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Currently we have a D-Link DI-524, which is a wireless router with 4 wired Ethernet ports, and an uplink port. The uplink port is plugged into the cable modem, and 2 of the 4 Ethernet ports have our desktops plugged into them. Sometimes we plug in our laptops, too, for better bandwidth, or other computers for various purposes.

We're renovating our house and putting Ethernet ports in each room. They're all running to a 12-port patch panel in the office, but clearly we're going to need a different router/switch in order to plug them all in.

So the question is this: What should we get? We want to keep the wireless capability, but I'm having trouble finding any 8-port wired switches that also have wireless (and that fit into a home budget). I imagine it should be possible to plug an 8-port switch into 6 of the patch panel ports, use 1 of the remaining switch ports to connect to the cable modem, and the last port to connect the old wireless router in some capacity... and then we can plug the 4 ports on the wireless switch into 4 of the panel ports (leaving 2 panel ports unused, but that's fine for now). I thought I had a grasp on the difference between a switch and a router, but everyone seems to play fast and loose with the terms, so two different people saying "switch" might mean two radically different things.

Anyway, unless someone knows of an affordable 12-wired-port-plus-wireless switch/router, anyone got any advice?

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2 Answers 2

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A router generally assigns IP addresses via DHCP, and does DNS and gateway functions. Routers typically have switches built in (as is the case with your current wireless router). A switch only forwards packets (in simple terms).

Think of it this way: consider no internet connection, a local only network. With two computers plugged into a router, you can just get to the other computer by typing \\othercomputer in your Explorer address bar. With the same two computers plugged into a switch, you're not going to be able to talk because there are no instructions to tell the switch where to send the packets.

Now to the real question:

Your wireless router is probably currently serving as your dhcp server, gateway and dns server. You should keep it that way, and add a switch into the network below the router. Plug the WAN port of the router into the modem, and one of the network ports of the router into your switch. Plug all of your PCs into the switch. You can still use the other 3 ports on the router for networking too, which gives you 10 ports (7 left on the switch and 3 on the router).

enter image description here

For an 8 port, I like these Netgear switches. I use them frequently for small networks at work. Next step up is this 16 port model.

In any case, I would go for a Gigabit switch because pretty much all new computers have Gigabit NICs. If you're transferring movies from your desktop to your media center, you will definitely appreciate the higher throughput.

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I agree with the diagram above. I would keep the wired and wireless separate because when 802.11n goes the way of 802.11b, you don't want to depend on finding an 8/16 port wireless router. Also, this way the wireless router can be placed farther from the patch panel only using two cables. Lastly, if Gb switches go the way of 10B2 you can get the new 10Gb switch without needing to find the wireless part. If you need better wireless coverage, you can always add access points or use some powerline adapters with WiFi ends to get range from the router. –  Scott McClenning Jan 12 '10 at 6:43
    
+1 A separate switch is definitely the answer, and I would recommend the Netgear as well. –  ridogi Jan 12 '10 at 7:14
    
This is more or less what I had in mind; the only question at this point is whether the wireless router we have now (DI-524) can deal with having numerous machines off a single port. I read through the entire manual and didn't see any limitation on how many IPs it's willing to send through that port, but I can't think of any reason why it would particularly care. My wife admin'd a small business network and they had a problem where you couldn't request more than 4 IPs through a single port on a router or it would blow up, but that was ten years ago. –  dirtside Jan 12 '10 at 19:44
    
I don't think you will have that problem. You should be just fine. If you are genuinely concerned about it, you could upgrade to a router running DD-WRT (a custom Linux firmware). I use these Buffalo routers extensively. They've been rock solid for me. newegg.com/Product/…-33-162-134--Product –  jonfhancock Jan 12 '10 at 23:29

I don't see why you can't keep the wireless router and use a switch along with it. You can grab a simple SOHO switch to use with the patch panel. The one linked to has 16 ports and should suffice for future expansion. I don't see why a wireless switch is needed unless there is an extreme distance between the current wireless router and where you plan to use the switch. If that is the case, you could grab an inexpensive Wireless AP to go along with it.

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