Cutting the Last Cord

I did it. I finally made the switch to an all-wireless network. I gave up a little bit of performance, but I will definitely not miss the yards of network cable snaking around corners, strung along ceiling molding, and tucked under the doors that separate my Geek Den of a bedroom from my cable modem.

You may have reservations about converting your network to an all-wireless setup. I won’t lie to you: Jumping to a wireless solution does impact your total transfer speeds. You have to realistically assess just how much of your wired connection you’re actually using, and whether faster file-transfer speeds are worth the potential inconvenience, cost, and cable management.

For me, the decision was simple. The only benefit I was getting from my wired network was the speed boost between my desktop PC and the devices in my home entertainment center. All the other devices on my network were wireless, and my existing Wireless-N network was more than adequate for streaming a 1080p file from any of them to my home entertainment center.

So how did I get rid of my wires without hampering my network’s capabilities in the slightest?

A variety of products can give an otherwise grounded desktop system access to the airwaves, including wireless USB adapters and wireless PCI Express adapters with multi-antenna support for increased signal quality. But before you start buying every piece of wireless gear you can find, assess your situation to determine the best way to achieve your goals with as little additional gear as possible.

I couldn’t opt for a wireless solution that only works with my desktop PC because I also use a wired network switch to share my Internet connection with multiple devices. I knew I had to keep this flexibility to add even more devices in my room, and since you can’t slap a wireless USB dongle on a network switch, there was but one answer to my wireless wants. I needed a device that could serve as both as switch and a bridge, linking the wired devices in my bedroom to my living room’s Wireless-N signal: a wireless bridge.

The installation and setup process of my new bridge — D-Link’s Wi-Fi Booster — couldn’t have been easier. With Wi-Fi Protected Setup, I authenticated my primary network’s information and set up my network bridge within seconds. The bridge’s built-in, four-port gigabit switch gave me the flexibility to add more devices and also ensured that wired file transfers between these devices would be blazing fast. In my experience with the bridge thus far, I have yet to encounter any issues or slowdowns related to signal quality or interference.

And here’s the kicker: Now that I’ve dropped a wired connection from the four-port router, I’ve freed up a slot to move my wired network storage device from my bedroom to the entertainment center in my living room. I no longer have to run across the apartment to turn on the NAS or stream movies to my Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. And I’ve once again reduced the possibility of a wireless hiccup bottlenecking my streams. Since my Wi-Fi Booster also comes with four gigabit Ethernet ports, a speedy wired setup — should I ever want to go back — is right within arm’s reach.

The decision to cut the cord can be tough. But if you analyze the benefits it brings and really think about the perfect wireless products for your particular situation, I bet you’ll find as much success as I did. Here’s a quick guide to what you should be looking out for in the wireless world:

  • Wi-Fi for your laptop: If your laptop isn’t already equipped to handle Wireless-N networking, just connect up a device like D-Link’s Xtreme N Dual Band USB Adapter (DWA-160) to tap into ultra-fast wireless speeds.
  • Wi-Fi for your desktop: Check out D-Link’s Xtreme N Desktop Adapter (DWA-552). The three-antenna adapter plugs right into a PCI slot on your motherboard to give you a smooth, high-speed wireless networking connection.
  • Wi-Fi for multiple Ethernet-enabled devices: Obviously, a wireless bridge like D-Link’s Wi-Fi Booster, mentioned above, will work just as well for your setup as it has for mine!

Of course, if you’re still on the fence about making the big switch to wireless, there’s still one more option: Powerline Ethernet. You’ll still be able to use wired cables to connect your devices, you just won’t have to string these cables all around your house to establish a home network.

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