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Turning a PC into a Router

Last response: in Networking
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June 1, 2009 5:04:32 PM

Hi,
I have a number of spare machines and parts laying around the house and many devices that require Internet connection (2 desktops, 2 laptops - that can use wireless, Xbox, TV). My current setup involves two regular household routers strung together to provide easy access in two different locations. One is near the broadband modem and the other is setup as a static client in another place in the house. Both routers are fairly old (d-link & inexq, both 10/100) but the connectivity is quite good.

I am wondering if it would be worth the effort (and some spending) to turn a machine into a full time router/[file/media server]/firewall, turn off DHCP on the routers and use them as hubs. The only possible purchase I currently foresee is a dual-port network card (e.g. this hp card) unless I can use 2 separate network cards in the pc-router to distribute the network traffic.

It would certainly be a fun little project but I would love to hear some opinions or experiences regarding this and whether or not I stand to gain much from this possible purchase and setup. Of course it would be nice to have a single configuration interface with lots of options (running *nix based OS on the pc-router as opposed to proprietary firmware of the d-link & inexq). I have the resources to dedicate a C2D 2GB RAM machine to this project so perhaps it can handle the traffic better than the measly 133mhz (or so) CPU of the d-link router. Plus I would have a dedicated machine to act as a file/media server for the TV and Xbox.

Alternatively, I could spend the $200 or so on a new gigabit router with wireless N standard (which both laptops have) and maybe save myself the headaches of incorrect setup.

Thank you for your opinions.

edit: fixed hyperlink

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June 2, 2009 9:16:27 AM

If you're going to use spare parts to build a full-time router, the mainly downside besides measly cost for components is power usage. Afterall, it's going to run 24/7.
Compare ~25W vs. ~70W(with an 80+ eff. PSU) which is your typical home router vs. DIY build respectively.

Of course if you use the C2D machine for more than just a router, a multi-TB NAS perhaps (I combined mine with HTPC) then that would be much better use for it.

Quote:
I have a number of spare machines and parts laying around the house and many devices that require Internet connection (2 desktops, 2 laptops - that can use wireless, Xbox, TV).

Small home routers are more than capable of handling all that. IMO more bandwidth is what your should be looking for with increasing multi-GB data we have today. Spending on a Gigabit router with WiFi-N as you suggested would be recommended.
June 27, 2009 8:07:11 AM

wuzy said:
If you're going to use spare parts to build a full-time router, the mainly downside besides measly cost for components is power usage. Afterall, it's going to run 24/7.
Compare ~25W vs. ~70W(with an 80+ eff. PSU) which is your typical home router vs. DIY build respectively.


I definitely agree with that. I've got a full tower file server/DHCP/domain controller running Win2k3 SBS and a 1U rack server with Win2k8 Std. I wanted to use ISA 2k6 as my gateway/firewall; however, it can't be installed on Win 2k8. So I ended up setting up a VM (VMware Server) with a copy of 2003 R2 Ent. Those two machines pull close to 400W 24/7 under idle conditions. In fact, I've had to invest in another UPS just to give myself some uptime should the power go out--especially if you have VoIP like me.

Unless configuring & maintaining an enterprise class server appeals to you, I'd stick with a simple hardware router. I've spent more than a few nights cursing into the wee hours of the morning, trying to figure out why something isn't working. Just about any router will be able to take advantage of a residential broadband internet connection. I suppose FiOS might be an exception. 133MHz might not sound like a lot, but remember, these routers are generally running an OS w/little overhead (a lot use Linux). My virtual ISA box is allocated 2GB RAM and two 2.0GHz AMD Opteron CPU's and my 12Mbit cable internet connection is no faster than when I was using my old Linksys WRT54G router.

The only thing I could see upgrading is the switch that connects everything--if, of course, you transfer a lot of data between LAN computers (ie: file server, NAS, etc). Find a good gigabit switch off eBay and call it a day.

If you're wondering what 400W a day amounts to in the course of a month, it's 400W * 24hrs * 30days = 288,000 W*h or 288 kilowatt-hours/month. Considering the average household might use 1000 kilowatt-hours/month or less (mines more like 1200), you can definitely see running anything 24/7 adds up.
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