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Total n00b needs advice -- USB modem or router?


Total n00b needs advice -- USB modem or router?


First of all, my apologies if this is covered elsewhere on the forums, and if so could you point me in the right direction please!

OK, my point is related to USB modems and routers. I keep seeing posts saying that USB modems often cause problems. I hope this isn't the case as I'm not even fully up and running on broadband yet, and many other posts claim that a router is the way to go.

As a complete beginner when it comes to broadband and it's related hardware I'm not sure what to do. I recently signed up for 512 ADSL and I intend to connect via my PC which is running on XP Pro (SP1). I assume I will recieve the Binatone ADSL 500 modem very soon, but now I'm wondering what my best option is. Do I go for a router? How much do these cost? I know that PlusNet are not so silly as to supply any of us with troublesome hardware though so maybe I'm appearing more panicky than neccesary, but I don't mind paying for a router later on if it's gonna be the better option at the end of the day.

If someone could give me some very basic advice in laymans terms and outline the differences, advantages, etc I would be very grateful. Once again, sorry if this is covered elsewhere.

Total n00b needs advice -- USB modem or router?

For all sorts of reasons, I'd go for a router every time.
1) a decent router will also provide firewall capabilities - your first line of defence against nasties
2) it's the router that establishes the connection with the ISP, not the PC. So no more dialup on the PC. Just a "local area network" connection
3) a router will provide you with an Ethernet interface which you can expand to service loads of PCs. Some routers already come with 4 ethernet ports already.
4) All your PC needs to know about is Ethernet. It will need an Ethernet adapter (about £10), or possibly your motherboard already has one integrated (mine does). XP is great with a whole host of ethernet adapters and will require minimal setting up.
5) connecting via a router/ethernet takes minimal CPU from your PC.

However, going the USB Modem way:
1) There's no hardware firewall protection between your PC and the Internet
2) You may have to dial in to the ISP when you boot your PC
3) If you want to expand your network, your PC has to become the network host (messy)
4) Your PC will have to have the appropriate USB drivers installed for the USB modem. This sometimes works, sometimes not. XP generally doesn't cause problems here, but the chipset on your PC's motherboard often does. If your CPU is an AMD, then, chances are, your chipset is by a company called "VIA" which often has problems with USB, particular w.r.t. power.
5) Your PC will use more CPU. Not a problem if it's fairly quick and has a good amount of memory.

Router costs? Anywhere from £50 up to £450, depending on the degree of firewall security you want included. The Alcatel Speedtouch routers are well-thought-of, and not too costly (just over £100 from memory) and can give four ethernet ports as standard. Draytek Vigor 2600 is also a good choice, but a bit more expensive. I use a ZyXEL Prestige 652R Security Router (excellent firewall), but a bit more expensive still.

If your PC doesn't already have Ethernet, that'll cost you £10 to £15.

Cat 5 cable, about £8, but you'll get one with the router, probably.

Community Veteran
Posts: 6,111
Thanks: 1
Registered: 05-04-2007

Total n00b needs advice -- USB modem or router?

Firstly, take a look at this page.

I personally always recommend a router, unless cost is an issue, or they have absolutely no knowledge of computers. As I hope you can see from Ccherrington's post and the link I provided above, routers really are the best way to go. You'll have to spend a bit of time setting it up, but once you've done so, they are totally trouble-free.

Community Veteran
Posts: 6,983
Thanks: 8
Registered: 10-04-2007

Total n00b needs advice -- USB modem or router?

ccherington has said it all and I will endorse what he has said.

A router every time. and the cost now for a 4 port router is down to less than the £100 mentioned.
They are now as low as £60. but as stated it depends what you want and the more capable the firewalling the more you will pay.

Having said that the free software firewall from zonealarm is pretty good.
Also your router by virtue of its Network Address Translation (NAT) does isolate you to a large degree from the nasties.

Total n00b needs advice -- USB modem or router?

The thing is if your getting a Binatone free as part of your
package, provided you can get it to work on your PC,
you could use it with a free firewall such as Sygate
or Zone alarm and enjoy your broadband connection.
You could then change to a router when you want to form
a network or when you have done a bit of research on how to set
the thing up and work the firewall rules.
If you dont have any problems with the Binatone
then I think you'd be wasting your money by rushing to
get a router .
PS : Your username suggest's gamer to me ,although
I might be completely wrong, as usual .Lol, If so you'll
probably end up with a router sooner than later, lower
latency etc...
So I would add Netgears new DG834 as another to look
at along with the Alcatel. The mad rush to buy them will
be over after Christmas and Netgear will have sorted
out some decent firmware by then.

Total n00b needs advice -- USB modem or router?

Thank you to all for your informative replies.

I will probably just run with the modem for now, plus I have Sygate installed on this PC, so I'll see how I get along and maybe look into getting a router early next year.

Aleca -- I am a gamer, yes, but not an online gamer yet as I currently only have a 56k connection, but this will no doubt change soon! I've been into videogames since the early 80's though... The name Ninjastyle is a term to describe my scratch style (I'm a scratch DJ and musician), so that's where the name comes from!

I found out today that my ADSL is active and hardware is despatched. WOO HOO!! I can't wait for broadbean!

Thanks again, you've all been very helpful. Happy holidays!