Tips for Securing Your Home Router
Seemingly minor and easily overlooked settings can still have profound security implications. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your wired or wireless home router — and by extension, your network — is as secure as possible.
Most Popular Reviews
Microsoft Windows Home Server
If you have a home network, you'll welcome the easy file sharing, remote access and the image-based backup features of Windows Home Server.
MikroTik's The Dude
This free tool delivers many of the same capabilities that you'd find in pricey network monitoring tools. As long as you don't mind tinkering, The Dude is a decent network utility that should be worth the download.
If you have an external cable or DSL modem, and no router, but you want
to share your Internet connection using software such as ICS or WinProxy,
you'll need to add a second Network Interface Card (NIC) to your system.
This can be the most trouble-prone and frustrating part of the entire
process of sharing your Internet connection! Typical problems that
you might encounter are:
Changing settings on one NIC affects the other NIC.
NICs work intermittently
BSOD (Blue Screen of Death... if you've never experienced
this, you'll know it when you see it) errors or lockups when booting.
Inability to see other machines in Network Neighborhood
Other hardware that was working fine stops working
Don't have a free slot or IRQ.
In spite of all this, it's important that you add the
NIC for the reasons I describe on this
So if you're running into problems trying to add that NIC, here are
some Troubleshooting tips.
Tip #1: If you
have Win98 and a USB port on your computer, spend a little
extra money and save a lot of time by using a USB-Ethernet adapter.
This page has more info.
Tip #2: We dislike
making blanket statements, but try to stay away from 3COM NICs
if you can help it. They tend to cause problems when using
more than one of them. If you must use a 3COM, then check this
page and this page if you're
having trouble getting them to play nice!
Tip #3: If you
read the newsgroups, you may see threads debating whether to use ISA or
PCI NICS. In my experience, either will work fine, but using
two PCI NICs might make installing the second one easier due to a
feature called IRQ
Steering or IRQ Sharing.
PCs have only 16 IRQs
(numbered 0 through 15), but today there's a lot more hardware competing
for them. IRQ Steering lets the IRQs be shared by more than one
hardware device. To see if you have this capability, use the Device
Manager in the System Control Panel, and double click on the Computer
If you see entries like the ones circled in red below, you have PCI
Just because you have it, though, doesn't mean that you won't have problems
with it! If you do, try "Musical Chairs",
or try the steps on this page.
Tip #4: If you must
use an ISA NIC, then you must have a free IRQ for it. Check
this by again going to Device Manager (right click on My Computer,
select Properties, and click on the Device Manager tab)
and look for a missing number between 0 and 15. (In the example below
IRQ10 is missing, so it's available to be used.)
One caution, however, even if you find a free IRQ, your NIC may not be
able to use it. ISA NICs usually can only be set to a limited range
of IRQ numbers. Consult the documentation that comes with the NIC.
You may have to reassign the IRQs for other devices in order to free up
an IRQ that your NIC can use. However, if it comes to this, you
may want to jump to Tip 6!
Tip #4a: If
you have slots available, but no free IRQs, you'll have to free up
an IRQ by disabling the hardware that is presently using the IRQ.
You do this via the Device Manager (Start > Settings > Control
Panel > System). Select View Devices by Type and double
click on the Computer icon.
This will bring up a window where you can see
what hardware is using which IRQ. Find an IRQ that is compatible
with your NIC and see if you can live without that hardware.
Disable the hardware by double clicking on its icon in Device manager.
Then, in the Device Useage area of the window that comes up,
either uncheck the Original Configuration(Current) box in Win95
or check the Disable in this Device Profile box in Win98.
If you are using an older version of Win95, download and install the
1.3 update. This includes newer TCP/IP stacks and drivers
that may help.
Tip #6: Go get another NIC.
Sometimes certain combinations of hardware just don't work together (or
are not worth spending the time on to find the obscure problem that is
causing them to not work together)! There are plenty of fine NICs available
Netgear, D-Link, SMC, UMAX
and other companies.
Tip #7: If you want to use
two of the exact same NIC in your setup,
you can try the following procedure so that you'll be able to tell them
Make a COPY of the driver floppy that comes with your
Find the Windows driver folder on the floppy (usually
labeled WIN95) and find the .inf file.
Right-click on the file and select Open.
Find the string "DeviceDesc"
in the .inf file. You may find a number of lines in the file that
have this string in them. Keep looking until you see a line that has
just has the name of the device in quotes. Here are some examples
of what you might see in different .inf files:
USB\VID_0565&PID_0005.DeviceDesc = "LINKSYS
USB Network Adapter"
kHomeFreePCMCIADeviceDesc = "Diamond
Multimedia HomeFree PC Card"
Add (nic1) to the DeviceDesc string Don't
change any other information in the file!!. Save and close the
Install the first NIC using the disk. NOTE you may need to delete the existing driver and use the
"Add New Hardware" Control Panel if Plug and Play doesn't
prompt you to select a driver when it finds your card.
Repeat Steps 2-6, but add (nic2) to the driver's
name and then install the second NIC.
Tip #8: Try a dual channel
These are expensive (~$200) and intended for server use, but it
may be a solution when there are no other choices. Here are a few
Tip #9: Disable Plug and Play
(This tip courtesy of Greg
It is important to set the BIOS correctly.
Especially with Win95 and when you have limited free IRQs (only one
or two), Windows will fall over trying to deal with two NICs IF
the BIOS Plug and Play is enabled. It will not be possible to get both
NICs to work.
My method of addressing this is first to get Windows configured with
only one NIC and the BIOS Plug and Play enabled.
Then go into the BIOS settings, disable the Plug and Play and allow
Windows to boot. This will not affect the current settings.
Shutdown the PC and install the 2nd NIC. Windows will in most cases
recognize the new NIC and allow for the driver installations. Because
the BIOS Plug and Play is off, Windows can now even assign the NICs
identical IRQs but different memory ranges. I presently have this configuration
and it works flawlessly.
Newer computers with newer BIOSes and Win98 have complicated disabling
Plug and Play. You may also have to disable it in Device Manager
in addition to the BIOS! You'll find it under the System
Devices branch. Disable it by checking the box as shown below.
Tip #10: Check Safe Mode
If all else fails, try this before
you give up!
Tip #11: Musical Chairs
Reader Jeremy Burns sent in this tip:
I'm using a Dell Pent Pro (200Mhz)
with an American Megatrends Bios that cannot disable PnP.
When I inserted a Linksys card, it grabbed IRQ 9, already being used
by my 3Com card. Both were not working unless I disabled the Linksys
card. Moving the Linksys card down a PCI did nothing. Of course,
I could not manually adjust the IRQ. At this point I thought I
was SOL and was up to 1:00 am trying to futz with IRQ sharing. Disabling
sharing nuked everything, including my video card (also PCI). Of course
I could not disable PnP because of the Bios. Dell had no useful suggestions.
There were no jumpers on the motherboard to set IRQs on PCI slots.
The next evening I tried something novel, I moved all of my PCI cards
to new slots. Call it the musical chairs approach. Bam. The Linksys
card woke up on IRQ 3, 3com took 9, and I don't know where the Video
card wound up, but it worked.
A variation on this tip is to reinstall one card at a time, but in
different slots than before. Note that you may have to delete
the adapters via Device Manager for all the cards that you remove.
Tip #12: Clean up registry
Bad information stored in the Registry can frustrate your efforts to
install a Network adapter. Go here
If your PC is running Windows 98 or 98SE and uses one or more
chips from VIA Technologies, you may have problems adding a second
Tip: Read the "How do I know if I am using a VIA chipset?"
item on the VIA
FAQ page if you need help determining whether your computer
uses a VIA chipset.
to this VIA page and download the the "4in1 driver"
utility for your computer type. Then run the utility, but
run only the "VIA PCI IRQ Miniport Driver" Installer.
After you reboot your system, both NICs should now function.[Thnx to Richard
Lawrence for this tip!]