace my router again -- and I'm thinking that the best option is to get one with dual radios. That way I can move my T61p to 5.2GHz and replace the desktop adapters, while still having single-channel 802.11b/g on 2.4GHz for the Wii and my PlayStation Portable.

Now my request: tell me about your experience with home routers. What do you really like, and why? What should I buy?

  • That's because DLINK is terrible. Try the new Linksys WRT610N, it has dual radios, gigabit ethernet, and a USB storage port as well. I've had it for a week so far, and I love it!

    BTW, if you have connection issues, try disabling your Intel adapter's power save mode, set the "roaming" to "conservative", and try changing the channel the radio is broadcasting on. I had problems with that, and sometimes you have to hunt a bit to find a decent channel.

  • I'd have to say that I'm a big fan of my TP-Link router... I had a Linksys router for the longest time but decided it was time to go from b to b/g. I found the TP-Link to be fairly cheap and the interface to be quite nice... as well I've had no problems with it. My HP Desktop, Playstation 3, IBM Laptop and ASUS 3e are are all constantly connected without problems.

    TP-Link website:

  • Robert-- I've mucked with every setting on the T61p's NIC except roaming aggressiveness...I'll give that a shot. Power save mode already disabled. I set the reouter to channel 1 because that one seems fairly empty. It automatically selects channel 4 for the second channel, and I think this where the collisions occur.

  • It would be interesting to get a netmon 3.x monitor mode capture during a drop/disassociation...

  • I have a similar level of networks around here and I have no problems. I have an apple time capsule set to N on 5ghz for the two macs and a dell laptop and the ISP provided router - speedtouch 7 - for G for my iPhone, winmo phone and other devices. Works flawlessly.

    I've had most of the consumer router makes over the years. Linksys are usually awful. Same with netgear and dlink. Buffalo are Kent to be ok but I've not tried them.

    That said, if I ever need another one, I'm sticking with apple.  

  • Steve, I was in Redmond recently (the DS Masters course) and used my T61P from the Silver Cloud in Redmond. I found issues with my bluetooth mouse, lots of drop outs and problems until I turned the mouse off and used the touchpad. Give it a go mate, see what happens :)

    Personally at home I use a Billion router BiPac 7300GA with no problems at all.

    Wayne McGlinn

    Brisbane, Oz

    MCT, MCSE etc

  • Steve - have you explored the DD-WRT open source firmware on a home/consumer wi-fi router ?

    It has made a world of difference in stability, management (multiple SSID's with different security profiles), RF/Radio management, etc.

  • Nope, they all suck...unless you go business class. My mother was recently upgraded to Fiber from DSL and they gave her a 16 port WiFi box...have to look up the make and model but it seemed to rock.

  • Safe@Office 500W Wireless UTM

    is my recommendation.

    Thanks for a fantastic blog.

  • I use Cisco's line of SOHO ISRs (the 851/871 series), but they're a little, er, overkill for most situations. :)

  • got the same company laptop as you do ;-)

    I have been using a ASUS WL-300g

    IO only use it as an access point only, not a router (but it can do that) that authenticates with RADIUS to my home active directory, so I get get out with ISA server and THEN... then I have the router, just a simple router provided by the ISP).

    I have been using that for years and years now and it is incredibly stable - I keep the machine on for hours and hours, connected over VPN to corp, and it does not drop a packet.

    All with something I paid 70euros in 2004...

  • My data point isn't necessarily relevant since I don't have the interference issues you do, but I've got a DLink DI-634M (802.11b/g) that stays up for months at a time. I've got an XP laptop and a Vista Media Center PC connected via 802.11g that constantly go in out of Sleep mode and I almost never have to reboot the router.

  • Steve: I realize it's not an N router, but I still love Linksys' WRT54G. Great quality, easy to set up and secure, and it *simply works*

  • Steve: I suspect you have several issus similar to mine. First of all, I use an old 3COM, which has been faithful for me and my family for 3-4 yeras now. And the one before that was also a 3com.

    A few tips:

    - Disable all "boosts" and "nitro" modes. These are in fact non-standards implemented by some vendors, to make their equipment work better. But: In order for this to work properly, all Networking components need to be in compliance.

    - I don't know if you hide your SSID. But not all NICs like this (and hiding SSID is also non-standard, and sometimes scew up your connection)

    - You mention a lot of other Wlans around you. Change the channel. Find a channel with fewer "competitors".

  • Hi Steve

    I use to sell these things so I have quit a lot of bad experiences with D-links. Myself I always used Draytek routers and access points. Last year I was in a cheapskate mood and bought myself a Linksys WAG325N. This was really one of the worst devices I ever owned. Every time I tried to secure my wireless with WPA2 its wireless just disappeared after 2 days or so. You needed to reboot the router but this function was not in the software so I had to go there every time. Really annoying.

    I now bought a Draytek Vigor 2820G this is a dream device. Draytek is one of the fastest as it comes to delivering firmware’s if there are any problems. Highly customizable. The most functions I’ve ever seen in a router/access point. And no reboots for over a year!

    And no I don’t work for Draytek 

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