The box includes the router, a power adaptor with cord, and a decent user guide. You have to supply your own computer, network cards, cable/DSL modem, CAT 5 cables, hub (if applicable), etc. A typical example with 3 PCs could look like this:
Plug the cable modem into the back of the router into the port marked WAN (Wide Area Network/Internet). Plug in the power adaptor for the router. Now connect each PC with CAT 5 cable to one of the 4 ports of the built-in hub on the back of the router.
Alternatively, you can connect a hub to the uplink port on the back of the router. This disables port 1, but still leaves the other 3 ports available for PCs. A possible example with 4 PCs and a hub could look like this:
The router supports up to 253 users which should be sufficient for most home users so you have a lot of liberty in setting up your network.
Once you have everything connected, it’s time to configure your PCs to work with the router. This is actually very easy. If you haven’t done so already, install a network card in each PC and be sure to install the TCP/IP protocol, NetBeui, and File and Printer Sharing. In the TCP/IP Properties, go to the IP address tab. Here you have two choices:
Obtain an IP address automatically – If you select this option, you choose to use DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). This means that the router will dynamically assign an IP address to any machine on the network that sends a request to it. This is probably the easiest way to configure it, since you don’t have to even think about IP addresses. If you select this option, you’re already done. Click OK and reboot your machine if prompted and you’re set.
Specify an IP address – If you select this option, you choose to manually assign a static IP address to each machine. For this purpose you would select an IP address from the private IP range. The router by default has the private IP address 192.168.1.1, so you would assign your first PC 192.168.1.2, the second PC 192.168.1.3, and so on. For the subnet mask, enter 255.255.255.0, which will do just fine in most situations. For simplicity’s sake, I won’t go into more details about IP’s and subnet’s, you can read more about this topic in our IP address tutorial at howto/ipaddr1.html. Click OK and reboot your machine if prompted.
The last step is to configure the router. This is also amazingly easy, don’t worry. You don’t have to be a MCSE to do this. Even though the Linksys router does not provide a lot of the advanced options that a commercial router, switch, and firewall would have, it is still abundant with features to configure everything to your liking.
After you’ve configured each PC, you simply open your browser, type in http://192.168.1.1 and hit Enter. Type in the default password admin (no user name) and click OK. You’ll see a nice user-friendly interface that is easy to navigate with its tabs and buttons. Here you simply type in the IP address, subnet mask, DNS server(s) and gateway your ISP assigned you, hit Apply, and you’re already done. A good idea would be to change the password to something more secure, of course. Under the DHCP tab, either enable or disable this function, depending on what you chose earlier when you configured your PCs. The main advantage of configuring IPs manually and therefore disabling DHCP is that if you want to run some type of service on a PC in your local network, e.g. an FTP or mail server, or if you want to access your machine remotely using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) via PPTP (Point-to-Point-Tunneling-Protocol), you need to be able to forward the request to a certain static IP address.
In addition to these basic features, the router offers more features under the Advanced tab. These are the features that Linksys does not offer support for which I can understand. They obviously don’t want to waste their support time on trying to troubleshoot everybody’s personal network settings and every software under the sun that requires certain ports to be open etc.
For security, the router comes with a built-in firewall using NAT (Network address translation), which means that your PC will not be visible to the Internet and TCP/IP port inspections, which means it checks the type of traffic that goes through each port to see whether it is legit or not. FOr maximum security, you should go into the Advanced tab, select Filters, and enable Block WAN Requests. If you don’t do this, port scanners will recognize the router on the network, but of course see all your ports as closed. But if you enable this, then all the ports will be in stealth mode and don’t exist as far as the outside world is concerned. For more information on this topic and a cool tool to check your PC’s security, go to the Shields UP! site at http://grc.com to get your ports probed (don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt, the site is gentle).
The included user guide is pretty decent and walks you through the installation, setup and all the configurations. The manual as well as some FAQs and a firmware upgrade to version 1.22 (it ships with version 1.21.1) are available online at http://www.linksys.com/support/solution/BEFSR.htm. In addition, the router configuration screens also have a Help button for more info.