The Weak Point In Your Internet Service - The Power

If you have a typical Internet service, you likely (hopefully) have 2 mysterious network devices, connected between your computer and your ISP's service.

  • The modem (dialup, cable, or DSL) connects directly to the wire coming out of the wall.
  • The router connects between the modem, and your computer.
Both the modem and router have power supplies - also known as "wall warts", because they have big plugs - 3 - 4" cube shaped, that make it hard to find a power outlet with room to plug it in. If you have these, you should know what I mean.

Recently, I thought that my router was slightly faulty. Several times / week, I was losing Internet service, even though the diagnostic lights on my DSL modem, and the router, were normal. Restarting both the modem and router would restore my service, but only until the next time.

I bought a universal power supply at Radio Shack for $15 or so, and swapped it for the power supply for the router for a while, but saw no improvement in the symptom. Service was going out too frequently - first a couple times / week, then daily, and finally multiple times daily. I put the vendor power supply for the router back in service, took the replacement universal power supply, and tried it on the modem, and the problem was solved.

It's summer time here in North America, and I'll bet heat sensitivities are part of the problem. If your Internet service has been acting up on you for a few weeks, and you've been pestering your ISP with no results, check your equipment, and start with the power supplies.

In this situation, the "universal power supply" is a key item. Each different electronic device - modem, router, or what have you, will have differently designed power requirements. Plug size, polarity, and voltage will differ from device to device. In my case, my modem uses 6V DC +, and my router uses 12V DC +. Being able to try the same power supply on both units, by simply changing the switch on the wall wart, made it possible for me to solve my problem.

When you setup the power supply for your modem or router, read the instructions carefully. Plug size (6 choices) is obvious. Polarity and voltage are not obvious, but getting them right is essential. In most cases, the wall warts from the vendor will have clearly labeled requirements, with both polarity and voltage obviously described. Carefully following the instructions with the replacement power supply, you can swap units in a couple minutes.

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