Question from Kalin H.: I really love your blog Rick, especially how you answer people’s tech questions.
I know that most of the questions you answer are practical in nature but mine is somewhat theoretical so I hope you won’t mind answering it for me.
The question is this: If you have a choice, do you prefer using a wired Ethernet connection or Wi-FI to connect to the Internet?
I have a preference myself and I’m just wondering if it’s the best one. Thanks for your time!
Rick’s answer: I don’t mind answering your question at all, Kalin. And while I agree that it’s a bit “theoretical” in nature, I believe it’s a good one nonetheless.
My answer is very simple: Any time I have a choice between accessing the Internet via a Wi-Fi network or a wired Ethernet connection, I always choose the wired connection. And that holds true even if I’m using a laptop in a hotel room.
There are several reasons why I always choose a wired connection over a Wi-Fi connection when given the choice:
1 – Wired connections are inherently more secure than wireless connections.
While modern Wi-Fi security protocols are quite secure compared to their predecessors, they still aren’t fool-proof.
Researchers (and hackers) are discovering new vulnerabilities in technologies that have long been considered extremely secure on a regular basis.
Any signal that’s transmitted over-the-air (including Wi-Fi) can be intercepted by any bad guy who might be within its range. If that miscreant knows of a way to hack that signal via some newly discovered vulnerability he’ll be able to do so.
Using a wired Ethernet connection completely eliminates the possibility of having your data revealed to a hacker via a compromised over-the-air Wi-Fi signal.
2 – Wired Ethernet connections are typically more stable than Wi-Fi connections.
Have you ever been connected to a Wi-Fi network and had your device lose its connection even though the Wi-Fi signal where you’re located is quite strong?
Yeah, me too, and it’s very frustrating.
Wired Ethernet connections rarely “disconnect” like that. They almost always either work well or they don’t work at all.
If you’re able to successfully connect to the Internet with a wired connection the odds of you losing that connection during your session are close to nil.
Of course if your ISP develops an issue on their end or a storm or some other outside influence interrupts your Internet connection, your wired Ethernet connection will stop working. But you’d be no better off if you were using Wi-Fi because that connection would stop working as well if it’s routed through the same ISP.
3 – In many cases wired Ethernet is faster than Wi-Fi, especially if your computer has a blazing-fast Gigabit Ethernet adapter connected to a Gigabit Internet connection.
While it’s true that modern wireless routers and gateways are capable of providing the fastest WiFi connections ever, their effective WiFi speeds are still typically slower than a wired Ethernet connection would be, due to several varying factors.
The awesome WiFi speeds that are provided by the most recent routers and gateways only apply when you’re in close proximity to the router/gateway. If you’re in another room or on another floor your effective download and upload speeds will be slower than the speeds you would enjoy if you were in the same room.
The number of users who are connected via a given Wi-FI channel also affects every user’s effective Internet connection speeds. The more users, the slower their connections.
Of course the number of total users accessing your Internet connection (including wired Ethernet users) will determine the effective connection speeds for each user, but the Wi-Fi users will be affected more than the wired users if there are several of them using the same Wi-Fi channel.
And finally, Wi-Fi connections are subject to more latency than wired connections.
Broadly defined, latency is the delay between the time your browser sends a request for data to a server somewhere on the Internet and the time you receive the first byte of information back from that server.
As you can imagine, the higher the latency the slower your apparent connection speeds will be.
There you have it, Kalin. Now you know that I prefer using a wired Ethernet connection instead of Wi-Fi any time I have a choice, and you also know why.
Update from Kalin: Your preference is the same as mine Rick. Thanks for validating it for me!
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