8 – Watch out for AR7 routers

Can’t understand why your ADSL line doesn’t hold a connection? Don’t worry, neither could thousands of others at first, including our own online guru Davey Winder and even BT, who were charging customers £170 for fruitless engineer visits. In fact, it was diligent work by the technical support team at Zen Internet that discovered a fault with the Texas Instruments’ AR7 chipset, found in many popular brands of router.

In short, the AR7 routers were found to be the common factor among customers who reported that their connection kept dropping every few minutes, making video streaming and online gaming nigh-on impossible. It seems the chipset has a problem dealing with electrical noise on the line.

Finding out whether your router contains the AR7 chipset is no picnic. Router manufacturers often neglect to specify which chipset is built into their equipment, and it’s difficult to find even a model name on the rebadged routers supplied by the larger ISPs. You’ll find a list of some of the models containing the AR7 chipset at www.linux-mips .org/wiki/AR7.

Does this mean you should throw out your AR7-based equipment? Not necessarily. Some manufacturers, such as Netgear, have released firmware updates (see www.pcpro.co.uk/links/165broad2) that have reportedly solved the problem. Check your router’s software interface to see if there are any firmware upgrades available for your model. If that fails, borrow a non-AR7 router to see if that improves the reliability of your connection, before investing in new equipment.

Next: 9 – Finetune your MTU settings

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