Pat's system was sluggish. She had to give up on simple tasks and start over a lot. Even I was affected. We had communication problems. The close ties of our life together rapidly turned sour.

Our home computer network was sick.

Pat recently upgraded her computer with a wireless wonder that runs the latest PC operating system, Windows 7.

Meanwhile, my 6-year-old PC runs Windows XP. It included a router and a modem that linked my computer system to Pat's and directed our Internet communications.

Inexplicably, Pat couldn't get to certain websites such as Southwest Airlines. Downloads took way too long or paused and had to be restarted, and she couldn't view videos on YouTube.

So Pat went into Internet search mode, trying to find people with similar problems and what the fixes were. She found plenty of problems but also diametrically opposed solutions for each. Oh, the frustration!

Also, our difficulties didn't appear to be typical slow, inefficient computer problems or caused by viruses.

We suspected the problem was with our network and the router linking our devices, including the PCs, laptop and iPad.

We needed help. Since we don't know any teenagers, we started with our Internet service provider, which had helped in the past.

This time the Internet service repairman was nice enough but was overwhelmed at Pat's long list of problems. He recommended a computer specialist.

We made an appointment for an in-house visit by a computer doctor and prepared a list of questions and complaints, just like we do before seeing a medical specialist. By this time we were sure we needed a new router, so we bought one beforehand.

When the computer doctor arrived, we pointed him to my computer and the old router. He took one look and burst out laughing at the haphazard pile of wires under my desk.

It was so bad that he powered up his laptop to show me "before" and "after" photos of some of his wire-organizing solutions - involving pegboards and hooks - that he had provided for other customers. Not a good start.

Next, the computer doctor installed the new router. The old router had been set up for both wireless and hard-wire connection to my computer. My computer always used the existing hardwire connection, but wasted time evaluating the connection options. With the new router, we disabled the wireless option, increasing my computer's speed.

The effect on Pat's computer system is a lot harder for me to explain. The new dual-band router communicates to Pat's computer on a higher frequency, providing more consistent range capability and reducing household interference.

Then there was something about 64-bit operating systems being more efficient than 32-bit systems; I got lost at about six bits.

Then I swear the computer doctor clicked his heels together and said something about Kansas.

Anyway, our Internet operations are working great.

We took our old, but still-operating router to Bookmans for store credit.

If there is a lesson here, it is to be careful mixing old and new equipment in your home network.

Using a computer doctor wasn't cheap, but think about how much you'd pay a plumber, or in my case recently, an air-conditioning technician.

E-mail Bob Ring at or view his website,