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Routers ... What plugs into where?

Posted on 2014-02-13
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Last Modified: 2014-03-04
My question is ... on the back of a Wireless Router for home (such as Netgear N600 WNDR3400), there is 1 unique jack to plug in an Ethernet cable, then there are 4 "Port" jacks numbered 1-4.  How do you know when to plug into that 1 jack vs. one of the other 4 jacks?  Is there a general rule? And when you connect a Router directly to a PC to modify it's settings, which jack do you use?
(The situation: My house has a lot of gear in it ... Internet from the ISP coming in, going into a large (20-port) Switch, which goes to outlets in the house.  And at a couple of those outlets, there are small 4-Port switches that then go to printer, AV Receiver, PC, etc. And some of those go to Wireless Routers as mentioned above. and one has both ... Small 4-port switch in the room, going to a Router.)
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Question by:bleggee
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by:Dave Baldwin
Dave Baldwin earned 167 total points
ID: 39857887
The 'unique jack', usually labeled 'WAN', is to connect to a network that lead to the internet and in simpler setups is connected to your DSL or cable modem.  Typically, the four 'regular' ports are on a different network segment and use DHCP from the router to get their IP addresses.  Wireless devices connecting to that router also get their IP addresses from there.

However... the DHCP network segment needs to be different than the network segment connected to the 'unique' jack or you will have duplicate IP addresses and network confusion.  If your router is using 192.168.1.xxx, then your 'unique jack' should be connected to a different network segment like 192.168.0.xxx.

If you are having problems, you should probably map out what IP addresses are being used by all the pieces of equipment you have.
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by:Infamus
ID: 39857888
1 unique jack is for WAN access which you connect to your ISP provided modem or router and the other 4 ports are basically switch ports which you can plug in your LAN devices.
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by:Infamus
ID: 39857890
Dave, you beat me by 21 seconds....lol
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Expert Comment

by:John Hurst
ID: 39857892
The unique jack should be marked WAN and when you say you plug an Ethernet cable into it, the other end goes to your cable or DSL modem.

The other 4 jacks can be used interchangeably. Plug from one jack into your computer and it should have internet.

You can plug any switch into the router.

In your description above, do you have more than one router?  This has to connected carefully if you do.
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by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39857898
There is a lot of info on this page about the WNDR3400: http://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-routers/WNDR3400.aspx#tab-support
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by:CompProbSolv
ID: 39857971
(just adding to the accurate information already given)

If you want all of your devices to be able to communicate with each other, then you would use the single (WAN/Modem/Internet) port only when it is connecting to your internet modem with an external (public) IP address.  Otherwise, you would use one of the four switch ports.

More simply, because you said that your ISP device connects to your 20-port switch, the device is almost certainly a modem and router.  You would not typically use the single port on any of the other devices.  In fact, I'd recommend covering that port with a piece of tape to make it clear that it is not to be used.

The local IP address for each of these devices (typically wireless routers) should be on the same subnet (e.g. 192.168.1.x or 10.0.0.x) as the local side of your ISP router.  The WAN (or Internet) side of these devices (to which nothing is connected) should be left to get an address automatically (DHCP) or, preferably, set to some private address that is NOT on your subnet.  192.168.99.x would be a good choice, where "x" is a number between 1 and 254 and is different on each device.

This all assumes that you don't want any of your devices isolated from the rest.  If so, more information would be needed to appropriately answer.
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by:bleggee
ID: 39857972
Yes, I have 3 Routers downstream from the ISP Modem.  So if my ISP Modem is on 192.168.0.xxx, then can teh remaining 3 be on 192.168.1.xxx ?   Or do I need to use unique subnet<?> numbers like 192.168.2.xxx and 192.168.3.xxx?
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by:bleggee
ID: 39857977
... and having all Routers talk to each other is fine ... I don't need any isolation.
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by:John Hurst
John Hurst earned 167 total points
ID: 39857982
You want to have ONE main router functioning as the router and DHCP server. Let's say that is 192.168.0.x (put your modem in Bridge mode in order to use another router). Check with your ISP about bridge mode if need be.

Then on the other routers, do NOT use the WAN port. Plug LAN to LAN, turn DHCP OFF on the additional routers and give the additional routers static IP addresses on the main router. E.G. 192.168.1.11 and 192.168.1.12. Use 192.168.1.100 and up as the DHCP range.

I don't think you want multiple subnets all over or you will have difficulty connecting computers to each other.
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CompProbSolv earned 166 total points
ID: 39857988
"can the remaining 3 be on 192.168.1xxx?"
Yes, they can, but you'd have to use the WAN ports and it will get complicated.

Use the 1-4 ports, don't use the WAN ports, set the local side of the routers to 192.168.0.xxx and (I failed to mention this before but John Hurst appropriately added it) turn DHCP off on all devices except for your ISP's router.
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