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Here in the UK, everytime you sign up to an ISP they will provide you with a router to connect at home. These are usually cheap netgear home routers (the one I'm using is a DGN-1000SP) with a basic GUI firmware. With 3 people in the flat, we usually have around 6 devices (3 PC's and 3 mobile devices) but sometimes up to 10 as more devices/guests come into play.

However, I've noticed that the network slows down massively when the number of devices get to 8 or so. Logging into my router's GUI I notice that the list of attached devices keep changing; sometimes there are as little as 3 devices connected and sometimes all 6 are shown.

Is this because the router cannot handle all the simultaneous requests (hardware fault) or because the internet connection is too slow? The connection is ADSL with 5Mbps down and 1Mbps up.

What are some ways I could fix this? Will establishing another access point with my spare router, wired to the original access point but broadcasting a different wireless channel and throwing traffic to this router help if the problem is to do with hardware?

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First question - how many wired versus wireless are actually in use? For example, if you have a wired computer and a wireless phone, but are playing a game on the computer, the phone probably isn't an issue. Second - are you pulling data locally (playing a local LAN game) versus an internet based service? – Blackbeagle Oct 8 '13 at 1:19
@Blackbeagle we're all using wireless connections to the router and I am the one playing games (don't know what my flatmates are doing). Come to think of it, are there any programs which help me monitor usage of the connection? – Evil Washing Machine Oct 8 '13 at 3:19
What I'm trying to get at is to see if it is an internal bottleneck (inside the flat) or if it is external to the router. What you are doing can lead you to what is consuming the bandwidth. For example, if someone is streaming video that can cause bandwidth issues. Same thing if someone is infected, acting as a server of some sort... You need to get some idea of what everyone is doing when the slowdown hits. – Blackbeagle Oct 8 '13 at 11:42
@Blackbeagle are there any programs which help me monitor usage of the connection? – Evil Washing Machine Oct 8 '13 at 18:32
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's not the number of devices, it's the volume of data (cumulatively) and the threads from the programs in use. i.e. with a 5Mb connection, you can't all be watching video at the same time. But the router is able to process far more data than your relatively-slow DSL connection, and so your situation will not be helped by setting up another access point. What you'll have to do is accept that unless you get a faster connection, you may have to trade off who does those data-intensive things like watching TV online, at any given time.

After all, keep in mind that even that paltry router is designed to handle wired data at 20 times the speed of your current internet connection.

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I came across this question: One of the answers seem to be implying that having multiple wireless devices connected to it will degrade performance and to "use as many cat5 as possible". We currently are using ONLY wireless. Does this have any bearing on my network? There are sometimes close to 10 devices sharing the same router. – Evil Washing Machine Oct 17 '13 at 21:27
That's sort of a yes-and-no. Wireless is slower and sometimes subject to interference, and you're cramming more systems into that range (thus more data). Essentially your thruput and capacity for wired connections will be much better, since your router itself is nowhere near capacity and the wired connections will be faster. – Debra Oct 17 '13 at 21:46
So if it's an issue with all the wireless devices, then what can I do to solve the problem? – Evil Washing Machine Oct 17 '13 at 23:01
It's an issue of how much you're trying to push through limited bandwidth on either side of the router. You can do better in some circumstances if some systems are wired, but from what you described, you're still going to need a faster internet connection as well. That's why it's a "yes and no" -- just depends where you want the bottleneck to be. So maybe get some long ethernet cables for use with some of the devices ... and when the internet connection is saturated, bump up to faster service (if available). Just remember, it's not the -number- of devices, as such. – Debra Oct 17 '13 at 23:05

Many older/cheaper routers also have issues maintaining state for more than a certain number of connections for the purposes of NATing. This will come to a head if you run BitTorrent on one or a few devices.

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