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I have a small home with two clusters of 2-3 devices which use the Internet - one ground floor, south corner, and the other top floor, north corner.

I have a wireless router (Netgear N750) in the ground floor south connected to my cable modem. All devices in the area of the existing router are plugged into it (Cat5 cable). The devices in the top-north corner use wireless to communicate with the down-south router.

Traditional networking solutions have not worked for me:

  1. Running cable drops is not in scope for me, as we have a finished basement and I would have to blind drill horizontally across 50' of flooring and joists.
  2. Tried running cabling through heat vents using a wireless camera mounted to a cable puller and all I did was discover some areas of my home that appeared to be four-dimensional.
  3. Attic not accessible in locations required for cable drops.
  4. Tried powerline devices and performance was much worse than wireless - I know that's a major YMMV situation but the Netgear ones I tried had like 5 Mbps connection rates. I also could not connect from other outlets - I have read if you had electrical work installed and have new lines run it can impact powerline performance. That may be the case in my home.

My questions:

A. I have OK to poor signal strength in top-north and top rate is ~ 150 MBps off what is supposed to be 300N router. Would I get better performance if I installed a wireless router in top-north and connected the top-north devices to it? Down-south performance is fine so it's not the cable modem/internet connection.

B. I believe I'd set top-north router up as a wireless client. I've experimented with Tomato and DD-WRT but don't know how to evaluate. Any tradeoffs I should know about?

C. Any networking changes I should consider if I go with such a topology? (MTU, who does DNS, etc). Currently use router as source for DHCP and DNS lookups. Should I limit which router wireless devices may connect with?

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Since internal pathways are inaccessible, is an external run possible? You can drill out through the wall, use watertight connections up the wall and go into the wall above. I understand that this would probably be less than desirable, both for the outside appearance and the holes in the walls, but it might work for your situation. –  MaQleod Jul 25 '12 at 18:24
    
Thanks - it's an option, but with finished walls, etc. if I went this way I would probably hire a company as allquixotic recommends. –  lonstar Jul 26 '12 at 23:12

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Try to keep the number of routing devices to an absolute minimum. Routers add buffer bloat, only some of which is preventable by using firmware patches. Even enterprise-grade hardware suffers from buffer bloat, because it's been an industry illness for a long time. If you don't know what buffer bloat is, just remember that buffer bloat is bad, and the more devices you add between your computers and the internet, the more of it you have.

Wifi generally sucks. It's difficult to impossible to configure a wireless network that is very reliable. See Why Your Wi-Fi Sucks And How It Can Be Helped

If I were you, I'd go to any length (no pun intended) to try and get your whole setup on wired ethernet. Failing that, you could set up an access point that's hardwired to the router, and place the access point somewhere closer to the upstairs devices than the source router. But make sure you use different channels for the different routers/APs or you'll get congestion. You may already have congestion from neighbors, microwave ovens, government research projects, cordless phones, TLAs, etc. spewing EM on the unlicensed wifi spectrum.

I'd get a professional structured cabling company to come out and install hardwire throughout the house without destroying your walls, if I were you. The frustration you'll suffer over the years for trying to use WiFi far outweighs the upfront cost of a good structured cabling installation. WiFi is a bad solution to a bad problem. Say no to inferior technology.

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+1 for the link posted –  Diego Jul 25 '12 at 20:11
    
Thanks for the writeup, it's definitely something to consider. I'll give it a couple of days for comments and accept this if no one else comments. –  lonstar Jul 26 '12 at 23:10

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