Does A Powerline Adapter Need To Be Connected To A Router? (Online vs Offline Use)

Powerline adapters can be great connectivity solutions in the home. But one question beginners might want to know is whether one adapter in a pair must be connected to the router in order to work? Do powerline adapter kits need to be used with a router?

A powerline adapter must be connected to a router in order to forward internet traffic to the receiving end adapter and the device connected to it. However, they can also be theoretically used offline to facilitate data transfer within a local network.

However, the offline use case is very rare. The bottom line is that if you want to use powerline adapters to surf the internet, one of them needs to be hooked up to the router which has access to the internet.

Let’s look at these different use cases in more detail.

How To Connect A Powerline Adapter To A Router

The process for connecting powerline adapters to a router, and then each other, is really easy. You can sync adapters next to each other in adjacent wall sockets if you like, and then install them where you need them.

But if you want to start off right next to the router, here’s what you do:

  1. Plug one adapter into a wall socket near the router
  2. Connect the adapter to one of the router’s LAN ports (not the WAN port) using a short ethernet cable.

Then you plug the other adapter in near the device you want to use and connect it with an ethernet cable.

Then you start the pairing process:

  • Press and hold the pair button on the adapter near the router until the LED starts flashing.
  • Within 2 minutes, press and hold the pair button on the other adapter until it starts flashing.
  • Wait for the 2 adapters to pair with each other. When they are fully connected, all 3 LEDs turn solid green. You now have an internet connection being sent between the adapters.

And that’s really it for formal powerline adapter setup and pairing. And as long as one adapter is connected to a working router, you should have an internet connection being delivered to your device via the adapters.

What Will Happen If You Just Plug Powerline Adapters In?

So what would happen if you just plugged a pair of powerline adapters into a pair of random wall sockets in the same home, but didn’t connect one of them to your main router?

Well, sometimes the adapters will “find” each other and pair up automatically. And you could connect one of the adapters to a device like a laptop if you want.

And if you want, you can pair them up in adjacent sockets, like in the video below.


But you wouldn’t be able to get an internet connection out of this pair of adapters, because there’s nowhere the adapters can pull their connection from.

You see the crucial difference in the video above, where only TWO of the three LEDs turn solid green to indicate power and pairing. But the third one doesn’t turn green, as there’s no actual internet connection or data transfer going on.

When you’ve paired adapters AND one of them is connected to the main router, all three LEDs turn solid green, and that’s when you know you’ve actually got an internet connection via the adapters:

Using Powerline Adapters Offline

All this being said, it is still possible to use powerline adapters “offline”. That is, to use a pair of adapters to connect two devices to each other within the same local network, rather than the main router. You can then use this LAN powerline connection to transfer data between the two devices if connecting the two devices by another method isn’t feasable.

This is totally possible – if your powerline adapter came with a setup utility CD or app, you way want to use it to configure this local connection.

And the adapters can facilitate this intra-LAN transfer of data between devices without needing to be hooked up to the main router.

However, you can often expect reduced transfer speeds using powerline adapters this way versus using them to supply internet connections via the router.

See this forum post for a someone using powerline adapters in this “offline” way, but getting drastically lower speeds – like one third of what you’d expect using them in the normal “online” way.

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