Belkin N1 Wireless Router, Desktop, Notebook, and USB Cardsskinny -
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Installation of this product should be super easy. Step 1 of the router installation includes 5 sub-steps:
a) unplug your modem’s power cord, put your router next to your modem, and raise the antennas on the router
b) unplug your network cable running from your modem to your computer, and plug the modem end into a grey port on the back of your router
c) open the package labeled “A” (yellow network cable), and plug it into the yellow port on the back of the router, and the other end to your modem
d) plug in the power to the modem, wait 60 seconds for the modem to start; plug in the power cord to the router, then to the wall
e) give the router 20 seconds to start up, then make sure the “wired” and “router” icons light up on the display in blue
This is where things got interesting. Step 2 says to insert the Setup CD into your computer, and to simply follow the onscreen directions. So, I put the CD in my computer, but every time I tried it, it froze. No installation took place. I undid everything, and tried again. And again. And again. After seven tries, I called the Tech Support number, and the technician ran me through several tests before deciding that the modem was defective, and that it would be replaced under warranty. The nice gentleman on the Tech line also advised me that the software on the setup CD does not work, and that the router would have to be manually setup anyway.
A short time later, my second router showed up. I followed the exact same instructions that came with this one, with the exact same results. Once again, after multiple installation attempts, I called Tech Support and went through the same steps as the previous call, plus a few more. We finally got the router working through a manual installation, not using the included CD. This gentleman also advised me that the included software does not work, and that as Tech Support, he did not know why the CD was included in the packaging, as the installation was not possible the way it is set up. Oh well, at least the router was now working. Once it is working, it displays several items on its face that show system status. There are icons for Internet connectivity, modem, router, radio waves (indicating wireless is enabled), wired (indicating that a hardwired system is connected), and wireless (indicating that a wireless system is connected). If these icons are flashing amber, they have issues. If they are solid blue (a very pretty blue, I might add), they are working properly.
Installation of the wireless notebook card worked well. Once again, the included Quick Setup instructions were followed, but this time they worked. Quite simply, install the CD, put the card into the proper slot on your laptop, use the “Found New Hardware” wizard, select an available wireless network, and you are done.
The USB card, which I installed on my desktop, installed cleanly as well. It uses the same instructions as the wireless notebook card, except you plug in the USB cable instead of the notebook card.
And now for the Wireless Desktop card. If my mood after dealing with the router was described as mildly frustrated, the wireless desktop card took me well beyond aggravated. Again, the quick installation guide makes installation look quite simple, with only four main steps. First, install the CD and run the installer. When the installer is done, there is a button marked “finish” that you click to shut down your computer. It did not shut down my computer. Minor issue, I simply shut it down manually. The next step is to install the card into your computer. Remove your side cover, and firmly press the card into an available PCI slot. Either screw the card into place, or lock it in with whatever tool-less retention system your case uses, and replace the side cover. Then, look at the back of your computer, and attach the antenna cable to the back of the card by pressing it into place. Next, place the antenna in an unobstructed location, such as on a shelf. When I did this, I heard a clunking sound from the back of my computer, and looked to see that the antenna had come unplugged. I plugged it in again, and again it fell off. I had to leave the antenna sitting much lower, as the plug would not firmly attach to the card.
The next step in installation is to run the “Found New Hardware” program again. So, I turned on the computer, allowed Windows to boot up, and promptly received a “Fatal Error” blue screen. I restarted, and got through the Hardware Wizard before the next blue screen appeared. I uninstalled, reinstalled, and got the same screen. I tried again (slow learner, I guess), and got the same result. I uninstalled and did an internet search for this issue. Belkin had no reference to a problem like this on their site, and I found a few other consumer reviews reporting similar issues. So, for the third time on this review, I called the Tech line.
One thing I must say is that Belkin’s Tech Support line is pretty good. For some reason, I get the feeling that they get a lot more calls than they really should, so they have lots of experience. Again, I was told to avoid using the setup CD that was included with the product. The card and antenna were installed, and the Windows hardware installer was used, without installing a single Belkin program. I was then able to connect to the network.
Typically, the next step in this installation process would be to go in and setup the included Wireless Network Security features that Belkin includes with these products. However, as the router and wireless desktop card were not set up with Belkin programming, I did not have access to these features. After being told by Belkin Tech Support to not use the included programming, they should maybe stop advertising these features being available, since they can not be accessed.
By this point, I was thinking I was finally done with installation issues. I soon realized I had set myself up for more disappointment.