Safeguarding a Broadband
Wireless Router
Article :  Rodney Byne, UK
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Overview
This is not an article about circuits, but has common sense pointers about improving the life of your Broadband Router, enhancing its wi-fi performance and strengthening internet security and privacy.

For instance, what happens about fifteen minutes after switching on this device - yes it gets very hot especially in summer. In a quiet room you can just hear that faint "crack" noise as the plastic case expands.

This is NOT a desirable situation for such a delicate electronic instrument with all those logic IC chips inside. Premature failure could be imminent if left to continue for long periods of use in this unhappy state.

There are two precautionary steps to saving it from long term overheating and possible damage.

Look carefully side on at the outer case, is there any clearance at all between the case bottom and the flat surface it stands on?

If the answer is no or not much, then buy a pack of those black plastic domed anti-scratch feet from Wilko or elsewhere.

Turn the box over, peel four off the sheet and stick one in each bottom corner. This action will raise the case higher to 8mm and allow an improved convected airflow through the case slots. This tip also works on Freeview television decoder boxes as they can get pretty hot as well.

In addition as per the photo, obtain and place a small mains fan near to the router and plug it in. Always keep fingers clear of the blades. If fan noise vibrates through the table, put a thin small piece of bubble-wrap underneath it.

Then put your hand on the router case top and feel how much cooler it is after a short time. Now that's much better.

How was the wi-fi connectivity to a netbook or laptop in another room of the house when the router became hot, did you get frequent signal dropouts? If so, this happened because the router's wi-fi transmitter of 2.4Ghz drifted off tune and the laptop receiver couldn't track it until contact was lost. That problem at least will now have gone. But even so, how is the laptop's signal level indication, does it flicker up and down?

This is because of reflections and signal absorption through the room walls due to the between-plaster insulation and mains wiring etc.

Again as per the photo, make up a sheet of stiff card, wrap kitchen foil around it and place it in a curve shape near the router's tiltable aerial. Aim the curved shape towards the wanted room if on the same floor.

This is a crude aerial reflector and should improve directional coverage somewhat and thus steady your signal strength. It has also been noticed that a netbook or laptop in another room will benefit from having its external power supply connected, because the trailing DC wire acts as an aerial counterpoise, thereby improving signal strength constancy.

BT Home Hub had the same directivity idea with their router. If you notice from the tv and newspaper ads, the router has an upright style and a noticeably curved shape. More than likely it contains a very thin reflector inside the fancy plastic case. Whatever the advertising hype portrayed, they are simply obeying the bog-standard rules of radio transmission at microwave frequencies. That router will also benefit from forced-air cooling by the way.

Router Firewall protection
In any home computer system, the first weak line of defence against intruder code is the router firewall, which must always be switched on.

To check this is enabled, it is necessary to inspect the router operating parameters page.

First, launch your internet browser. For example if this is Firefox, browse to top task bar and Tools/Options/Privacy.

For the router page to be correctly accessed, see if "Accept cookies from sites" and "Accept third-party cookies" are enabled. If they are not, then enable them. If they are, the router page will load correctly.

Clear the top URL address bar and type 192.168.1.1 Press enter.

Your innermost router information will be displayed as the example screenshot above. Look for a Security tab. If Firewall option is visible, ensure it is on.

Now select any bookmark to escape out of the router page.

Internet privacy
This is an optional choice, but if you don't want the statistics-gathering aspect of Google to trace and record your every surfing preferences, then for peace of mind return to Tools/Options/Privacy and turn the above cookies selections off.

Unless the web page I want specifically asks me to turn them on to enable a certain page function, mine are routinely left off.

Following all the above precautionary steps, whatever type or style of router you have, both it and your pc system together are now a much healthier working combination. Happy and safe internet surfing.