What do you do when your home network suddenly dies? If you’re like me, you waste time and money replacing devices that don’t need to be replaced.
But if you’re smart, you’ll read about my misadventures in network troubleshooting — and learn from my mistakes.
Networks fail at the most inopportune times
Just before Christmas, my HomePlug network suddenly died, killing Internet access in the front half of my house and depriving my family of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and other assorted, essential entertainment. The teenagers, needless to say, were restless.
I found a solution, but I also wasted considerable time and bought products I didn’t need. In my rush to fix the problem, I forgot two rules of network troubleshooting: Test all possible cheap-and-easy fixes before going on to the difficult and expensive ones; when you find a networking solution that’s remarkably easy to set up and use (something that’s truly plug-and-play), just wait — it’ll eventually turn on you.
HomePlug: The network inside your power grid
For those unfamiliar with HomePlug: it’s a technology that lets you run your home or small-business network over the local AC electrical system. To make it work, you need at least two HomePlug-certified adapters. Each HomePlug adapter plugs into a standard AC wall socket and has at least one Ethernet port. Some have multiple Ethernet ports and/or built-in Wi-Fi; they might also have an AC socket, so you don’t have to sacrifice an outlet for the network. That’s particularly convenient because these adapters won’t work when plugged into most surge protectors.
Setting up a HomePlug network can be astonishingly easy. Just connect one adapter to the router via an Ethernet cable and plug it into a wall socket. Plug another adapter into a socket in another room, and that room suddenly has a working Ethernet port.
Is it better than Wi-Fi? That depends on your router’s location, the layout of your house, and what the house is made of. Simply put: If your wireless network doesn’t extend into all parts of the house, HomePlug is an extremely easy way to bring your network to underserved areas.