Insteon Disaster Recovery


Senior Member
I have a question about the Insteon Power Line Interface Modules and what happens when one fails. It appears from what I have read that a controller (PC or Hardware) using Insteon via a USB or Serial interface is not actually sending direct protocol commands but is in fact accessing the link table in the interface. In other words, to talk to device 00.C4.14, I have to manually link it to the interface before it becaomes accessible to the contoller.

1- Is this correct or am I just misunderstanding?

2- If this is correct then what happens when the interface fails? Even if I have a spare on the shelf I assume it won't work unless I manually recreate all the links?

3- I expect to have well over a hundred links so I would want to back up the database to avoid the manual process. Is there a way to do that? My goal is to be back on line within 5 minutes of discovering an interface failure. Assuming 100 links and a spare unit on the shelf, what do I need to do to meet that goal?
1. This is my understanding also.
2. Sad, but true?
3. Pray that SmartHome releases something like UPstart before you are in that situation?

My understanding is that the same weakness is in the 2414x translator. If it fails, you are screwed and have to essentially start all over because all your devices will still be linked to the old translator/interface.

So, if a keypadlinc has a link to an interface/translator and the interface/translator fails, you then have to factory reset the keypadlinc and redo ALL of its links to your new interface/translator AND all of the devices it was previously linked to.

This lack of a link editor is about the biggest advertisement for UPB or Z-Wave or X-10 that I know of. And the first time it happens to somebody on a large installation and catches them by surprise, they may rip out all Insteon devices in disgust.
It is my opinion that Insteon has been over engineered and as a result has become to complicated. The technology works, but how it is setup to operate will be its downfall. It should have been kept simple, much like the Smarthome Manager and the 1132CU. With all this linking nonsense, the average Joe Homeowner will never spend money on something this complicated.

I was one of the first to purchase the Insteon Starter kit and was very excited after seeing the performance of Insteon. Well, I waited to purchase any further Insteon equipment, and I'm glad I did. With all the problems that are popping up with the Smarthome scheme for Insteon, I would say that this product was released about a year to soon.
I have seen others say that if a switch that is linked to a few others fail. You also have to reset them and relink all of them again.
I am still using X10 Primary Modes for now as I have no faith in the joke they called the Timer Software. The translator doesn't look to promising either.
Hi Mike & All: I hope I can answer some of these important questions.

Mike: INSTEON allows both group and direct commands. The group commands use the link tables you refer to in the controllers and the responders. The direct commands are specific point-to-point messages used mainly by software or group-cleanup commands.

The group commands allow for a one button/one INSTEON message command that can cause a huge number of devices, to respond instantly, because at link time, they preserved their state(s). For lighting that is the light level and ramp rate. For (future-INSTEON-compatible) stereos, that's the input channel, output channel, volume, preset, perhaps even the CD track all preserved to restore to that button or command. If those were sent directly (and individually), of course it would take much time.

Having written that, the INSTEON software developer can choose to implement either group commands or direct commands or both. Most software that we've seen to date (currently including our own Timer Software (currently)) uses direct commands. Obviously as group commands provide a far more powerful approach, we intend to release another Smarthome Manager that (besides other improvements) uses group commands.

So, to directly answer your questions:
(1) you do not have to link the PLC to a device to control it, as direct commands do not require that. However, there are benefits to linking and using groups.
(2) if you do implement (or use software that implements) links, you would probably want those links backed up, which is also provided to the software developer through either direct RS232/USB data or even abstracted through our ActiveX Smarthome Device Manager for any developer to implement. This would allow your software to virtually recreate your links without requiring your manually recreating them.
(3) This answer is two part. Again for the software that uses direct links, you do *not* need to backup your links, or even preserve them at all. Plugging in another unit would allow you to control devices. However, for that extra power of groups and monitoring third-party traffic, sure, backing up via software is appropriate (and for a hundred units, I'd say required). We are working with and supporting HA software vendors in implementing backup/restoring of links. (Please ask your favorite vendor to provide backup/restoring so they are further aware of your desire). Also, (thanks Wayne) we will come out with a simple (like UPStart) and effective link management software ourselves to fill any gaps before or between HA software vendor implementations.

Our Translator uses group commands to enable X10/INSTEON translation. Should one fail out completely, you do *not* need to factory reset your devices. Responders would never hear the Translator-as-Controllers group broadcast since that ID doesn't exist anymore. And the Controllers talking to a Translator-as-Responder would transmit the same group message that already controls a number of devices anyway (no loss there). Only in the followup/cleanup direct commands would it check the Translator specifically to see if it got the message - and those messages are sent when the line is clear, politely backing off otherwise.

As this is the same very link table of the PLC, any software (including ours) that implements link table backup/restore would work for the Translator too, allowing a proper and complete switchout when necessary.

The main point that these implementations address is ... addresses. INSTEON provides truly unique IDs/addresses so that you don't control your neighbor's devices, and they don't control yours (This, of course, is but one of the issues with X10). This point, of course, brings up lots of other architecture and comparitive points - which the forum post response couldn't even begin to address. Fortunately, if you are interested in the details from which I based my answers, or in the architectural points, INSTEON has two whitepapers: INSTEON Details and INSTEON Compared located on the front page of

I hope I've answered a few of your original questions and provided some further insight into INSTEON.

Thanks for your continued interest,
Jim Gale,
SmartLabs, inc.

Thanks for the response. If I understand what you are saying, there will soon be a way to restore a link table to a new translator that is installed to replace a failed one so the new translator will immediately know about all 100 devices.

The part I'm still fuzzy on is the link tables in each one of the 100 devices in the field. They are still linked to the address of the old translator so is this where I need the new "Upstart"-like software to edit each device table? Does the Group Command structure make that unnecessary somehow?

I'll take a look at the two white papers and see if I can get a clearer picture in my mind of how this would work.
SmarthomeJim said:
Hi Mike & All: I hope I can answer some of these important questions.Also, (thanks Wayne) we will come out with a simple (like UPStart) and effective link management software ourselves to fill any gaps before or between HA software vendor implementations.
Jim Gale,
SmartLabs, inc.
Any idea on a time frame for this software, and will it support Keypadlincs? Your current Smarthome Manager Timer does not.
Herdfan said:
Any idea on a time frame for this software, and will it support Keypadlincs? Your current Smarthome Manager Timer does not.
Bump! Any ETA on the Smarthome Manager software? 1Q2006 is almost 1/2 over and I'm wondering if the release will be pushed to even later in the year.
The Smarthome Manager was bumped from 09/31/05 to Q1 of 2006. Then I saw "SOON"! Now no mention at all of its time. Actually the Timer Software is called Smarthmoe Manager on the web page if memory is not failing me.
For those of you still looking for software link management:

I've spent much of yesterday playing around with the Powerhome beta. This is the software that much of us have been waiting for: the ability to create and delete links easily via software. Once I got all of my devices added, Powerhome was able to query each device and retrieve their link tables. The beauty is any changes are written back to the devices so you don't need Powerhome or even the PowerLinc. I created a couple of complex scenes as a test and it created all of the bi-directional links automatically so that local status was correct on all of the devices. The only manual links I had to create was for KPL secondary buttons so their status would be correct as well. This will be added in a future version according to the author. Note this is only if you want secondary buttons to respond to group events. You can already create groups to be controlled by secondary buttons.

As for disaster recovery, it's an easy matter to delete any invalid links and re-create them. After it finished link discovery, I found I had a couple of invalid links from defective dimmers I pulled and forgot to unlink. Took just a second to remove them and would have taken only slightly longer to add the new switch(s).
Thanks for reporting back on this! Is it easy to make a small edit like changing the ramp rate on a device for example? Can you manually enter addresses that don't get discovered?

Also what do I need to use the software? Serial PowerLinc? USB PowerLinc? Something else?
I have the USB PowerLinc but I think it supports serial as well. You can either add devices manually by entering their address or using discovery mode and tapping each device so it shows up in Powerhome.

Once devices are entered it will discover all of the links and presents each device it in a table with its links and their dim level and ramp rates. Group dim level and ramp rates can be easily changed simply by editing their value. 1-35 for ramprate and 1-254 for dim level (0 is off). Since editing a bunch of links creates a lot of Insteon traffic, it queues up the changes. Once the changes have been written to each device's link library, you don't need PH running or even the PowerLink connected anymore. If you want to get any fancier than managing your links, you'll obviously still PH or some other HA program. All I really need though is a software method of creating and deleting links to take some of the pain out of the manual method.

Maybe the PH developer will consider a stand-alone Insteon link manager? If not, it'll still be worth the $$. I'm now excited about Insteon again and want to finish my house. I've stalled at about 25 devices as it was becoming to much of a pain to maintain. Now that I haven't had a failed device in a while (touch wood) and the software to create more elaborate groups, I may actually complete my project.
Cool. So now I can use an ICON switch as a fixture module and not have to worry that I can't access the Link button!

Just curious, even though relay switches will ignore the dim level 1-254, will setting a dim level of 0 turn a relay switch off? In other words, let's say I link a dimmer switch on the basement stairs to a relay switch controlling another basement light. If I then edit the link so the dim level on the relay switch is 0 will this prevent the relay switch from turning on when I turn on the dimmer switch? (but still have it go OFF when the dimmer switch is turned off)?

I wonder if manually editing link information will let you configure things that can't be done using the normal linking process?
upstatemike said:
Just curious, even though relay switches will ignore the dim level 1-254, will setting a dim level of 0 turn a relay switch off?

I wonder if manually editing link information will let you configure things that can't be done using the normal linking process?

Yes, but it won't turn on the led. So the switch still thinks it "on" but the load is turned "off". Also, when you send the ON command from the other switch, the linked relay switch will turn off if it is on. In other words, sending either an on or off from the dimmer switch will turn the relay's load off.

This seems to also work with dimmer switches, so I think the answer is yes, you can get some effects by manually editing the table that you can't get via the tap-tap linking. Somewhere I read that the minimum dim level you set on a dimmer was 3%, that works out to an absolute level about about 7. My 5 minute experiment with manually setting the link table entry to 0, seemed to turn the load (a light) all the way off. I didn't check the voltages though.