4. Setting Up a Powerline Network – Home Networking: The Missing Manual [Book]

Chapter 4. Setting Up a Powerline Network

Ethernet and WiFi tend to hog all the network glory, but there ’ s a third base way of linking your computers, and it ’ s gaining some attention in the home-networking diligence. Powerline networks use the electric wiring already in your family to link your computers in concert. In this chapter, you ’ ll determine about Powerline ’ south nuts and bolts and how to install a Powerline network in your home plate. If you ’ ve already done some network but were stymied on how to extend your network into some hard-to-reach spot—the basement or an attic agency, for example—you ’ ll learn how to add Powerline onto your existing Ethernet or WiFi network .


You might sometimes see Powerline referred to as HomePlug—that ’ s the name of the official network criterion all Powerline devices use. To make matters worse, some hardware makers pile on even more monikers by slapping their own names, such as HomeLink or PlugLink, on their Powerline products.

Deciding If Powerline Is Right for You

Powerline is an impressive and easy-to-use network engineering, but it ’ s a little different from Ethernet and WiFi, the current network champs. While Powerline devices can theoretically work all by themselves, most companies have focused their energy on developing products that work with your existing network ’ sulfur Ethernet or wireless router. In practice, most people use Powerline as a addendum to the main network, screen of like adding a board over the garage to get more living distance in your house. figure 4-1 shows a typical Powerline network frame-up. now that you know what a distinctive Powerline setup looks like, here are a few points to consider before deciding whether Powerline ’ south for you :

  • Powerline’s good for extending your network to hard-to-reach spots. If your PCs are spread far and wide-eyed across your house ( say, greater than 150 feet apart, which is excessively far for WiFi to reach, or would require an unsightly mass of Ethernet cables ), Powerline ’ s a great alternate .
  • Powerline’s not the fastest network on the block. With a maximum amphetamine of 14 megabits per second ( Mbps ) —compared to Ethernet ’ s current standard of 100 Mbps—Powerline networks aren ’ thyroxine precisely going to win the Indianapolis 500 of network technologies. And that ’ s the theoretical maximum speed—in world, a Powerline network will probably coast along at 5 to 8 Mbps. These speeds are fine for low-bandwidth tasks like surfing the Web and e-mail, but you ’ ll probable induce frustrated by amphetamine lags and slow performance if you try to use your Powerline network for mesomorphic chores like copying big files between computers or streaming digital movies .


    When your power organization is hindered, Powerline mechanically falls back to speeds adenine slowly as 1 Mbps, which is probably slower than your broadband Internet connection. rush protectors, uninterruptible ability supplies, electric intervention filters for stereophonic equipment, drills, hairdryers, and microwave ovens can besides create harsh conditions on your electrical system that results in poor Powerline network performance .

    Powerline’s great for linking two or more desktop computers that are located in different rooms of a big house. (See the section “Going Hybrid?” for more information on combining networking options.)

    figure 4-1. Powerline ’ south great for linking two or more desktop computers that are located in different rooms of a big theater. ( See the section “ Going Hybrid ? ” for more information on combining network options. )

  • You can’t use more than 16 Powerline devices on your network. Powerline ’ s technical standard limits the number of devices you can pile on your power lines to 16. This 16-and-under limitation credibly won ’ thymine affect a family home network, but could put a fold in the plans of person trying to set up a minor agency network with Powerline equipment. ( In contrast, the wire Ethernet networks described in chapter 2 have no limit on the number of computers that can connect. )

Picking Out Powerline Hardware

If you ’ re hush game, you ’ re going to need to bring three things to the Powerline apparatus party : a Powerline network arranger, a router, and some cables.

Powerline Network Adapters

Like every type of net, Powerline requires the use of network adapters ( Section 1.1 ) —sometimes besides called bridge adapters—that let your calculator to talk to the Internet and to other computers hanging out on the network. If you ’ ve been reading this book from the begin, you know that Powerline adapters ( Figure 4-2 ) look a bit different than those used by Ethernet and WiFi networks .

At the top back of this Powerline network adapter are the prongs that you plug into an electrical outlet. You plug a cable into the Ethernet port (which is not visible in this photo), which then lets you connect the adapter to a PC or a router.

figure 4-2. At the top rear of this Powerline network adapter are the prongs that you plug into an electric mercantile establishment. You plug a cable into the Ethernet interface ( which is not visible in this photograph ), which then lets you connect the adapter to a personal computer or a router. Powerline net adapters come in two varieties : Ethernet and USB. Both versions use their respective cable types to plug into the appropriate port on your calculator. ( If your computer doesn ’ thyroxine have an Ethernet port, check out incision 2.1.3, which tells you how to open up your system and install one. ) unfortunately, there ’ s no such matter as a Powerline arranger that you can install inside your calculator. You constantly have to use a Powerline-to-Ethernet or Powerline-to-USB arranger. If you do have an Ethernet port on your personal computer, you ’ ll want to use the Ethernet Powerline arranger, because it ’ sulfur speedier than its USB counterpart .


Most Powerline equipment is Windows-only. While this factoid is not much of a trouble for 95 percentage of the world, it tends to depress Mac people. fortunately for them, though, a company called SMC Networks ( www.smc.com ) is now making Powerline network equipment that works with all-Macintosh networks. Macwireless.com besides has some Mac-friendly Powerline devices ( research under “ Powerline ” ). You always need to have at least two Powerline network adapters on your network. You need one for each calculator you want to connect to the net, and you besides need a Powerline arranger to connect to the Ethernet port on your router. The Powerline arranger you connect to your router has to be of the Ethernet persuasion, but it doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate matter whether the router you ’ re plugging into is radio receiver ( Chapter 3 ) or plain-old Ethernet ( Chapter 2 ) —either way, both bring with Powerline .


Powerline adapters don ’ thymine influence well with electric power strips, uninterruptible office supplies, and most surge protectors, because this equipment sometimes filters out the high-end frequencies on your electric network—which is the crop Powerline uses to transmit your net ’ south data. Always connect Powerline equipment directly to an electrical exit for best results. Sockets with surge protection right on the mercantile establishment ( look for the little discolor button marked Reset if you ’ re not certain if you have a protect mercantile establishment ) render your Powerline device useless. Belkin ( www.belkin.com ), however, does make a Powerline-friendly scend defender that you may want to check out.

Powerline network adapter shopping list

Remember, you ’ ll need at least two Powerline adapters—one for your router and one for every calculator you plan to connect to the Powerline network. here are a few models from some popular manufacturers .


Mac mavens, listen up : in the list below, lone the SMC EZ Powerline adapter includes encoding software that you can turn on directly from a Mac. The encoding software that comes with other adapters works on a Mac, but you ’ ve got to activate it from a Windows machine ( Section 4.4 tells you everything you need to know about securing your Powerline network ). bottom channel : if you ’ re surviving in a Mac-only family, buy your gearing from SMC. If you ’ ve got a desegregate of Macs and PCs, then you can buy from any Powerline manufacturer .

  • SMC EZ Connect Powerline-to-Ethernet ( or USB ) adapter ( Windows and Mac friendly ) : $ 50 each
  • Linksys PLUSB10 USB Powerline arranger ( Windows only ) : $ 65
  • Linksys PLEBR10 Ethernet Powerline adapter ( Windows only ) : $ 65
  • Netgear XE102 Ethernet Powerline arranger ( Windows entirely ) : $ 50
  • D-Link DHP100 Ethernet Powerline arranger ( Windows only ) : $ 50

A Router with a Built-in Ethernet Switch

Routers ( Section 1.1 ) are the traffic cops of every home network. They help distribute your Internet connection among all the computers on your network. As you learned earlier in this chapter, Powerline device manufacturers have pretty a lot decided that it doesn ’ t make sense to make a Powerline-only router. alternatively, if you ’ ve decided to use Powerline, you need to first get yourself an Ethernet or a wireless local area network router ( make certain whichever you get comes with a built-in switch, which most do present ). Ethernet router details await you on Section 2.1 ; check out page section 2.4 for a quick flat coat on WiFi routers.


You need two different kinds of cables when using Powerline :

  • The electrical power lines behind your walls, which you can ’ thyroxine in truth change without potentially electrocuting yourself. Powerline network adapters use the electrical wires in your walls to communicate with the router and the computers on your net .
  • A USB or USB cable that connects the Powerline network adapter to your computer or router. If you buy an Ethernet Powerline arranger, make sure you have a standard Ethernet cable ( Section ) to connect the net arranger to the computer ’ south Ethernet port. If you ’ ve got a USB Powerline adapter—you guessed it—you need a USB cable television .

Cable shopping list

You can find USB cables in just about any computer patronize or office-supply memory, in varying lengths ( prices vary by how hanker the cable is, but expect to pay between $ 10 and $ 20 ). You can tied find them at Wal-Mart, which is one of the few places in America where you can buy flash-frozen waffles, a bathrobe, Turtle Wax, and computer-networking supplies all under one roof. Ethernet cable price besides depends on the distance of the cable. Big-chain calculator stores may charge you $ 25 to $ 35 for a measly 10 feet of cable, but you can find the same length of cord for anywhere from $ 3 to $ 7 if you carefully scout the Web, Wal-Mart, or smaller, freelancer calculator shops. Ethernet cable comes in several grades or categories ( Section ). Buy the cables marked Category 6 if you can ; if you can ’ t Category 5 or 5e employment, besides.

Setting Up a Basic Powerline Network

now that you know what goes into a Powerline network, you ’ re ready to learn how to set one up. By the end of this section, you ’ ll be able to jump on the Internet from any of the Powerline-connected computers in the house. To get a elementary Powerline network up and running indeed all your computers can browse the Internet at once, follow these steps :

  1. Make sure you’ve got an Ethernet or WiFi router up and running. Pop back to Section 2.3 for information on how to set up an Ethernet router. section 3.4.2 tells you everything you need to know to set up a WiFi router .
  2. Buy your Powerline equipment. Remember that you need at least two Powerline adapters and that at least one of them has to be an Ethernet Powerline arranger for the association to your router .
  3. In the room with the router, plug the Ethernet Powerline adapter into the electrical outlet on wall. Try to use an mercantile establishment conclusion to the router to keep the amount of cables snaking through the room to a minimal .
  4. Connect the Powerline adapter to the router.

    Plug one end of an Ethernet cable into the Ethernet port on the Powerline arranger and the early end into a exempt Ethernet port on the router. Make certain both ends of the cable cluck into place to ensure a good connection .

  5. Plug a Powerline adapter into the wall next to each computer and then connect the adapter to the computer. In each room where there ’ sulfur a computer, plug a Powerline arranger into an available electrical release. Connect the allow cable ( USB or Ethernet ) between the Powerline adapter and either the calculator ’ s USB or Ethernet port .
  6. Go ! At this point, all of your computers should be able to get to the Internet. not excessively hard, eh ?

Although your computers are on the Internet at this point, the data moving around your net international relations and security network ’ triiodothyronine safe from nosy neighbors. That ’ sulfur because the Powerline signal could possibly “ leak ” out of your house via the electric lines you share with the rest of the neighborhood ( Section 4.4 ). This can be a adult problem, specially if you live in stopping point quarters with your neighbors, as in an apartment construction. The adjacent section shows you what you need to do to make certain you ’ re plug.

Securing Your Powerline Network

If you don ’ t want your neighbors to potentially pop onto your network, you ’ ll want to install the encoding software that comes with every Powerline adapter. Encryption protects your network by wrapping up all your traveling data into a package, and only you and the Powerline hardware have the key to unlock it .


Without encoding, a neighbor or another tenant in your apartment build could plug a Powerline arranger into one of their own electrical outlets and be able to see everything on your network. A Powerline signal can travel more than 1,500 feet over electric lines before becoming unserviceable, so people living in apartment complexes, townhouse condominium communities, and neighborhoods where individual class homes are shoved up against each other are particularly at risk for signal escape. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION : identical Looking Devices Why do many Powerline adapters from different hardware companies look precisely the same ? When you ’ re doing your shop research for Powerline hardware, you may notice that many of the standard Ethernet-to- Powerline network adapters look very exchangeable to each early. If you browse through on-line manuals and frame-up screens on each company ’ sulfur Web site, you might even notice that many of them use identical software and the like factory-set password. so what gives ? Are hardware makers that unoriginal that they all copied the first person who made Powerline adapters ? actually, this serious font of device déjà vu stems from the fact that there are only a couple of different electronics companies that make the communications hardware found inside all of the different Powerline bridge adapters. Home-networking manufacturers like D-Link, Netgear, IOGEAR, and Belkin buy these standard components and then slap their own labels on them. One full thing about this uniformity : the different brands work actually well together if you ’ ve got hardware from a couple companies mixed in together on your Powerline network. Turning on your adapters ’ encoding involves a few steps. You activate the first adapter ’ s encoding from any one of the PCs that you ’ ve good hooked up. then, from that personal computer, you can activate the encoding on all the early Powerline adapters. All the Powerline adapters will use the lapp password, and you ’ ll precisely have to set this encoding up one time ; from then on, you ’ ll be Powerlining with wax encoding protection. here ’ s how it works .


The following instructions explain how to install the encoding software included with the D-Link DHP100 Ethernet-to-Powerline bridge. But if you ’ ve got a Powerline arranger from Netgear, IOGear, or Belkin, you ’ ll be going through about precisely the same setup, because each device uses the lapp program to activate encoding. If you ’ re using a different brand, these instructions will credibly work, but if not, check out the manual that came with your device .

  1. Insert the CD that came with your Powerline adapter and start the installation wizard. You can perform this facility from any computer on your network that ’ s plugged into a Powerline arranger .
  2. From the CD’s main menu, choose Install Encryption Software .
  3. Click the Next button on the next three screens. The first screen welcomes you to the facility action ; the second blind asks you to accept the license agreement ; and the third screen asks you to enter an optional drug user name and arrangement name ( and lets you pick whether the software can be used just by you or by all users on your personal computer ) .
  4. Click Install to install the software .
  5. Click Finish on the next screen .
  6. Restart your PC. Your personal computer and the attached arranger are immediately using encoding, albeit using a standard password that anyone can get by going to D-Link ’ south Web site. therefore, you ’ ll learn how to change the password in the following few steps. And that ’ south besides where you ’ ll activate the encoding on any early PCs you ’ ve got that are using Powerline adapters ( adenine well as the arranger attached to your router ) .
  7. Start the D-Link Configuration Utility. Double-click the D-Link Configuration Utility ( Figure 4-3 ) on your background, or go to Start → Program → D-Link PLC → D-Link Configuration Utility .
    Double-click the D-Link Configuration icon to start the D-Link Powerline utilities. Obviously, if you’re not using a D-Link device, you’re going to see a different icon, but you get the idea.

    figure 4-3. Double-click the D-Link Configuration icon to start the D-Link Powerline utilities. obviously, if you ’ ra not using a D-Link device, you ’ re going to see a different icon, but you get the idea .

  8. Click the Security tab (Figure 4-4). hera ’ sulfur where you ’ re going to set the password for the Powerline adapter that ’ second connected to your personal computer ( as opposed to any of the other Powerline adapters out there on your network ). This password is the like one that you ’ re going to finally use on any other Powerline adapters that you ’ ve got, so form sure you write it down. Enter your fresh password in the box below where it says Network Password. then snap Apply, and then click OK .
  9. Click the Advanced tab. This is where you ’ re going to set the passwords for any other Powerline adapters you ’ ve got on your network .


    The Advanced yellow journalism is besides utilitarian if you have a Macintosh on your network and are not using the Macfriendly SMC EZ Powerline arranger. By changing the password from a Windows computer and doing so for all your adapters at once, the arranger connected to your Mac is besides updated with the new password .

  10. Write down the factory-assigned password that came with each additional Powerline adapter on your network (that is, each adapter that’s not connected to the computer you’re using right now). You ’ ll find the password on the Powerline arranger itself, and it should look something like this : MX96-DHEE-U9Y3-BXJB .
    The factory setting for the D-Link’s password is HomePlug. It’s case-sensitive, meaning that Homeplug and HomePlug are different passwords as far as the computer is concerned.

    design 4-4. The factory setting for the D-Link ’ s password is HomePlug. It ’ mho case-sensitive, meaning that Homeplug and HomePlug are unlike passwords american samoa far as the computer is concerned .

  11. Enter the device password in the Device Password text box. Click Add. The password appears in the Remote Password list box. Continue entering the device password for all the Powerline adapters on your network .
  12. In the Remote Password list box, select all the device passwords .
  13. In the Network Password text box, enter the password you created back in step 8. Click Set All. Then click OK, and you’re done .

now that you ’ ve got your Powerline network set up and secure, surely you ’ re ready to do more than simply surf the Internet ? Those of you with Windows machines may want to continue on to Chapter 5 for more detail information about network between individual PCs, while Mac readers will find chapter 6 more enlightening. If you ’ ve got a houseful of both systems, Chapter 7 is your following stop. But before you move on, you may be interested in learning about other ways that Powerline can work with Ethernet and WiFi networks.

Going Hybrid?

The basic Powerline frame-up you learned approximately in this chapter is not the merely way you can use Powerline in concurrence with early types of networks. You might, for example, want to set up a WiFi zone ( Section 1.4 ) in a army for the liberation of rwanda, far corner of your house. This challenge is particularly park for people who ’ ve got basement or loft offices or playrooms that they want to blanket with WiFi coverage. The problem these people face is that their WiFi router ’ s stuck back in some other depart of the theater and the far corner is, well, excessively far away to be reached by a criterion WiFi antenna.

Powerline can help you out. The routine can take a little spot of time, but it involves performing steps you ’ ve already learned, or will soon learn, if you ’ ra bequeath to read chapter 2 ( on Ethernet ) and Chapter 3 ( on WiFi ). The basic steps are pretty straightforward : you set up a network that uses Powerline to link your broadband modem to your faraway room. then, with the Powerline arranger in the faraway room, rather than plugging it into a personal computer, you plug in a radio access point ( Section 3.3.1 ), whose sole aim in life is to broadcast a radio Internet connection. calculate 4-5 shows how it all comes together .

Using Powerline in conjunction with WiFi can help you spread connectivity throughout even really sprawling homes.

figure 4-5. Using Powerline in junction with WiFi can help you spread connectivity throughout even truly sprawling homes. If you do something along these lines, you ’ re actually using all three of the network types discussed so army for the liberation of rwanda and have formally won the Triple Crown of home-networking. Congratulations !

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