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Use an old computer for router

#1 User is offline   inmate 

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 02:31 PM

Several months back I read an article in PCW about converting an old computer for a home network router. In the sidebar was a reference to free software to make it work (M... something). I was interested in that but wasn't ready to implement it at the time so I just made a mental note of it. The telephone company is installing new phone lines in our area and DSL is "coming soon". When that is available I want to set up my three computers on a lan. Remembering the article mentioned, I started giong thru my back issues to check it out. I went thru 2 years of issues, front to back and then back to front with no luck. Failing that I did searches on the PC World web sites in every category I could think of and still haven't found that information. Can anyone direct me to that article or issue date?
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#2 User is offline   bobewart 

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 03:02 PM

I've used two of them, Smoothwall at http://www.smoothwall.org and IPCop at http://www.ipcop.org

Smoothwall was the first one I used. When I started using it just before I got DSL, it gave better performance that a direct Windows modem connection. But Smoothwall didn't upgrade the package for several years. They were working on a commercial version. So I switched to IPCop. IPCop started as a fork to Smoothwall and then added a lot of features which were only in the commercial version of Smoothwall. Smoothwall recently came out with a new version. Haven't looked into that yet.

Both programs come on a CD which you can download and burn yourself and are free. When you install them, they take over the hard file and completely re-format it. Installation is pretty straight forward. Once it is installed and running, you can access it via a web browser for updates and setting features.

They are very good firewall/routers.

ClarkConnect is another one which I haven't looked into very much, but it has more features even yet.

Bob
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#3 User is offline   smax013 

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 05:38 PM

inmate said:

Several months back I read an article in PCW about converting an old computer for a home network router. In the sidebar was a reference to free software to make it work (M... something). I was interested in that but wasn't ready to implement it at the time so I just made a mental note of it. The telephone company is installing new phone lines in our area and DSL is "coming soon". When that is available I want to set up my three computers on a lan. Remembering the article mentioned, I started giong thru my back issues to check it out. I went thru 2 years of issues, front to back and then back to front with no luck. Failing that I did searches on the PC World web sites in every category I could think of and still haven't found that information. Can anyone direct me to that article or issue date?

It is actually not that hard to do. Basically, if you want to do it, it will take a computer with two network cards (either two ethernet cards or one ethernet card and a WiFi card if all your other computers have WiFi). You will also want to run a firewall on the computer. Then basically, ethernet cable from the DSL router goes to one ethernet card and the other ethernet card would feed a network switch (about $20 to $30, but needed IF you want to use more than two computers) that then would feed the other computers. You then would use Windoze built-in Internet Connection Sharing (which is basically a NAT router function built into Windoze) to share the computer's Internet connection with the other computers. If you had WiFi card rather than a second ethernet card, then you could share the Internet connection to the other computers using the WiFi network. The only other option would be if the DSL (or cable) modem could connect by USB. Then you connect the modem to the main computer by USB and then use the single ethernet card to connect to the network switch.



The moral is that you will likely need a second network card in the computer that you setup to share the connection. If you don't have one lying around (which is not too likely unless you are a computer geek and have old spare computer parts lying around), then that will be $10 to $30 to get one. If you want to hook up more than one additional computer, then you will need a network switch...add another $20 to $30. So, you will be spending about $50 or so PLUS what ever you need to spend to get the needed network cables.



OTOH, you could just go out an buy a broadband router with a built-in network switch and built-in WiFi access point. You can get 802.11g routers for about $50 or so. The cable will largely be the same either way.



My point is that it is likely going to be MUCH easier and roughly the same cost to just get a router.
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#4 User is offline   inmate 

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 01:27 PM

Thanks Bob for the sources. I'll check them out for sure.
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#5 User is offline   inmate 

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 02:19 PM

Thanks for the info. Sure I could buy hardware and connect all the cables but where's all the fun?

About three years ago the company I work for upgraded to newer computers. I was a store manager so when they came in to change out mine, I inquired about what was being done with the old units and if I could keep mine for personal use. Of course they had to go back to the head office but the tech said he would ask his boss for me. A couple of days later I got a call from the IT dept. and ended up with 10 complete computers, all fairly new. I consolidated those for multiple hard drives, NIC cards, maximized the memory and kept what was left for spare parts.

So that is why I am wanting to experiment with a hardware router or a network server,etc.

BTW; I have retired since then so I have plenty of time to tinker.

Thanks again,
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#6 User is offline   smax013 

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 08:09 PM

inmate said:

Thanks for the info. Sure I could buy hardware and connect all the cables but where's all the fun?

About three years ago the company I work for upgraded to newer computers. I was a store manager so when they came in to change out mine, I inquired about what was being done with the old units and if I could keep mine for personal use. Of course they had to go back to the head office but the tech said he would ask his boss for me. A couple of days later I got a call from the IT dept. and ended up with 10 complete computers, all fairly new. I consolidated those for multiple hard drives, NIC cards, maximized the memory and kept what was left for spare parts.


So that is why I am wanting to experiment with a hardware router or a network server,etc.


BTW; I have retired since then so I have plenty of time to tinker.


Thanks again,





Well...in that case, since you appear to have some extra NIC cards laying around, we can classify you in the "geek" category and seriously look to using a computer as a router! :-)



As I said, it should just be a matter of installing a second NIC card in one computer. You will then still need to purchase a network switch if you want to hook up more than one additional computer. You can get a 4 or 5 port switch for about $20 to $30. Here are some examples from NewEgg. Once you install the second NIC card, you then have the incoming ethernet line from the broadband modem (either cable or DSL) come into one ethernet port and then connect an ethernet cable from the second NIC card to a port on the network switch. You then need to turn on Internet Connection Sharing (the link is for XP...I forget at the moment which OS you are using). At this point, your computer should basically acting like a router.



The only addition thing to do is to install a software firewall. The computers that will be "behind" the router computer will be protected to some degree, but the router computer will be WIDE open to the Internet unless you install a software firewall. This will mean that your other computers are at risk too...at least indirectly. I personally like ZoneAlarm (free) but there are other good free software firewalls. I would NOT suggest using the one built into Windoze.
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