Those broadband sky firmware updating router right! and Mischa

Friday, October 13, 2017 by Alesa

Dear Geek,


We have had our NetGear router for many years now. Do you think we need to upgrade? Would a new router be better?


As we have AOL only certain routers work.


What do you think?


Hopeful of Herne Bay.

Dear Hopeful,

First of all, as AOL are just providing you with the same service as BT down the same bit of copper, you should be able to use any router that will work with a normal telephone connection. It’s just a matter of ensuring you use the correct ADSL settings for AOL. Of course, AOL may prefer otherwise – the fewer routers their helpdesk need to support the cheaper it is to run.

The exception to this rule is Sky Broadband – they will not let you have the ADSL username and password to use your own router. There are ways around it but not for the faint-hearted.

Any way, back to the real issue. Should you upgrade?

There is one very important phrase to always take into account when considering an upgrade…

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

…which leads to the question – why do you want to upgrade?

  • You want to improve your wireless signal.
    This can be a good reason – old routers tend to be the 802.11g or 802.11b if very old. The newer 802.11n routers offer faster wireless speeds and better signal strength.
  • You want extra features, like printer or file sharing.
    Personally, I would rather invest in a network printer / storage device than deal with the hassle of working around the idiosyncrasies of different routers and relying on them working with your particular PC and printer etc. 
  • The router often needs to be rebooted or loses connection.
    Another good reason, these symptoms often point to a dying router. But check for other issues first – try replacing your microfilter (or replace it with an ADSL faceplate), consider the length & quality of your telephone extension (in fact, avoid using an extension altogether).
  • Your broadband is slow.
    While this can be improved by a newer router, it can just as easily result in the opposite! It’s far more important to look at the microfilter, faceplate and line quality issues first. Also, try a few tests with something like to see if it’s actually time of day related, so you can point the finger at ISP issues.

What about upgrading the firmware?

If you know enough to ask that question then you are probably capable of giving it a go. It may make improvements, but sometimes firmware updates are only released to fix very esoteric problems.

Just make sure you backup your router settings and have a copy of the original firmware to put back if things go wrong before you upgrade. Remember, if you break (or “brick”) your router, you won’t be able to get online to download a fix.

So you have decided you want a new router…

  • You can get a very good router for around £35 (we quite like the ones TP-Link are making at the moment).
  • Make sure you have your ADSL username and password ready from your provider – this is sometimes the same as your email account details but not always. Your ISP should have told you them when you signed up but should also happily tell you over the phone. Unless you are with Sky, of course. To be honest, I think ADSL usernames and passwords are pointless, but I don’t have enough influence over such matters!
  • Check all the settings on your current router so you know what to set on the new one. Look out for things like IP address ranges, port forwarding, wireless security.
  • If you are hiring your local geek to carry out the upgrade it can take anything from a quick half-hour to a more complicated hour or more if you have a particularly complex network setup.
  • Some particularly friendly geeks may even let you borrow a router to see how it performs.

Final tip

Keep your old router somewhere safe – it’s always good to have a backup to revert to!

And good luck 🙂 

Jeff Keyzer


Jonathan Gwyer

Jonathan Gwyer first delved into geekery with a ZX81 in 1981 and has been working in IT since 1990.

A Microsoft Certified Professional with many years of large corporate experience and training, he now focuses on helping small businesses make the most of their IT.

Latest posts by Jonathan Gwyer (see all)