Different Methods of Connecting Multiple Computers to One Internet Connection

One of my most popular posts is titled Connecting Multiple Computers to Broadband which explains how to connect a router to your modem to allow many computers to connect to your Internet connection. The post explained the simplest method of connection multiple computers, but there are other ways to connect multiple computers.

I will explain several other methods that you can use to connect computers to one Internet connection.

Number of Computers to Connect to a Router

I have noticed that one of the most frequent questions that I get about connecting multiple computers is “how many computers can I connect to my router”? The answer to this question is the same as most other tech answers: “it depends.”

Each router only has so many ports that you can connect a computer into, and each connected computer requires the use of some of the router’s memory. That’s right, a router has internal memory. From what I have read, the new versions of the Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G router actually has less memory than the older versions. This may impact the number of computers that can be connected.

For most people, you probably won’t have any issues, especially if you have less than five computers. As you add more computers, however, you may have issues with your router. I can’t tell you the total number of computers, as I don’t know.

How can you get around this? By implementing other hardware on your network.

More Routers

The first thing you can try is connecting a second router to your first router. Your second router will now manage the IP address of any new computers connected to it. Its IP address will now come from the first router. It is more difficult, however, to connect two routers together because of a DHCP conflict, but it can be done.

When I connected two routers together, I enabled the DHCP service on the first router, and disconnected it on the second router. All computers that were connected to the second router had to be manually setup with the DNS and IP addresses. Enabling DHCP on the second router dropped the Internet connection to all computers connected to it.

If you really wanted to, you can keep connecting routers to other routers to create many different network LANS, but managing them could be complex.

Adding Switches

With my network at home, I am lucky that my Internet Service Provider (ISP) assigns me up to three IP addresses. Why is this good? Here’s why.

My router isn’t directly connected into my cable modem, but is instead connected to a network switch. A network switch is similar to a router in that it directs traffic to the address that requested it, but it doesn’t assign IP addresses. Now when a computer requests some information, the request is sent through the router, then the switch, and the modem and then out to the Internet.

I also have connected a second router to the switch. Since my ISP assigns me three IP addresses, each router will receive one of the IP addresses. This essentially creates two separate networks in my home, one from each router. My wireless connections connect to one router, while my desktops are hard-wired into the second. This separates my wireless and wired connections.

Now, if I needed to share data between them I can use VPN or setup an FTP server.

A Router and Switch

If you decided to connect more computers than you have ports into your router, you can use a router as explained in the first part, or you can just add a switch, similar to the method explained in the second part.

You would simply connect a switch to one of the ports on your router, and then the computers to the switch. Since a switch doesn’t have an IP address, nor does it assign IP addresses, all computers connected to it will be assigned IP addresses from the router. This setup allows you to manage one network instead of multiple.

Summary

This post provided a quick overview on the different types of network configurations. It explained about router to router and switch to router connections. I also explained how to create several networks from an ISP that provides multiple IP addresses. For many people, however, a single router connected to the modem is all they would need.

2 Responses to “Different Methods of Connecting Multiple Computers to One Internet Connection”

  1. Reima says:

    Thanks for the post, could you please explain the difference between router and switch? Regards!

    • Paul Salmon says:

      A router acts as the gateway (entrance) to a network. It manages the IP addresses of all devices connected to the network. Many routers will also include a firewall to protect the network.

      A switch will manage the data that is sent to the various computers on the network. It doesn’t assign IP addresses, but can extend the number of computers that are connected to the network. A router will usually contain a switch to help managed the data passed to the devices on the network.

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