Home Network Buying Guide

A wireless home network lets all the computers and devices in your house share one internet connection. This home network buying guide helps simplify the selection process.

Home Networks 101: Building a home network

You don’t have to be a technical guru to set up a network at home. As your family’s collection of laptops, printers, tablets, smart TVs, smart phones and other devices grows, so too does the advantage of connecting them all together. For starters, having one internet connection for all your devices is a lot cheaper and easier to manage. You can also access files on any computer in the house — a handy feature for items like budgets and shopping lists. Understanding the difference between wired and wireless networks is the first step in choosing a home network.

Home Network Components



Most ISPs (internet service providers) will provide a modem with their service. You can also try to increase speed and performance by purchasing your own modem. Check with your ISP first as this may affect your service agreement. Your modem acts as a bridge between your router and your ISP network. It is responsible for sending, receiving, and transforming digital data into signals that are compatible with your network type. Cable modems link to your ISP network through coaxial cables, which are similar to the ones that bring your favorite shows to your TV, while DSL modems connect through a telephone line. 


Your router is what allows multiple devices to simultaneously connect to the Internet. It transforms the signals from your modem into radio waves and routes them to your home’s computers or other Wi-Fi compatible devices. There are many different types of routers available (most offer wired and wireless connectivity), with cost scaling up according to speed and capacity. For example, an individual home user who just wants to web surf won’t need the same kind of router as a heavy-duty gamer, a multimedia enthusiast or a small business. These latter activities would benefit from the latest dual band routers, which operate simultaneously on two frequencies to deliver higher speeds and greater bandwidth. Cloud routers are also now available so you can access your home network remotely through apps on your smartphone or other mobile devices. Another consideration is the size of your home: a multi-floor dwelling will require a more robust router than a small apartment. Some ISPs now build a wireless router into the modem they provide you — check with them before purchasing a modem. Most wireless routers also have Ethernet ports for wired connectivity.  

Wireless Adapter

A wireless adapter allows your computer to communicate via Wi-Fi with your wireless network (or any wireless network if you know the network's security password). Many newer computers have built-in wireless adapters, though stand-alone, high performance adapters with built-in antennas are available to boost their range. For older desktops, one option is to plug a wireless adapter circuit board into one of computer’s internal PCI slots. For older laptops, an external wireless adapter card which plugs into the laptop’s card reader will work. A USB wireless adapter is the easiest solution for both desktops and laptops, as it simply plugs into one the external USB ports. One potential drawback: it lacks an antenna and may struggle to pick up signals if too far away from your router. Power line adapters are also available which connect devices through your home’s electrical wiring to achieve faster data speeds.    

Networking Switch

A networking switch, also referred to as a network bridge, is a device that allows networked hardware such as computers and printers to communicate with each other. It acts as a controller, allowing the transfer of files between computers or letting multiple computers print to the same printer. Switches are ideal for home businesses, or for multi-computer homes that want to share resources without affecting network performance.

Network Extenders

Routers typically achieve coverage of approximately 30 m (100 ft.) in all directions, which may make for a weaker Wi-Fi signal in certain areas of your home. Signals can also be blocked by drywall, concrete and metal. A network extender (also called wireless repeaters) will amplify the signal to help it reach all the devices in your home.

Antennas & Antenna Cables

An antenna can extend the wireless signal of any router, adapter or network switch that has removable external antennas. This will increase the range of wireless connectivity throughout your home. Antenna cables perform a similar function by extending the length of a device’s existing antenna. 

Network Attached Storage

A network-attached storage (NAS) device is a server dedicated only to file sharing. This allows your network server to handle all of the processing of data while the NAS device delivers the actual data to the user. The net result is that your programs and applications will run faster because they’re not competing for the same processor resources. NAS devices are usually configured with a web browser and do not have a keyboard or display.

Ethernet cables

These cables are typically used in wired networks to connect devices such as computers, routers and switches to networks. They are available in Category 5 (CAT5) or Category 6 (CAT6) industry standards, with CAT6 designed for faster gigabit use. Unless your device specifically requires a CAT6 cable, a CAT5 cable can do the job and is easier on the budget. Shorter cables can be used to connect routers to modems, while long cables can be purchased that range up to 7.62 m (25 ft.) or even 15.24 m (50 ft.) to connect hardware devices over a wired network.

Home Network Safety Tips:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set up all home network hardware
  • Place your modem and router in a central location with plenty of ventilation
  • Keep your modem and router away from direct sunlight: the electronic will function less effectively and will wear out quicker
  • Avoid placing your modem and router near other wireless devices
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets or extension cords and power bars
  • Ensure all vents and air holes in your devices are clear and unobstructed
  • Keep food and beverages away from all devices on your network
  • Confirm compatibility before purchasing new components to add to your home network

Internet Service Provider

Before you can build a home network, you need to choose an internet service provider (ISP) and subscribe to an internet plan or package. When deciding on an internet package, remember that increased usage usually means increased cost. So take stock of how many people and devices will be connecting to the internet. Also consider how much online gaming and movie-streaming your family does; these are high bandwidth activities so you’ll need an internet package that can accommodate them. 

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Home Network Security Tips:

  • Always change your router’s default administrator name and password
  • Avoid using passwords that are easily known to the public like your phone number or date of birth 
  • Enable your operating system’s firewall and purchase anti-virus software (download or in-store) for all your computers to better protect your network
  • Enable the encryption setting to give your home network more security
  • Reduce your wireless signal range if you live in an apartment 

Did you know?

Did you know?
Adding a network-attached storage (NAS) device to your home network allows your programs and applications to run faster because they’re not competing for the same processor resources.
Did you know?
A home network can also help protect your home. You can connect internal and external security cameras to your home network and monitor them for your smartphone, laptop or tablet.
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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