Put Together A Home Networking Emergency Kit

My router just died, but despite the sadness and frustration, I'm making it through the work day because I planned ahead. I put together a networking emergency kit so I could get up and running again quickly if something like this happened. Here's how you can do it too.

Photo by Sashkin.

When your router dies, it is not only frustrating, but also confusing. Routers generally don't just shut down one last time and never turn on again. Instead, they start to malfunction. Sometimes you can get them working again for a few hours before the trouble sets in again. It's a slow and sad decline that will take you through many stages of grief.

First, there's confusion — you don't know what's happening. Is it the router? The modem? A bad cable? Second, you experience denial — you know the router is the problem but you want to believe it's your ISP. They're easy to blame. They screw up all the time. You just got the router working again. It has to be them.

But it's not, and you'll realise that soon. Finally, you reach acceptance — you know the router is dead. You're going to have to replace it. This isn't a fun realisation, but it's necessary. However, replacing a router takes time and money. If you haven't bought one in a while, you need to read up on what to buy. If only you could have diagnosed the problem faster. If only you had some kind of backup to get you online right now. That's what a networking emergency kit is for, and it's pretty easy to put together.

What Goes In The Kit

When you're putting together a networking emergency kit, you really only need a few things:

  • A backup router that's small and designed to get online quickly, like Apple's Airport Express or the Linksys E1200. You can get something more complex if you prefer, but when you just want to get online again it's sensible to avoid a lot of configuration.
  • Extra Ethernet cables. Two or three is good. Cables go bad, too, and sometimes you may need an extra one when configuring your setup. Keep a few handy just in case.
  • Cable testers. You can find out if you have a bad cable a lot faster with one of these guys, and they're not very expensive ($10-$20). It doesn't hurt to have them in your kit.
  • A small bag or box to hold everything. I use a small first aid kit that I found at a chain store. Soft, padded lunch boxes/bags work well, too. You can also just use some box lying around, but the lunch boxes/bags and first-aid kits have handles, which is nice.

When you get everything together, I highly recommend configuring your router in advance so you don't have to deal with setup or anything else you probably won't want to do in a hurry. That way you can just reset your modem, turn on your router, and get online in a few minutes (if the router is, indeed, the problem). (Many people have a combined router/modem; that's less gear but makes it harder to isolate problems.)

Because I had my kit ready I was able to get back online and write this post. It's a simple thing that takes very little work to put together, and you'll rarely need to use it, but you'll be glad you have it when a problem arises.

Do you have a networking emergency kit? What do you keep in yours? Let us know in the comments.


    for home:
    -3G dongle
    -some ethernet cables.

    For work:
    -about 30 ethernet cables of varying length
    -an old 48-port 100mb switch
    -two 8 port gigabit switches
    -a spare cisco wifi hotspot
    -half a dozen PoE adapters
    -if all else fails, an old 48 port 100mb hub.

    I have a Edimax BR-6258n nano router in my everyday messenger bag - it's a matchbox sized device which handles both wired and wireless connections with ease. Together with retractable ethernet and microUSB cables, I'm set for most home/hotel room/work/mobile networking emergencies.

    I use my phone tethered to my computer for internet. if that fails, I go outside.

    Android phone - USB tethering or portable hotspot.

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