Tech 101: HomePlug explained in 60 seconds

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Tech 101: HomePlug explained in 60 seconds

If you need to connect a home office computer or a second room to the Internet, you might hear about HomePlug. So what is it and why is it so handy?

 

If you've got more than a couple of laptops or printers around the home or office you'll need to somehow connect them to your Internet connection.

Wireless is meant to be the easy answer to that, but sometimes the walls of your office or the distances make wireless impractical. This is precisely the situation we found ourselves in recently.

However, it's possible to avoid the cost of running network cables by using HomePlug equipment. Rather than relying on network cabling, HomePlug equipment uses your existing electrical cabling to transmit data.

HomePlug was recently updated so newer equipment supports a speed of up to 500Mbps. Older gear, that's still on the market and much cheaper, runs at a nominal speed of 200Mbps. (HomePlug is an official network standard (IEEE 1901 if you interested in looking it up).)

All the major network equipment makers make HomePlug equipment. We visited a local electronics retailer recently and bought a HomePlug kit. 

The Netgear HomePlug kit we bought

 

An adaptor plugs into your Internet router using a network cable and also plugs into the wall outlet. A second adaptor plugs into the other wall outlet and into the computer you want to connect.

The kit we purchased was the Netgear XAVB 1004. It's only a 200Mbps device but suitable for our application. 

Each HomePlug kit comes with two main parts; an adaptor that connects to the power outlet and connects using a network cable to your existing router and a second adaptor for the other device or devices you want to connect.

We chose a kit where the second adaptor was actually a hub so we could add up to four devices to the network. In our application, we used it to connect a gaming console, Blu-ray player and video streaming device at home. 

But it can be used to connect computers, printers or other office devices as well. 

The installation was extremely simple and reflects what we’ve found with other HomePlug kit we've tested.

There's no special configuration to complete. Simply plug everything in and your network will be extended in moments.

Two limitations of HomePlug: powerboards and power sockets

Most HomePlug solutions won't work if you're connecting them to a powerboard. They rely on being connected directly to the power outlet.

The problem is that most of the HomePlug adaptors are quite large and cover two power sockets. 

Also, the equipment only works if the adaptors are plugged into the same circuit in your house.

If you're not sure how to check that, there's a handy guide at OzCableguy.

Ready to read more about getting your home office networked? Read our NBN Toolkit.

 

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