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Installing Broadband on Your Home System

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Using broadband technologies such as Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) can make your web surfing experience better, says John Mueller, but only if you get a good installation. Get some important tips from this article.
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Broadband might be coming to your home—and sooner than you think. According to many industry sources, the current trend in government thinking is to move everyone from older dial-up connections to some type of broadband connection (see the InfoWorld article for details). The main reasons for the move are performance and functionality. In fact, according to another recent InfoWorld article, the number of broadband users has tripled in less than three years. Yes, you might encounter the joys and pain of broadband installation sooner rather than later.

Currently, broadband comes to your home in a number of forms, including cable, satellite, and DSL. My own broadband connection is DSL. Excited doesn't describe my initial feelings about getting DSL. After years of wading through days-long downloads with a dial-up connection and having my connection severed at the most inopportune times, I was finally going to have an always-on, fast web surfing experience. The day of the installation arrived and the installer assured me that things would go well because he had done many other installations. Everything looked easy enough, but then came the test—would my system connect? Unfortunately, the answer was no. Not only didn't my system connect that day; it didn't connect until two days later—it turns out that the company didn't have any experience with networked systems. Several installation experiences later and after lots of discussions with other people, I concluded that the installations that go well are those that are well-planned and simple.

You don't have to become a broadband installation casualty. This article contains some tips on making the installation go right the first time and some tricks to get around problems when they do arrive.

Broadband really is worth the extra effort. After several months of using DSL, I don't know what I did without it. Speed is very addicting.

Have Your Manuals Ready

It might be a nuisance, but having your computer manuals ready can save a significant amount of time and wasted effort. Broadband connections require the presence of a network card in your system. Most computers today ship with a network adapter built in, but sometimes the vendor switches off this adapter by default. The manuals not only tell the installer whether you have a network card available; they explain how to turn on this support when the vendor has switched it off. In at least one case, an installer didn't know about the built-in network support and installed a network card (at extra cost) in the computer to provide the required network support. Even though the network card is relatively inexpensive ($20–30), the time wasted adds up.

Manuals are useful for other reasons, too. The manual can detail how to open some of the odd cases that vendors use today, and describe system features that the installer might encounter. For example, some vendors don't ship a copy of Windows on a CD with the system—they install Windows on the hard drive. Manuals often provide details about this kind of issue and save time in locating any operating system support the installer might need. In short, you really don't know how the manuals will be useful until the time comes for broadband installation. Looking in the closet for a lost manual while the installer is on the clock probably isn't the best way to keep installation costs down.

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