How Should I Set Up My Home Network?

Let’s say you just bought your second computer. Perhaps you purchased a new laptop, tablet, new machine for your spouse, or another machine for yourself. Maybe you want to connect your smartphone via Wi-Fi when you’re at home, to reduce the usage of your mobile data plan. Perhaps you got a smart TV, light switch, video-streaming box, or Echo or Echo-like device.

Whatever the device, you want to connect it to the internet. It would also be nice to share things, like printers or extra disk space, among compatible devices.

You, my friend, need a LAN, or Local Area Network. There are lots of ways to set one up; I’ll review the basic setup for the most common case.

Already have a network, but not sure how to grow it? I’ll look at that, too.

First, let’s look at the two types of networks: wired and wireless.

Read moreHow Should I Set Up My Home Network?

How Do I Use an Open Wi-Fi Hotspot Safely?

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I’ve returned to the same coffee shop where I was a few months ago, where I noticed my email had been hijacked/hacked. This time, I’m using my phone, but the last time, when I noticed the hack, I was using my computer and doing email over an open-internet, free Wi-Fi network.

Do you think that could be the source of the problem or just a coincidence? I’m still afraid to do email from here.

It definitely could have been. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say for sure; it could have been something else unrelated.

As we can’t really diagnose the past, let’s look ahead instead.

It can be absolutely safe to send and receive email from a coffee shop or any other location that provides unsecured or “open” Wi-Fi. In fact, I do it all the time.

But to ensure your safety, you do have to follow some very important practices.

Read moreHow Do I Use an Open Wi-Fi Hotspot Safely?

7 Steps to a Secure Router

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I’d like to know how to clear the history of my Linksys router. I’d also like to know how I can make it more secure and protect it from hacking.

The topic is an important one: how do you make sure you have a secure router? As your firewall, it’s your first line of defense against malware trying to get at your computer from the internet.

You want to make sure there aren’t big gaping holes. And sadly, very often and by default, there are.

Here are the most important seven eight steps to a more secure router.

(Updated 18-Dec-2016 to include checking for firmware updates after a high-profile vulnerability disclosure by a major router manufacturer.)

Read more7 Steps to a Secure Router

Can I Get Someone’s Name and Address from Their IP Address?

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I have the IP address of someone who’s causing me some problems. Can I get their name and location from that?

Yes and no. But mostly no.

This is perhaps one of the most common questions I get. Unfortunately, people’s expectations have been colored — often dramatically — by popular television shows and movies.

Unfortunately, this is real life, which isn’t nearly as easy or exciting.

Read moreCan I Get Someone’s Name and Address from Their IP Address?

Who Is the Administrator of my Home Network?

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Windows often advises that you “contact your network administrator” or it has a feature that has been disabled by the network administrator. But on a home network, one is the network administrator! How does one log in as the “network administrator” (as opposed to a normal administrator account) or override these settings?

You’re quite right: you are the network administrator of your own home network.

In many ways, this terminology is a manifestation of the fact that in many ways, Windows is designed for large businesses, which feature larger and more complex networks managed by real, honest-to-goodness network administrators.

At home, you have no one to contact but yourself.

Read moreWho Is the Administrator of my Home Network?

Is it Safe to Share My Internet Connection with My Neighbor?

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I have a next door neighbor who has a different internet provider than mine. When her service goes down, she asks me for the password to my router so she can connect to the internet. I have no problem providing her with the password, but I wonder if anyone in her house can access my computer now through the router. I trust her but I am concerned that others might try to hack into my system. Should I be worried?

Worried? That might seem a bit strong, but some concern is certainly reasonable.

The short answer to your question is yes, unless you protect yourself, it’s possible that someone on her computer with less than honorable intent could cause you grief in several ways.

Let’s look at how.

Read moreIs it Safe to Share My Internet Connection with My Neighbor?

Why Does My Network Not Work After Resuming from Standby?

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I have a Dell running Windows. When I put my computer in standby or sleep, or if it has been inactive for several hours, when I resume use I find I cannot connect to the internet — or the browser says “website cannot be found” like it’s not connected. I use DSL and the connection works fine on my other computer with no problems. I restart, the problem goes away for a short time — until it is inactive again. What gives? I have two hard drives on this computer. My other drive never has this problem. I have even deleted, reformatted and reinstalled Windows and the problem is still there.

This is an update of an article originally published nearly twelve years ago. One would hope things have improved since then. While I suppose they have to some degree, a dozen years later, this scenario remains fairly common.

Sigh.

Read moreWhy Does My Network Not Work After Resuming from Standby?

Networking Sucks

I apologize for the slightly coarse language, but sometimes only the right word will do.

Computer networking is way, way, way harder than it should be, and much harder than it could be. Quite honestly, it’s still too frequently beyond the abilities of the average computer user.

Read moreNetworking Sucks

Is Mobile Broadband More Secure than Wi-Fi?

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I recently upgraded my mobile phone and can now connect it to my laptop to get internet access almost anywhere. The salesperson said it will be more secure to use, even in places that offer Wi-Fi. Is it more secure?

Yes, but.

By and large, data connectivity through the cellular network is more secure than open Wi-Fi.

That’s not a reflection of some inherent security difference in the technology, but more a reflection of just how ubiquitous and insecure open Wi-Fi really is.

Read moreIs Mobile Broadband More Secure than Wi-Fi?

How Do I Find the DNS Server Being Used By My PC?

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How do I find the domain name server on my PC?

The DNS (Domain Name System) server used by your PC provides the service that maps domain names (like “askleo.com”) to IP addresses (like 67.227.211.203).

There are several different DNS servers your computer could be using.

I’ll look at how to quickly find out which servers your computer is configured to use, and then I’ll discuss a couple of situations where you might want to use something different.

Read moreHow Do I Find the DNS Server Being Used By My PC?

Is it OK to Use this Random Wireless Network I Just Found?

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My internet connection went down on a Friday, and the service rep gave me a service call time for Monday, maybe. My HP notebook has wireless capability so I turned it on and checked what wireless networks were available. There are 3 secured and 1 unsecured wireless networks. I am able to logon to the unsecured wireless network, a NETGEAR network. The signal is low and only about 500K but works. Am I breaking the law by using someone else’s wireless network? Is there a way to find out where this wireless network is and who owns it, hopefully it is a free public wireless network? Am I in any danger from using this wireless network? I am not doing anything that requires a password, and I have Windows Firewall, Norton antivirus, and Windows Defender running on my computer.

What you’re doing is very common. With so many open wireless hotspots around, it’s a temptation that’s frequently too hard to resist, particularly when you’re in need.

Yet resist it you should.

There are a number of problems that arise from connecting to an unknown but open hotspot.

Read moreIs it OK to Use this Random Wireless Network I Just Found?

What the “KRACK attacks” mean to you

Earlier this week, a vulnerability was disclosed in the WPA2 security protocol that, in the worst case, could allow an attacker to potentially gain access to some or all of the encrypted information transmitted over a Wi-Fi connection.

This isn’t a bug, and it’s not a failure of one manufacturer or another. This is a weakness in the protocol itself.

If you use Wi-Fi on any device, it’s worth understanding how big of a risk this might be, and what steps, if any, you might want to take.

Read moreWhat the “KRACK attacks” mean to you

How Do I Protect Myself from Other Computers on My Local Network?

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We’re a family where the adults use the Internet for serious reasons but we can’t take a chance on having our children screw things up – intentionally or by accident. How should we set up our home network?

Normally, we think of threats as being “out there” on the internet. The problem is that sometimes the threat is nearby, right in our own home.

This article was originally titled “How Do I Protect Myself from My Children?” On reflection, though, it’s not just the kids you need to worry about; it’s just about any device you connect to your network: the computer your friends bring over, the “internet of things” enabled device you purchase, the smart TV … and yes, sometimes the computer belonging to a precocious child.

The good news is, you can protect yourself. You just have to look at your network a tad differently.

Read moreHow Do I Protect Myself from Other Computers on My Local Network?

How Does a VPN Protect Me?

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So there’s a lot of talk about using a VPN to hide what we do from our ISPs, and you’ve mentioned using it when using open WiFi. So just how and what are the protections of this versus just connecting through my ISP? What limitations does this have? Can they “see” what I’m doing (like using a BitTorrent), and that is coming from my account?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is one approach to securely connect to a remote resource. Depending on the VPN, that privacy can extend from one end of the connection to the other, or it can protect you only for a certain portion.

I’ll describe the different scenarios and how you are, and perhaps are not, protected by a VPN.

Read moreHow Does a VPN Protect Me?

How Do I Recover a Wi-Fi Password When I’m Not Connected?

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In a previous article you showed how to get the Wi-Fi password being used to connect to a wireless network. The only catch is that you had to be connected to the network to get the password.

It’s a long story, but … is there a way to get the Wi-Fi password for a network I was connected to at one time, but am not connected to right now?

Actually, yes there is.

Unless you explicitly tell it to forget, Windows will carefully remember all the passwords for all the wireless networks you’ve connected to in the past.1

The only “trick” is that we’ll be using Command Prompt to get Windows to show us that password.

Read moreHow Do I Recover a Wi-Fi Password When I’m Not Connected?

Recover a Remembered Wi-Fi Password

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I connected to my WPA-protected Wi-Fi network ages ago, and now I can’t remember the password. How do I figure out what it is?

It’s not at all uncommon to set up a wireless network securely, and then get on with your life, neglecting to write down the encryption password you created. Later, when it comes time to add another device, you’re unable to remember that all-important password.

It’s so secure, even you can’t get in!

There are two approaches you can take.

Read moreRecover a Remembered Wi-Fi Password

How Do I Block Neighboring Wireless Networks?

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A neighbor has kindly named his unprotected wireless network after my own. I’m not sure why but it must be intentional since my network name is rather contorted. I immediately changed my network’s SSID and increased the security level to WPA. However, as the neighbor’s network has a strong signal and is unprotected, my laptop insisted on logging on to it until I realized what was going on and deleted it from the preferred nets list. However, I would feel safer if I could simply block the said network altogether. Is that possible?

By the way, could this be what I think it is? The neighbor setting up an unprotected network with the same name as mine in the hope that my computer would connect to his net if mine happened to be down?

This is a very interesting scenario. On the surface, it certainly feels like your neighbor is up to something. Exactly what is difficult to say, but I think you’re wise to be very cautious.

While I wouldn’t call it “blocking” the neighbor’s wireless network, here are the steps I would take.

Read moreHow Do I Block Neighboring Wireless Networks?

When I Visit a Web Site, Can the Server Identify Me?

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When I visit a web site, are they able to identify my IP address? If so, how can I block them from being able to identify me?

To begin with, I think you’re confusing two different issues. Your IP address doesn’t really identify you, personally.

But, absolutely, web servers see the IP address you’re connecting through when you access them. And unless you’ve taken steps, you’d probably consider it “your” IP address.

Read moreWhen I Visit a Web Site, Can the Server Identify Me?

Extending Your Network With A Wireless Access Point

Here’s the scenario: you have an existing connection to the internet that is connected to a router of some sort, which in turn connects to your other computers via ethernet or built-in wireless access point.

You want to extend your wireless range by adding another wireless access point (WAP).

Sounds easy, and it can be. However, there are a couple of “gotcha’s” along the way.

Read moreExtending Your Network With A Wireless Access Point

Is an Outbound Firewall Needed?

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Isn’t an outbound firewall really important in many situations? I deliberately installed a free version of a key logger on my system and ran thorough scans through my anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. But the running key logger wasn’t detected even though the key logger icon was right there in the system tray.

You have said that when an outbound firewall stops something it is already too late. But don’t you think outbound firewall might stop a key logger from at least sending logs to an email or remote computer? Or would it not?

A firewall with outbound detection can be of use, but you’ve captured my thoughts already: if it detects something, in a way it’s already too late: your machine is infected.

Let’s review what outbound firewalls are, why I rarely recommend them, and perhaps why your key logger wasn’t detected.

Read moreIs an Outbound Firewall Needed?

What’s the Difference Between a MAC Address and an IP Address?

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What is the difference between a MAC Address and an IP Address? Are both traceable back to your computer? And can you hide them? If by hiding them is your computer safer from hackers. Also, are the free versions as good as the ones you buy?

Well, the last one is easy to answer: there’s no concept of free versus paid IP or MAC addresses. As you’ll see in a moment, IP addresses are assigned as part of connecting to a network, and MAC addresses are assigned at the time hardware is manufactured.

Even hiding a MAC or IP address is a concept that doesn’t quite apply, but we’ll get in to that too.

And whether MAC or IP addresses are hidden or not, they are not the kind of things you should be spending your time worrying about to stay safe from hackers.

Read moreWhat’s the Difference Between a MAC Address and an IP Address?

Can a Virus Spread Over a Local Network?

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I share my LAN with my mother; she’s not always the most prudent about avoiding malware, no matter how much I try to drill into her head. Over time, and many, many virus cleanups, I’ve become worried about malware spreading through the LAN to my computer. Is this possible and if so, is there any way to avoid it besides the double-router method? 

It is absolutely possible for malware to spread through your LAN to your computer.

In fact, I’ve heard horror stories of malware that makes it past one person’s defenses to infect a single machine … and from that machine, move on to infect an entire small business’s network.

In situations like yours, a two-router solution can be a fine approach to protecting your computers. But yes, it can be a little complex to set up, and there are side effects. Fortunately, there are simpler ways to avoid spreading malware.

Read moreCan a Virus Spread Over a Local Network?

What is “ping”, and what does its output tell me?

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Sometimes when I search for solutions for my home networking problem, I frequently see some people suggesting that I ping my PC by IP and/or by computer name. What does PING command actually do? What’s the point of using this command? How do I read and understand the results?

Ping is one of the oldest and most basic network diagnostic tools. It’s present in just about every modern, and even not-so-modern, operating system.

In concept, the tool is very, very simple: it sends out an “Are you there?” kind of request, and expects to hear back a “Yes, here I am!” kind of response.

Very basic, very simple, and yet very powerful as a first line of network troubleshooting.

Read moreWhat is “ping”, and what does its output tell me?

What Is Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, and Is It Legit?

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My son installed BitTorrent on the house computer. This of course, without asking first, as is the rule. This program slowed my computer down so much that I could not get online. I found out that as it was downloading, it was also uploading with unlimited bandwidth. I could not find any information on what it was uploading. I dislike P2P because of past experience with them, virus, spyware and the feeling I am stealing from the programmer. This program was promptly uninstalled. Is there any legitimate use for P2P programs?

This is a sad case of some very amazing technology getting smeared with a bad reputation because of how some people choose to use it.

Absolutely: there are many legitimate uses for peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) programs like BitTorrent.

In fact, I wish it were used more.

In order to understand why peer-to-peer file sharing is interesting, we first need to understand just a little about how traditional file sharing and downloads work.

Read moreWhat Is Peer-to-Peer File Sharing, and Is It Legit?

Can a MAC address be traced?

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I know that all computers have a unique MAC address. But how traceable are they? If my laptop gets stolen, and I know my MAC address, can I get back to it if the person stole it gets connected to internet, even after formatting the machine and thinking that it’s safe to connect? Seems like this could stop laptop burglaries if that MAC address thing is traceable. 

You’re correct … it could put a big dent in laptop burglaries if MAC addresses were truly traceable. It would at least increase the odds of stolen equipment being recovered.

But they’re not traceable… at least not in any way that could help.

Let’s look at why.

Read moreCan a MAC address be traced?

What is a “subnet mask”?

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I keep seeing the term “subnet mask” when I configure network stuff. What is that?

Well, to be blunt, it’s something you probably never need to know about. Sure, you may have to enter one into a router configuration, but it’s typically something you’ll be given without needing to know exactly what it means.

You want to know anyway, don’t you? Fair enough.

A subnet mask is just a nifty way to define sub-networks. Besides being completely unhelpful, that definition actually opens up a slightly larger can of worms.

Read moreWhat is a “subnet mask”?

How Do I Monitor Network Activity on My Windows Machine?

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When my laptop is turned on, it starts downloading from the Internet – BUT – nothing is supposed to be downloading! How do I figure out what’s happening?

My normal response for this type of problem is to turn to Process Monitor, a free SysInternals utility from Microsoft. The problem is that it’s a pretty geeky tool, and requires a little patience and understanding to get useful results.

Of late, I’ve found myself firing up a completely different utility included in Windows 7 and 8 to monitor network activity. It’s a utility that quickly displays a lot of information about what’s going on. It actually can monitor several areas of your computer’s activity, but I’ll focus here on networking.

Read moreHow Do I Monitor Network Activity on My Windows Machine?

Do I Need a Firewall, and If So, What Kind?

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I keep hearing about “firewalls” for my computer and that there are different types. Do I need one? If I do, what kind of firewall do I need?

The very short, very easy answer is: hell yes! Absolutely, positively you need a firewall.

With all that happens on the internet these days, it’s simply too risky to let your computer sit “naked” on the internet unless you really know what you’re doing. The real question is what kind of firewall do you need?

The very good news these days is that it’s very likely that you’re already behind a firewall and don’t need to do a thing.

But you should make sure.

Read moreDo I Need a Firewall, and If So, What Kind?

Does Having a Publicly Visible Wi-Fi Password Add Security Compared to an Open Wi-Fi Hotspot?

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I handle the Wi-Fi hotspot for a library and have been using WPA2 with an openly distributed passphrase. Another library has no security whatsoever. Is there a greater risk using no security because for our library the passphrase is so openly available to possibly bad guys?

The short answer is absolutely!

Using WPA2 with a password – even a publicly visible one – adds significant levels of security beyond an open Wi-Fi hotspot. Yes, even if everybody in the room knows the password.

When you’ve got an open Wi-Fi hotspot, all of the information that’s being transmitted by each of the computers connected to that hotspot is being transmitted in the clear. That puts the onus of security on each individual computer user. That’s not necessarily a good assumption to make.

Read moreDoes Having a Publicly Visible Wi-Fi Password Add Security Compared to an Open Wi-Fi Hotspot?

Finding the Owner of an IP Address

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How do I figure out who owns an IP address?

At the risk of coming off as rude: you don’t. There’s a certain amount of information you can get, and I’ll show you shortly, but the level of detail most people want is simply not something that you can get on your own.

Over the years, I’ve received this question repeatedly and for various reasons. Most commonly, it’s from someone who’s being harassed online, and they believe that they have the IP address of the person responsible and now want to track them down.

It’s critically important that you realize that you will not, on your own, be able to get the information you want. The name, location, phone number, email address or any other specific information are simply not available to just any given IP address. Not only can an IP address change or be shared among many computers (and hence people), but the information that you’re seeking is considered private and is protected by the ISP who owns that IP address.

To get that information, you’ll need a legal reason to require it and that typically means a court order of some sort.

However, let’s look at what you can determine from an IP address on your own and a few tools that will help you determine at least the ISP that owns it.

Read moreFinding the Owner of an IP Address

Should I Worry about Heartbleed Affecting My Router?

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Leo, plenty of us obviously know about Heartbleed by now and possibly the fact that this glitch is all about SSL. So, as an advanced and highly experienced computer user, something occurred to me: our router’s use of SSL. In my example, AT&T Uverse is my ISP, and the model of ISP provided router is an AT&T two-wire, HGV 3801. On the router’s acknowledgements page, there is an entire section about OpenSSL. Basically, do you think that it’s important that SSL on a router be up to date whether they allow you to update it or not?

That’s a really great observation and a very good question.

My take is that it really depends on a number of factors, and I’ll try to review what I think are the relevant ones. I don’t think it’s something that poses an imminent threat.

Read moreShould I Worry about Heartbleed Affecting My Router?

I’m Using Someone Else’s Internet Connection – Am I at Risk?

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If I use a wired internet connection provided by my colleague is there any way for him or anyone connected to that same modem to watch the files in my laptop or if they can see my laptop while I’m using the internet like Skype or Gmail?

The short answer is: absolutely yes.

You are very right to be concerned. This is a topic I touch on from time to time, and it’s worth discussing a little bit more, since the risks are very easy to overlook.

Read moreI’m Using Someone Else’s Internet Connection – Am I at Risk?

How Do I Get My Windows Machines to Network with each Other?

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Leo, I recently purchased an Asus VivaTab tablet running full Windows 8.1 (not Windows RT) and I’ve tried just about everything to connect my Windows XP, SP3 to the tablet. Both computers are set to use the same work group name, namely MS Home but the tablet asks for a password when I’m setting up the home network. To my knowledge, Windows XP does not issue network passwords. Can you help?

Well, XP doesn’t issue network passwords… but in a sense it kind of does.

Networking is hard. This is something that can be tricky to get set up and get working. And yes, to be clear, it’s way trickier than it needs to be. I’ve written a couple of articles basically just venting about that in the past.

The good news is that I think we can get it to work.

Read moreHow Do I Get My Windows Machines to Network with each Other?

How can I tell what is being downloaded to my computer?

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I have a Windows 7 computer and use DUMeter to monitor traffic coming in and out of my computer. Every once and awhile, such as while I’m typing this, I can see a large download coming to my computer. I’ve checked my information area, lower right in the taskbar, and I don’t see a Microsoft icon, which usually appears when they’re downloading fixes. Plus, today’s Monday and it’s usually Wednesdays when I actually get them. I also have Norton 360 which never really tells me when its downloading definitions or other program updates.

Sometimes a big download is from someone who has sent me a large video file without asking or by mistake. I get concerned when I see such activity and I want to protect my computer. I’ve asked a number of people and searched your site for how to identify what website is downloading to my computer and I found no answers. I may just be asking the question incorrectly but I suspect you probably understand what I’m looking for.

What web site is downloading to my computer?

Yes, I understand what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, we can’t necessarily tell exactly what is being downloaded; but we can take a pretty good stab at what program on your computer is trying to do that download.

Read moreHow can I tell what is being downloaded to my computer?

Does visiting a search-engine cached page prevent the original site from noting my visit?

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There are times when one might choose to search a company’s web page as cached by Google or Bing in the hope of not broadcasting one’s IP address to the company by searching its active web page. Does visiting the cached version of a page provide anonymity at least from the company being searched? If not, is there a way to modify the search to achieve this anonymity short of using a proxy address?

The answer depends a lot on the specific sites that you’re actually looking at. In many cases, yes: the original site will never know that you were looking at its content that was cached somewhere else. However, in many other cases, – perhaps even most – the answer might be very different.

Read moreDoes visiting a search-engine cached page prevent the original site from noting my visit?

What’s an open port?

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Leo, a PC security measure that I’ve come across recently is one where we should scan our router for open ports. What’s an open port and how are they created? How do we scan our routers for these open ports and how do we close them when we find them? I have a combination modem/router and I’m running Windows XP, SP3.

Open ports, particularly on routers, aren’t really something that I worry about. To be blunt, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to track them down and close them.

That being said, the concept is kind of interesting and opens up a bit of a window into just how the internet works.

Read moreWhat’s an open port?

Why am I getting limited connectivity at my local open wifi hotspot?

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Leo, sometimes when I attempt to connect to my local coffeehouse’s Wi-Fi, I can connect to a strong signal that has limited or no connectivity but others in the house are connected with no problem at the same time. The shop owner’s not willing to reset the router because it might take down his credit card machine or other patrons – all perfectly logical. Anyway, is there a setting in my laptop that might improve this situation? Rebooting does not help. Disabling wireless and restart does not help. I’m using Windows XP Pro, Service Pack 3 with all updates.

Wireless N internal, and external N via USB. Both have failed (I’m not trying to connect them at the same time.) As did wireless G on another of my laptops also fail even though several other patrons are connected okay under the same wireless. I seem to be the only one having this problem but the problem is intermittent. Sometimes I can connect okay. Why would some be able to connect while others not, all at the same time?

Unfortunately, there’s not a setting on your computer that’s in your control, that I’m aware of, that would fix this problem. I do have some ideas, but the bottom line is that you really have to try and try again until it works, since you are able to reach full connectivity some of the time.

I just don’t really have any magical answers that are just going to make this problem go away for you.

Read moreWhy am I getting limited connectivity at my local open wifi hotspot?

Is my router acting as a DNS server?

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So when I access the command prompt and enter ipconfig/all one of the entries listed is “DNS Server” and IP address 192.168.x.x. I understand that my wireless router is my LAN’s default gateway and acts as the DHCP server – but DNS server? My operating system is Windows 7 Home Premium.

Yes, your router could in fact be acting as a DNS server. There are various reasons that it might be doing that, most of them related to speed.

First, let’s quickly review what DNS actually is.

Read moreIs my router acting as a DNS server?

Why can’t I connect to my hotel’s wireless network?

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Leo, I can’t connect to my hotel’s wireless with my Win 7 laptop. It’s happened twice at different places. I can with the iPad. After it connects, a browser page pops up, asking me to agree to the terms. After I check the box, the browser closes and I’m on wireless. But for some reason, using Win 7, that browser doesn’t come up, but a bubble note says to click for browser; nothing happens. I tried disabling Norton’s firewall with the same results.

Many providers of free, open hotspots force you to agree to terms of service before they allow you to access their internet.  It’s a legal issue: they need to cover themselves in case people misuse or abuse their service and somehow hold them liable for it.

Sometimes that can get in the way.

Read moreWhy can’t I connect to my hotel’s wireless network?

I’ve been blocked because my IP address is on a blacklist. What do I do?

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Recently, some forums are not allowing me to register because they claim I’m a spammer. The administrator on one of them emailed me that my IP address is on some kind of blacklist. Now, I’ve checked my IP address on many blacklists and I was all green and clean so what’s the matter here? Should I or could I change my IP address? Is there any way to locate that blacklist and get me taken off?

IP address blacklists are normally unreliable and a poor approach to controlling whatever it is people are trying to control. But administrators definitely use them.

Read moreI’ve been blocked because my IP address is on a blacklist. What do I do?

Can My ISP See that I’m Using a Proxy?

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I’m living in the UK, using a well-known ISP-changer program. It gives me a different ISP address that says I’m in the Netherlands, Russia, or the USA. What exactly does my own ISP see when I use this? Can they still tell how much I download for example?

This is an interesting question, particularly when it comes to understanding “IP-changing”  services.

Before I answer your questions, I need to clear up some terminology that you’re using… just to be sure that we’re talking about the same thing.

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Will buying a new modem/router increase my internet speed?

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I run a laptop with Vista SP2, Home Premium, with IE 9 on a wireless home network. I contract with my ISP for a DSL throughput of 1.2 to 1.5 megabits per second. We live in a rural area and that’s the fastest service available. Recently, using various speed tests, my speed has been falling below 1.2 megabits for considerable periods of time.

Monitoring my modem/router, the connect speed that it displays varies: 640/640, 1024/640, 1596/800. In addressing my slow speeds, my ISP insists that my three-year old modem/router needs replacement. I’m willing to do it if that will correct the problem, but my thinking is there’s nothing wrong with my existing modem/router. Aren’t the connection speeds that it displays a result of the line configuration settings originating with my ISP? Am I going to the expense of buying a newer modem/router they recommend only to end up with the situation unchanged?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to confirm what is happening. It could be the router, the line configuration, or other things like wire deterioration (which actually happened to me).

Let’s begin by looking at a few things.

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How can I share a single WiFi connection across multiple devices?

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My wife and I travel with two iPhones and two laptops – both Macs. Many hotels have started to charge for internet service per device. Is there some sort of WiFi-to-WiFi hotspot device or some other way to be able to sign on to WiFi so that it looks like it’s all one device?

I’ve seen this in hotels and I really don’t like it at all.

In my opinion, hotels should provide internet to the room and not necessarily care how many devices you connect and for how long. Free WiFi is a wonderful perk. The hotel will recover the cost in your room rate or other charges, but in today’s connected society, it really annoys me when hotels start charging big fees for you to stay connected.

I don’t have a specific one-size-fits-all solution, but I do have a couple of things to try.

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