How to set up a Wireless Router
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Congratulation if you just bought your first router. Now apart from lunching it out of the box, you have to configure it so it can be used. To set up a wireless router, you really don’t need to be an IT guru. All you need is to be able to read and follow simple instructions.
Hardware manufacturers have made it easier than ever for even non-technical users to be able to put together home networks. New routers come with clearly labeled ports, in some cases, color-coded, making it simple for users to connect everything. Most routers have a basic configuration preset at the factory, which simplifies things even more. And networking manufacturers are aiming to make things even simpler with mesh-based Wi-Fi systems like Eero and Google Wifi, which are geared toward extreme ease-of-use, offering fast, seamless app-based setup.
But just because you’ve plugged everything in and it seems to be working doesn’t mean your network’s performance and security are as good as they could be. Follow these basic steps to properly configure or set up your wireless router and optimize your wireless network and connectivity.
Selecting the Right Router
Before setting out to get a wireless router, it’s important to make good research in other to know what exactly to buy. A good place to start will be here ( The best router of 2021 ).
However, you can follower these steps to below:
- Figure out your Internet’s top speed.
- Look up local internet service providers.
- Find out whether or not you already have a modem
- Outline your budget.
- Determine the amount of space the router needs to cover
- Make a note of each device that your router will support.
- Understand what’s entailed in router speed and range.
- Limit your search to routers in the “N” and “AC” categories
- Make sure your router supports WPA2 encryption
- Research a specific router
- Place an order for one
However, if you have an old router, you can make do with that just make sure it’s upgraded with the latest firmware and it supports WPA2 security. In addition, it’s important to get your own router because this gives you full control and access to your router. Some ISP when they give you a router, they don’t give access to it and they might make you pay if you want any feature enabled on the router.
So once you get your router ready, follow the steps below on how to set up a wireless router.
Now that you have a router, you need to get it connected and online. If your service provider gave you a modem when they activated your internet service, this should be pretty simple. Just follow these steps:
- Turn off your modem,
- Unplug the modem’s Ethernet cable from the PC,
- Connect that cable to the WAN or internet port on your new router,
- Power on your modem (wait for a minute or two),
- Next power on your router (wait for a minute or two),
- Now use another Ethernet cable to connect the PC to your router’s LAN port, and
- Turn on your PC.
By default, most consumer routers are set up to use DHCP to automatically assign an IP address to your computer. So if everything worked right, you should now be online.
If you are using an ISP-supplied router instead of a modem, things are a bit more complicated. First, you reconfigure the ISP’s router to operate in bridge mode before you connect it to your new router. Bridge mode means the old router doesn’t do anything to the network traffic and just passes it along to your new router for processing. While you can do this on your own, some ISP’s will do it for you remotely once you make the request.
Once the ISP supplied router is in bridge mode, just follow the above steps to get your new router online.
Accessing the Management Console
With the router and PC physically connected via cable or wirelessly, you can now start customizing the router’s configuration. Most routers these days are managed via a web browser or a mobile app and are shipped using a default IP address, administrator account, and password. This default IP address will vary from vendor to vendor, so check your documentation to find out yours. Once you have that information, accessing the management console is easy.
- Launch your browser; irrespective of the one you use.
- Enter the router’s IP address, which will look something like 192.168.1.20, into the browser’s address bar and press Enter.
- You will see the router’s login screen asking for the default administrator username and password. After you change those credentials and press Enter, you should be looking at the management console.
Change the Password and Upgrade the Firmware
One of the most important things to do is to change the router’s default password. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. Keeping the default password compromises the security of your entire network and can leave your router exposed to anyone.
The next step to take is to check the router’s firmware if it’s updated. If it’s not, search and update the firmware immediately. Make sure your router is running the latest firmware released by the manufacturer. This is a good practice because you never know how long a product has sat on a shelf before it made it into your hands. Also, firmware updates can address many potential issues before you ever encounter them. This process will vary by vendor; check your documentation for details.
Managing Your IP Addresses With DHCP
Next, it’s time to set up a wireless router LAN configuration. As I previously mentioned, DHCP, which manages all the IP addresses on your network, is typically enabled by default on most consumer routers. Your router uses the IP address, a numeric identifier, to locate your PC and route the correct network traffic.
If the computer or mobile device does not already have an IP address, it will request one from the network’s DHCP server, which is on the router. The DHCP server pulls an IP address from a pool of available IP addresses (called a Scope) and assigns it to the device. When the device disconnects from the network, or a certain amount of time has passed (referred to as a lease) the IP address returns to the DHCP pool.
Certain devices, such as servers and printers, need to always have the same IP address (static IP). They can’t have their addresses change periodically. If you are in that situation, you need to assign a static IP address, an IP address that never goes in the DHCP pool and is assigned to the device permanently. To make static IP addresses available, we exclude some IP addresses from the DHCP scope so they can be assigned manually.
To set the DHCP scope, follow these steps:
- Log in to the router’s management console and look for a heading like LAN Setup. Here you should see your LAN’s IP address and subnet mask, along with a section for the DHCP server.
- Assign a range of IP addresses for the DHCP server to use. Assuming your router’s IP address is 192.168.0.1 and you wanted to assign 50 IP addresses to the DHCP scope, you would set the Starting IP address to 192.168.0.2 and the Ending address to 192.168.0.51.
Working With Static IPs
Having gotten some IP addresses available, you’ll need to manually assign them to devices that need static addresses. What you need to do is to provide the network adapter of your device with a unique IP address, the network Subnet Mask, the Gateway address and a DNS server address. Based on the above example, you could use any address between 192.168.0.52 and 192.168.0.254 for the IP address and 255.255.255.0 for the Subnet Mask. The Gateway and DNS address is the same as the router’s IP address; which is 192.168.0.1.
Just be sure to keep a list of the static IP addresses you’ve assigned already so that you don’t reuse them again by mistake. It not there will be IP conflict in your network. The process for assigning a static IP address to a network adapter will vary based on the device you’re trying to configure, so check the documentation of your devices.
Activating Your Wi-Fi
After setting up your wireless router, the next step to take is to activate your wi-fi. This is actually very simple and should only take you a couple of minutes. When you do this, make sure you use a computer that is connected to the network via an Ethernet cable. If you try to configure Wi-Fi over wireless, you’ll lose the connection to the management console whenever changes to the configuration are applied.
Now follow these steps to activate your WI-FI:
- Go into the router’s management console and locate the section titled Wireless Setup. It might be labeled differently depending on your router, but it should be pretty obvious which one it is.
- The wireless network should be enabled by default, but if it isn’t, turn it on. If you have a dual-band router, you should see the configuration settings for both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. Both need to be configured independently.
- Next, make sure the Channel is set to Auto and leave the Mode in its default setting. You can adjust these settings later if you feel the network is sluggish or if you’re experiencing dropped connections.
- Next step is to input the SSID. The SSID is the name of your wireless network. You can name the network just about anything you want, and you definitely should not leave it set to the default value. Something descriptive is always good.
- The final step is to set the encryption your Wi-Fi network will use. There are a few choices here. The only one you’re interested in using is WPA2.
- There might be a few WPA2 options listed, but you want the one listed as WPA2-PSK [AES]. This is the highest level of wireless security currently available. Some routers still offer WEP. Do not use it, as it is vulnerable to brute-force attacks. Meaning hackers can easily hack into your network.
- Once you’ve set your encryption type to WPA2, assign a Passphrase (aka passcode or password). This Passphrase needs to be between 8 and 63 characters long and should be made up of letters (both upper and lowercase), numbers and special characters. The longer the key, the more secure. Passphrases made up of random characters, such as hy*#Pnj125!ou, are the best, but if you have to use a name or something else familiar, make sure to throw in some numbers and characters as well. Do not use passwords like 1111111 or something similar as they can be easily guessed by intruders.
All that’s left now is to save your configuration changes and test the connection. Your wireless devices should now be online.
Speaking of Security
Many routers support Wi-Fi Protected Setup or WPS, which is a network security standard that attempts to secure a home network easily via the press of a button. Disable it. Researchers have found WPS can be vulnerable to brute-force attacks. For the marginal convenience it provides, WPS just isn’t worth the potential for compromise.
As an additional security measure, you can disable the SSID from broadcasting. By doing this you make the network undiscoverable to wireless devices that are looking for available wireless networks. This will hide your network from all wireless devices, including your own. In order to connect to your network, you’ll need to enter in the SSID manually into each device. While this is by no means foolproof security, it will help conceal your network from more casual users.
Depending on your router, the wireless configuration screen may include the option to enable a guest network. The Guest Network allows visitors to your home to get online while isolating them from the rest of the devices in your network. This is a useful option and we would recommend using it. Guest networks are available on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. Configure it the same way you did your regular wireless network, but be sure to assign it a different passphrase. You can also read more ways on how to secure your wifi and device here.
Sharing Your Data
One of the most important aspects of a home network is the ability to share network resources. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. A server is the best solution, but not many home users will have one. Network Attached Storage or NAS devices are more cost effective and easier to use in this environment. As an alternative, many routers have built-in USB ports which can be used to share hard drives or printers among all network users.
Windows PCs also allow you to share data among network users. There are a few different ways to accomplish this, but the simplest by far would be to use a Homegroup. The Homegroup is quick and easy to set up and allows you to share data with all or some network users. It can even be password protected.
What should I look for in a WiFi router?
These are the seven things to consider when buying a wireless router
- AC naming conventions don’t matter.
- Your wireless router should be dual-band or more.
- Support for MU-MIMO or 802.11ac Wave 2 is a must.
- Fast processor and plenty of RAM.
- USB (preferably USB 3.0)
- Your router should have a smartphone app (preferably one that you can use when you are not near the router)
- Real-life speed.
As an IT professional will tell you, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of additional features within your router that would help to make your network more secure and perform better. These include Quality of Service, better known as QoS, for prioritizing network traffic, and Universal Plug-n-Play, which allows devices like media servers to communicate easily with other PCs on the network. There’s also port forwarding, dynamic DNS, remote management, and so much more. If your devices is giving you issues, you can check here for some possible guide on how to fix them.