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I have instability problems with my home network, and I don't know what to do, because there are too many ways to configure my modem and my router. What's the best way to connect a router to a DSL (phone cable) modem?

For "instability" I mean: network speed is ok (I've taken some online speed tests) but it's impossible to watch youtube videos and takes 30 seconds to show up; there are random disconnections; computers do not see each other on the network 50% of the time, so I have to restart the router and the modem to sync two computers.

Basically I don't grasp basic concepts such as "network segment", "subnet mask", and the various protocols involved. I could read books about networking, but it seems overkill. I don't want to tinker with technical details if what I want to do is basic functionality. Also, I'd like such simple components to work flawlessly, like a car, a bicycle, an oven. They should work without too much technical knowledge, or at least there should be a comprehensive manual for operating them. The included manual, instead, is basically a list of the available options on the web interface, without substantial content.

D-Link tech support is absent: they don't answer to e-mail, their online self-help site is broken (tried either with Firefox and IE), phone support is ridicolously expensive.

The modem is a D-Link DSL 320B (one ethernet output, DHCP), the router a D-Link DIR 600 (4 wired ethernet, Wireless N, DHCP).

I can set PPPoE (with user/password) and DHCP either on modem or router, the router has an "Access Point mode", the modem has a "bridge mode". I don't want to set static IPs because laptops are involved and I don't want to mess with the adapter configuration every time I use the laptop out of my house.

Can you please give some advice or useful links?

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You need to break up these issues into two parts: ADSL side and LAN side. You should try a sanity test of the ADSL connection using the modem (reset to defaults, then config ADSL connection) and just one PC. What connection speed and signal/noise margin are attained? How's the Internet connection? How responsive are web page loads and Youtube videos? Second step would address your LAN issues which are probably a different cause, most likely due to DHCP conflicts. You should have only one DHCP server (use the DIR 600's and disable the DSL 320B's). – sawdust Nov 19 '12 at 22:22
The problem was too wicked, so I returned the router for a new one. After a power loss, the router emphasized greatly the problem of overheating shown by some D-Link entry level routers when they have to manage many connections (say 600-700). The router went crazy as the temperature increased. The new one, which D-Link kindly sent in exchange of the old, overheats a little, but it's not a stove like the old one. The network crawls when I open torrent software, independent of bandwidth usage, but the connection is not lost. – Mario Jan 14 '13 at 10:55

Your network issues might stem from line issues on the DSL side of things. There are a number of pieces of hardware on the service provider side of the modem that could be causing issues. I would recommend you contact your DSL provider before looking at your own network.

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Why are you assuming the issue is with the home network? Do the issues disappear if you remove the router and just connect directly to the modem? Do things get better with a different modem? Most likely, this is more your DSL than anything home network related, unless you have a flaky modem or router.

It also sounds like you actually have a combined modem/router as you mention the modem has DHCP.

Worst case for your home network would be if you had both your modem and your router acting as routers, meaning you've nested one network behind another, but even in that scenario, you shouldn't have the issues you mentioned.

If you were going to spend the time and effort to do this right, you'd have to investigate/monitor both the modem/router and the wireless router, and see which one is causing the connections to drop. In fact, neither might be the issue and it could be your individual clients.

In any case, there's not enough information here for anyone to provide a "right" answer. If I were to guess, I'd think you've got a flaky wireless router (not uncommon with home networking gear). You might try a new wireless router (or just an access point) and see if that helps.

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