Help needed on home network

I want to network two computers in my house. Both computers are P4’s running XP. They are approximately 70 feet apart, and a wireless signal would have to go through three walls (two outer walls and one interior wall). Primary purpose of the network is to connect both computers to the cable modem, although we might also want on rare occasions to transmit larger audio or visual files. The network probably would not be used for gaming at this time, although this is a possibility in the future. Eventually, I’d want to expand the network to three or four stations.

I know of four options:

  1. Wireless, either 802.11a or 802.11b.
    Pro: No wiring
    Con: Uncertainty whether network will work reliably over 70 feet distance; no guarantee that dead spots won’t exist.
  2. Homeplug – uses home’s electrical wiring.
    Pro: House is already wired, with lots of electical outlets.
    Con: New technology which is not tested and seems poorly marketed; prior efforts to use electrical wires for network have failed in the marketplace.
  3. HomePNA – uses home’s telephone wiring
    Pro: House already has telephone wiring; more mature technology
    Con: Not many telephone jacks in house.
  4. Wire the house for network cable.
    Pro: More reliable; potentially faster.
    Con: Expensive to wire house; I wouldn’t want to do it myself.

What to do?

Well, I had a guy wire my house and it wasn’t too expensive. I think I spent about $120 for parts and labor. The guy I got crawled under the house, drilled holes in the floors, and put little adapter boxes on the walls.

I am not sure if wireless is suitable, but it is the only other option I would consider. Adding more POTS wiring to setup a data network seems pointless, and I have not heard a lot of good stuff about using electrical wiring.

It’s been years since I looked into any of this, but that’s my .02. Good luck!

The powerline stuff is marginal; I have a friend who had good results with the phoneline networking kit. He gets slightly better than 10baseT throughput, which is decent.

I’d go for the wiring option personally. Nothing beats 100baseT, and it’s cheap. Well, except for the wiring labor.

My father-in-law uses the phone wiring, and he’s happy with it. It gets pretty good speed, like Wumpus said, and is reliable, and cheaper than wireless.

I’ve run wires, myself, but didn’t have nearly the same number of walls to go through. If you’re measure cost vs. effectiveness, that’s probably your best bet, but it’s a lot of work, too.

If you’ve got the cash, though, go wireless. Hands-down the most appealing choice, if you’ve got the dough.

I use wireless from the basement to the second floor. Zero issues. Simple to setup and no problem if I want to move a pc around or add another.


We had wireless but it had some issues so it was expunged. However, 70 feet will not be a problem for any type of wireless network adapter, even indoors, unless you wire it to garage door opener adapters or something. Currently we have wiring, and all I did was buy some pre-molded cat-5 from Fry’s and ran it from the network jacks in the PCs into the walls (via the big holes hiding behind electrical outlets, light switches, etc) through to the cable modem. It isn’t elegant, but it’s clean and inexpensive and easy to change quickly.

I’d like to elaborate on this just a bit.

The Voltman here found that the wireless didn’t work up to spec on certain things, can’t blame him for that. So, instead of calling the company and getting details on a possible refund he mailed it back. Just mailed it back cold. So, approximately a year later we’re still out a few hundred bucks.

Not that i’m bitter, hehe.

Careful with wireless, though. Under real world conditions, you’ll get a fraction of the speed of even moldy old 10baseT or USB. Basically, cable modem speed. Fine for checking email, even for modest file downloads-- but if you’re copying folders full of MP3 files, plan to wait a long while.

The price has come down a lot, but in general I just don’t understand the appeal of wireless other than the “gee whiz!” factor. What am I gonna do, decide to check my email in the bathroom while I’m taking a dump? Send an instant message in the kitchen while making a grilled cheese sandwich?

The whole thing reminds me of people’s fascination with laptops. Never mind if they actually NEED a mobile computer, they’ve decided it’s sexier to have a computer that costs 2x as much and is half as fast as an equivalent desktop. Meanwhile, they end up using it… at their desk, exactly like a desktop PC.

Of course that’s exactly the same set of pointless reasons why most people buy SUVs, too, but I digress. It’s their money, let 'em waste it.

Disturbingly, I’m agreeing with wumpus. Just string 100 megabit cable everywhere.

I’ve just added Homeplug to my house (which already has Phoneline, 802.11b, and (within two rooms) Cat5. I’m pretty happy with it so far; I get better throughput on the new Homeplug stuff than with 10bt, and it was no problem to connect.

CompUSA had the netgear homeplug devices on sale for $80/ea (looks like the sale’s over now, so try pricegrabber or something). I got two, and used them as bridges to connect computers in two rooms. worked like a charm.

I’ve also used the HPNA phoneline stuff (for exactly the same purpose), and it worked fine.

With regards to wireless, it really, really depends. I get horrible range in my home because of the interference from neighbors’ homes (microwaves, 2.4 GHz phones, etc.) You might be better off with 802.11a devices if you have similar interference.

Just my $.02

Interesting. I’m considering wireless for the following reasons:

  1. I’m setting up my office in my spacious soon-to-be-finished basement.
  2. I take care for my kid(s) 2(4) days a week (parentheticals deal with the baby coming in Feb) and planned to go wireless to be able to use the laptop from the backyard, living room, kitchen, whatever. Basically I’ve learned that having a stationary PC station upstairs, in range of the children, isn’t productive, but working on the laptop while they’re playing in the front room or backyard IS productive.

Given those factors, is wireless a sound idea?
(No, I wasn’t planning on copying MP3 folders anyway)

You can have a mix; some wireless routers have at least a couple of wire ports in them, and even if they have only one you can get a hub for $25.

Well, IMHO wireless rocks if you have a laptop.

I have two PCs in my office… My regular PC and a frankenrig made up of old parts that I use as a TV and a PVR. Those two are wired together – no reason not to, since my router has wire connectors in addition to the antenna.

But the wireless is fantastic for use with my laptop. I can sit out on our back porch and write, my wife can browse sites from the living room, I can set up video conferences with the family from the baby’s room to show him off… The freedom is great. The ONLY time I notice the speed’s any different than the wired network is when copying huge files. For cable modem sharing and gaming it’s no different from the wired network.

If I had two or three PCs in fixed locations, I’d go for wired – cost is probably similar in the end to get some jacks put in for CAT5 cable, and might as well get max performance. But if there’s a laptop in the house, wireless rocks.

Wireless if you have a laptop, wired if not. There’s really no reason for wireless if you’ve got no laptop, and wiring, like said before, is cheap for parts and labor. No more than a couple good wireless cards and a hub.

And as a sidenote: I’m curious as to why nobody’s tried to exploit cable jacks as a hub gateway yet. I mean, most new houses have a cable jack in every room, so it’d be sensible. And it’s fast, too. There’s really no reason for someone to not try and develop the technology, but eh.

The point people are missing when they say to just string wires is that not everyone likes to have wires running eveywhere in their house. I personally have 3 computers, my roommate have two or three, and we’re on completely opposite sides of the house. Running wires sucks. :)


Yep, not to mention all those folks living in apartments, where they usually don’t take kindly to you drilling in new jacks in the walls…

I had a wired network until recently, when Microsoft offered to let me beta test their wireless hardware. It’s a big change for the better.

Definitely get a wireless router with three or four wired ports on the back. Right now I have my main PC, Xbox, and PS2 hooked into the wired ports and my second PC and laptop jacked into the wireless.

Powerline networking is probably a viable alternative, but wireless routers are pretty cheap these days anyway, and 802.11b is only going to get more popular. I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see the next generation of consoles have built in wireless networking.

One caveat with 802.11b wireless: if you have 2.4GHz phones, the will interfere with the wireless network. I had my phone base station next to the spot on my desk where I keep my laptop, and my network would cut out when I took calls. I dug out my old 900MHz phone (which worked just as well) and all was fine.

I see 900MHz phones are getting harder to find, but now Best Buy has 5.8GHz phones. Those shouldn’t interfere with WiFi.

EDIT: Lame. Just checked and the 5.8GHz phones transmit from the base station at 5.8, but from the handset at 2.4GHz. So no help there. Stick with 900MHz.