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You are here: Wireless Wireless How To How To Test A Wireless Router - Test WAN, Test LAN, Router Test, WLAN Test

How To Test A Wireless Router - Test WAN, Test LAN, Router Test, WLAN Test

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Test The WAN Connection

If everything has been set correction on the WAN side and DMZ, you should be able to ping the router WAN IP address from the WAN side computer.

1) On the WAN-side computer, open a Command Window (Start > Run and enter cmd).

2) Ping the router WAN IP. In our example this is:

ping 192.168.10.10

Successful WAN ping

Figure 8: Successful WAN ping

If you have set everything correctly, you will be rewarded with a successful ping like the one shown in Figure 8.

If you don't get a successful ping and Windows Firewall is enabled on either or both of the WAN and LAN-side computers, shut it off and retry the ping. Leave Windows Firewall off until you are done testing your router.

Test The LAN Connection

As long as the LAN-side client has an IP address that matches the router's range, traffic should get from LAN to WAN without a problem. We might as well verify this, however.

1) On the LAN-side computer open a Command Window (Start > Run and enter cmd) .

2) Ping the WAN-side computer IP address. In our example this is:

ping 192.168.10.2

Routing Throughput - Testing

With our paths through the router set up and verified, we're ready to performance test. First, I'll show the IxChariot results from the recent Cisco Linksys E4200v2 review, which I'll use as a benchmark. Figure 9 shows 254 Mbps WAN to LAN and 235 Mbps LAN to WAN.

E4200V2 routing throughput IxChariot plots

Figure 9: E4200V2 routing throughput IxChariot plots

Testing can be done as simply as opening shared folders on the LAN and WAN side machines and drag-and-dropping a large file between them, so let's start there.

First, make sure you enable sharing for the desired test folder on each machine. This can be the hardest part of the process, given Win 7's "improvements" in file sharing. Walking you through this is beyond the scope of this article. All I can say is have fun.

After you think you have the folders shared, go to each machine, bring up the Run box and enter \\ipaddress of the computer on the other side of the router. From the LAN-side machine in our example, this would be \\192.168.10.2. From the WAN-side machine, this would be \\192.168.10.10, which is the WAN IP. (The DMZ setting maps this to the LAN-side machine's IP address.)

If you have enabled sharing properly, you should get a window with the shared folder. Click into the folder to be sure that you are transferring files to the proper location.

If you have Windows 7 on one or both of your test machines, you can get a throughput reading (in MBytes/sec) directly from the file copy window. Figure 10 shows the readings during the transfer of a 1 GB ripped DVD VOB file. Multiplying by 8 to convert to Mbps yields 218 Mbps for LAN to WAN (top) and 174 Mbps for WAN to LAN.

Win 7 file copy results - 1 GB VOB file

Figure 10: Win 7 file copy results - 1 GB VOB file

The problem with this method is that the number shown in the file copy window is an instantaneous average, not an average of the total transfer. You also don't get a feel for the throughput variation during the test. To get that, you need a bandwidth plotting tool.

The Windows Task Manager Networking tab only shows results only as a %. That's helpful for looking at variation, but not at actual throughput. The Performance Monitor found under Administration Tools isn't much better. It takes awhile to futz with the settings to get a properly scaled plot. But the Y axis always reads in Bytes.

My tool of choice here is Hoo Technologies' Net Meter. Although it costs $25 (after the free trial), if you're going to do a lot of network performance testing/monitoring, it's worth it. Running it during the same file drag and drop shown in Figure 10 produced the plot shown in Figure 11. Pay no attention to the Up and Down notations at the bottom of the plot. They are only valid while data is flowing.

Net Meter - 1 GB VOB filecopy

Figure 11: Net Meter - 1 GB VOB filecopy

If you get tired of dragging and dropping, you're probably ready to step up to Totusoft's LAN Speed Test. This $5 program reads and writes data from memory and lets you set the test file size and number of files used in the test. The readout shown in Figure 12 is the average for the whole test sequence, which used a single 1 GB test file and was run on the LAN side machine.

LAN Speed Test - 1 GB test result

Figure 11: LAN Speed Test - 1 GB test result

Figure 12 shows the Net Meter plot taken during the LAN Speed Test run.

Net Meter - 1 GB LAN Speed Test

Figure 12: Net Meter - 1 GB LAN Speed Test

Table 1 compares the results from the three measurement methods. I've triple-checked the test setups and can't explain why IxChariot shows higher WAN-LAN speed while the other two methods show higher LAN-WAN speed. This just shows the value of choosing one test method and sticking with it.

Test Description IxChariot Windows copy LAN Speed Test
WAN - LAN 254 174 201
LAN - WAN 235 218 241
Table 1: Routing throughput method comparison (Mbps)

LAN Speed Test can't run tests simultaneously. So if you want to get a read on how your router handles a lot of traffic in both directions at the same time, you'll need to use the drag-and-drop file transfer method.

Gamers and file-sharers may want to check how many simultaneous connections their router can support. I use a program contributed by Matrix21 for this and you can, too. It's free and a zip of the programs and instructions can be downloaded here.

Wireless Throughput

If you have made it through testing routing throughput, testing wireless throughput is a piece of cake. In fact, if you want to test only your router's wireless performance, you can leave the router connected to your internet connection. Just skip all of the preceeding WAN-side setup and set up only the wired LAN-side machine. If you have already tested the wired routing performance, that's OK too. You can leave the WAN-side machine in place, you just won't be using it.

All testing will be done between the wired LAN-side computer and a wireless client computer. You just need to fire up a wireless client and associate it with the router. If you are using the filecopy method, you'll need to set up a shared folder on the wireless machine. You should use a WPA2/AES secured connection, since that's the normal operating mode. Channel selection is up to you, as are the locations where you test.

Once you are set up, just repeat whichever test method you used for the routing tests using the LAN-side and wireless clients. Wireless throughput is usually much lower than wired speed, especially for high-end routers with Gigabit Ethernet. You may find using a smaller file for file copy or a smaller test file size on LAN Speed Test is better for wireless testing.

When you're done testing, remember to restore the settings you changed on your test clients, including TCP/IP, file sharing and Windows Firewall.

I hope this article was helpful. If you have any test tips or questions, just post them in the Forums.




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