If you have subscribed to a high speed cable or DSL service (or other broadband Internet service), you will have received a modem which will allow you to connect a single computer to the service. If you have more than one computer, you will need something more. Your Internet service provider would be happy to sell or rent you an additional high speed line and modem for each of your computers. That would be extremely expensive! A router allows you to connect multiple computers to a single broadband modem - with no additional monthly fee. It is possible to obtain a combined modem and router, however this article assumes you are setting up a separate modem and router, as shown in the illustrations.
A router will also provide you with protection from attacks on your computer via the Internet. That's because a router acts as a hardware-based firewall. This makes a router a valuable addition to your home Internet setup whether you have a single computer or more than one. Routers also work no matter what the operating system on your home networked computers, Linux, Windows, Mac, or any combination. The same principles of setup apply whether you are using a wired router or a wi-fi enabled wireless router.
Installing a high speed router will allow you to connect multiple computers for both Internet surfing and -- if you telecommute -- a VPN connection to your office computer. The first illustration, below, shows a wired router connecting two computers to the high speed modem.
The second illustration shows a wireless router in a similar configuration. The VPN connection is omitted from this illustration even though it can be used in either setup.
Most routers come with a USB or other type of direct connection for your computer so you can get it setup. After the initial setup, you connect to the router through a standard network cable and using an "IP address" you type into your Internet browser - just like a web address or URL.
For information about some basic considerations, see Basics of Setting Up A Home Network. To learn more about setting up a home network and about networking in general, you can read our article Wireless Home Networking, and view an excellent tutorial provided at the Cisco Linksys Resource Center.
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