Want a Powerful Router? Just Use Your Old PC

If you’re fed up with your router’s performance, you may want to consider turning an old PC into your own powerful DIY router.

Your router is the most important part of your home network that you actually have some control over. You’re most likely stuck with whichever modem your ISP gives you, and everything from that modem out to the wider internet is handled by your ISP. If you’re not getting the speeds you expect directly from that modem, there is very little you can do about it. But if the problem is within your home, then your router is probably responsible. If you’re fed up with your router’s performance, you may want to consider using an old PC to create your own powerful router.

You’re most likely using either a router that your ISP gave you (which may be built into the same box as your modem) or one of the many cheap WiFi routers on the market made by companies like Linksys and Netgear. It’s that router’s job to direct all of your network traffic to where it needs to go. That doesn’t seem like a particularly complicated job, but many routers still fail at it when your network has a lot of traffic bouncing around all of the devices you have in your modern tech-focused life. Even high-end routers, like the $250 Netgear 8000 used by PC Gamer’s Wes Fenlon, can struggle to keep up. Wes’s solution was to use a PC to handle the routing and to relegate the traditional router to the role of WiFi access point.

If you’ve already got a WiFi router, then following Wes’s guide will only require two things: a halfway decent PC and a PCI-e network card. That PC doesn’t need a ton of power, and something along the lines of a midrange gaming PC (sans the graphics card) from a few years ago will get the job done. The network card Wes purchased was a used HP NC364T 4-port model. To turn the PC into a router, you just need to install the open source pfSense software. That will take the internet connection from your modem and pass it out to the other ports on the card—one of which will most likely be the old WiFi router acting as an access point.

The combination of pfSense and powerful hardware will dramatically improve routing on your network, and the many add-ons available for pfSense, such as ad-blockers, can make your internet experience far more enjoyable. Wes has a gigabit internet connection, and reports that his new super router can reliably handle nearly that full amount. This setup isn’t much more expensive than a high-end router, but should yield far better results.

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