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Top 10 Home Networking Problems and Mistakes to Avoid

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Computer networks bring many good things into the home: more convenient Internet access, sharing of files and printers, additional home entertainment options, and so on. Yet home network technology also poses challenges. Many folks don't know where to start. Things often don't work right the first time. Sometimes, people settle for an inferior setup and never realize the full potential of their home network. The advice below helps you steer clear of these common problems.

1. Can't Decide Which Network Gear You Need

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Networks can be built with different combinations of hardware and software. The sheer number of choices overwhelms most beginners, who too often jump at the first "solution" they find. However, setups that perfectly meet the needs of some families just won't cut it for others. Follow the link above to learn more about your options.

2. Network Won't Reach Certain Areas

In many homes, networks won't conveniently reach all of the areas a person needs. This fact surprises many folks. Stringing network cables to some rooms can prove impractical, of course. But even with wireless networks, "cold spots" where Wi-Fi radio signals won't reach corner bedrooms, a study, or a porch are also common. Be ready to make a few concessions in your network installation plan.

3. Computers Can't See Each Other on the Network

You've finished connecting all your network gear to the best of your ability, but nothing works. None of the devices can "see" each other or "talk" to the printer. No error messages are being displayed. You're developing a sneaking suspicion that your network is laughing at you. Relax. Take a step-by-step approach to this problem, and your network will be up and running soon.

4. Computers Can't Get on the Internet

Even when all of the devices in a home can communicate with each other, they may still fail to reach Web sites on the Internet. This, too, is a common problem when first installing a home network. After a simple check of the key network components, you'll be surfing again in no time.

5. Special Devices Won't Join the Network

Many home networks have a "problem child," one computer or device that simply will not cooperate with the others. The device could be a specialized piece of hardware like a game console. It could be a lone wireless computer trying to join a wired network. Or it could be a computer running an old version of Microsoft Windows or running Linux. Whatever the situation, extra care and feeding may be required to get your problem child to behave.

6. Certain Network Applications Won't Function

While other aspects of a home network may work reliably, this does not guarantee success with the next new feature that comes along. Instant messaging, P2P file sharing, and online games are typical problematic applications on home networks. These apps may fail to connect to a "server" or "peer," or they may sit there like zombies and not do anything. Given time and effort, any such problems can be solved. However, solutions often require specific knowledge of how these applications work.

7. Network is Too Slow

For several reasons, a home network might not run fast enough to keep up with a family's needs. They may experience very slow Web page downloads, sluggish or unplayable network games, interminable delays in online chatting/IM applications, and other symptoms of a bad network performance problem. Know what to watch for to avoid this frustrating situation.

8. Network Connections Drop Unexpectedly

A home network may operate flawlessly for a day, a week or a month, but suddenly, at the most inopportune time, something breaks. You may have been happily listening to an Internet radio station, swapping files on a P2P network, or playing a networked game at home. Then… boom! What happened? There are several possibilities. Don't be surprised if this happens to you.

9. Office Computer Won't Join Home Network

Those who use laptop computers or PDAs at their workplace naturally might want to use those same devices at home. Technical limitations make this form of network mobility more difficult than it should be. Some folks see it as a big hassle, give up, and miss out on a major gain in their personal productivity. By carefully establishing home and work network settings (often called "profiles") on the devices, home/office network mobility can be a reality for you.

10. Network is (Too) Insecure

No, a home network won't become overly self-conscious and suffer from a lack of confidence. Many home networks are insecure, though, in the sense of data privacy. Too many homeowners fail to take a few essential steps to protect their network from attacks by outsiders. Network attacks and "hacks" are real threats; they happen every day and affect real families. Don't let them happen to yours!

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