Modems of the past were complex pieces of equipment used primarily by the most technically savvy, so it’s no wonder words like “cable modem” can cause eyes to glaze over in the assumption that this must be more difficult to install than a VCR is to program. On the contrary, installing a cable modem yourself is anything but difficult. Today’s modems for high-speed Internet access have been designed for the most basic, robust purposes – providing faster service for your home.
Why Try Installing a Cable Modem Yourself?
Whichever cable company provides you with service will readily set up an appointment to configure it. The biggest pro of a cable company install is that they can also test the line at the same time to make sure it’s all working correctly (vs. having someone out on a separate occasion). The largest con is that it’s generally expensive – say $125 – for installation when modems are relatively simple pieces of equipment. In short, self install may save you money, but not necessarily hassle. If you are not up to the hassle, you can find and compare several install options and pricing packages, and there are other ways to save money on your high-speed internet installation.
You can get a cable modem either directly when you place your service order or independently. You can order everything online for a self-install kit and instructions are also included.
For those who wish to select and purchase modems independently, here’s what to look for at a retail store on or offline:
- A known brand such as Motorola, Lucent, 3Com/US Robotics, Speedstream, Zoom, Linksys; no matter how good the deal sounds, if the hardware hasn’t been time tested, you could pay much more in repairs, time lost and/or replacement.
- External modem that works with a variety of computers and is portable. There’s nothing wrong with internal modems; on the contrary, they cost less and take up less space but they are more difficult to manage and are not recommended to anyone inexperienced with swapping and testing cards inside a PC.
- Any warranty should include parts and labor — 1 year is standard; some offer 2 years.
Before making a purchase, the only essential to have is Ethernet capability within your computer – or at least USB capability. (Some modem models can connect to PCs completely bypassing Ethernet by going through the USB connector.) Cable comes into the house, into the modem and USB comes out of the modem into the computer, for example. You might also want to consider either a wireless router or a cable modem, if you want to run any of your computers wirelessly.
If the instructions say to install the modem before turning on the computer or vice versa, heed that warning. Do exactly as the instructions say; do not deviate or the process will inevitably take twice as long. For installing a cable modem, it can be a little more difficult depending on how your house or apartment is wired for cable. Getting the cable jacks installed where you want your cable modem to be located before installing the modem is key. It all depends on where your computer(s) are located, and how you will connect them together. If all of your computers are in a single room, then it is a relatively simple decision.
Next, consider how other computers and phones need to access the network, if applicable.
Connections and Troubleshooting
To get your modem up to speed, follow the connection instructions for the hardware and wiring first, (power, Ethernet, phone and/or cable) then install any applicable software. Every manual comes with information for the software side, but in some cases the software will not be required (like for some Macs). Occasionally, you will need to change a few settings, but the most important step is to attach all cables properly and securely.
Don’t panic if you can’t immediately get a connection.
Take a break, get some fresh air, review the instructions and start over if necessary. If that doesn’t work, call customer support. If, for some reason, you still can’t get things working yourself, don’t sweat it. Call for a service appointment. Hardware errors, line errors, software errors all happen, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do. Just considering a self-install is a big step.