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Prolonging the Life of a Wireless Router

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wi-Fi routers are often set up, put in the closet and quickly forgotten, left to toil away for years connecting laptops, game consoles and other nearby devices to the Internet. For the most part, you can forget about your router. It has no moving parts, so most likely it'll become outdated before it goes kaput.

With the latest Wi-Fi variety known as 802.11ac now hitting stores, the new models can set you back a couple of Benjamins. To keep your existing router healthy and last as long as possible, take care of it.

Here are some guidelines gleaned from interviews with experts at Linksys, D-Link and Netgear (NTGR), the major manufacturers of consumer wireless routers.

Keep it out of the sun. Heat isn't good for any electronics, including routers. These always-on devices already run warm. Operating at a higher temperature could lead to component failures and even weakening soldered joints.

Clean it. A little dirt won't hurt, but don't let the dust collect, says Dan Albertson, Linksys' manager of product development. "If you kept a PC in the closet and the area around the fan gathered dust for months and months, it never hurts to do a quick vacuum. Same with the router's own vents," he said.

Protect it from power surges. A killer of routers and other electronics is power spikes caused by thunderstorms and other weather woes. Inexpensive surge protectors protect against extreme voltage spikes caused by brownouts, lightning and other power spokes.

Update the firmware. Manufacturers often make software tweaks months, even years, after the product has shipped. Thank goodness pretty much all of them offer updates free online. Some fix security flaws, others add new features. D-Link recently offered future proofing for the Internet protocol expansion into IPV6.

Most router manufacturers during the installation process let users choose to have firmware updated automatically. Don't forget to also update the firmware on your smartphone, laptop or other device as well.

Reposition it. Older routers offer stronger wireless signal if they are physically higher and set vertically, said Sandeep Harpalani, Netgear's senior product line manager of wireless networking.

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