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Ports in a wireless router

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We are researching the possibility of setting up a wireless network where we now have a wired one and were curious as to why there are 4 LAN ethernet ports ports in a wireless router along with the WAN port . What is the difference between a router and an access point? Can we use an access point instead of a wireless router on new WI FI enabled laptops we are going to buy? Thank you.
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There are 4 copper ports in case you want to used a wired connection as well. The WAN port is where you connect the cable that goes to the internet.

For this, there is no difference between a router and access point. Usually there are many access points that connect to a large router. For small installs like this, it works as both. They use access point to describe wireless though, its not called an access point in a wired configuration.

This is what you are going to want to use for a small setup.
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the difference between a router and an access point is that a router routes and an access point just gives access

IF you're wanting to connect multiple computers wirelessly directly to your internet connection (i.e. cable modem) you would use a wireless router...which will create an internal IP subnet on the wireless (and those copper ports) side and route that traffic to the subnet given out by your internet connection

where as an access point WILL NOT create another subnet...it just gives access to an existing subnet...so...if you've got a building with 4 rooms...each room has CAT5 cable running from it to a central router that connects to your internet connection and you'd prefer that the PCs in each room connect wirelessly....you could put a single access point in each room...connected to the CAT run...this would IN EFFECT give you the EXACT same connectivity as plugging the PC in to the CAT run directly....just without the wires..

so if you're needing to route between subnets (or create subnets for segregation purposes)...you get a router...if all you want is to allow someone to connect to an existing network wirelessly...you'd get an AP
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