Routers are the key component to setting up a home network so you, your family and any visiting friends can all connect devices to the Internet via Wi-Fi. And if you set it up correctly, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy consistent and reliable internet service.
You might have received your router from your internet service provider (ISP) as part of your package purchase. Or, you might’ve picked up your brand-new router from a store or online outlet. Either way, this piece of equipment is going to be the heart of your online network, so you’ll need to set it up correctly.
In this article, I’m going to explain in simple terms, how to do it on your own – without the need for any outside technical assistance.
- What Does A Router Do Exactly?
- Routers and Modems
- Routers Make Life Better
- It Doesn’t Need To Be Difficult
- First Things First – Getting Started
- Best Locations
- How To Access And Set Up Your Router
- Mistake #1 – Update The Software and Default Passwords
- SSID Set-Up
- Guest Mode
- Improving your Wi-Fi
- Take The Time To Set It Up Properly
What Does A Router Do Exactly?
A router serves as a connecting hub that reroutes or passes along your established internet connection to external devices. It can be done with a standard Ethernet cable connecting the router to another device like a laptop. In fact, most routers today have multiple ports, so you can physically connect up to 4 or 6 devices, depending on the model.
But where routers really shine is in their ability to connect – wirelessly – to multiple devices like cell phones, tablets, smart TV’s and printers – through a single Wi-Fi connection.
Used this way, the router becomes a wireless accent point (WAP) enabling multiple “smart” devices to get online, without unsightly cables running in every direction across the floor.
Routers and Modems
People often get confused between routers and modems. But the simple fact is – you almost always need both. If the only way you planned to access the Internet was from a single computer, you could get by with just a modem and bypass the router entirely. 10 or 15 years ago, that might have been all you needed. But times have changed.
Many gadgets these days are designed to be connected wirelessly online. This includes phones, tablets, desktop computers, laptops, smart TVs, printers, and handheld games. Connecting wirelessly to the Internet makes all these devices more useful, versatile, and valuable.
Routers and modems are the external boxes that make your in-home Wi-Fi possible. While each serves a separate role, they may be combined into one piece of hardware.
The modem establishes your connection to the Internet via your ISP. Since computers can only read digital signals and the Internet is analog, a modem is necessary to convert data from one form to another. It’s like an interpreter. The modem is the go-between that makes incoming data from the Internet accessible to the end user.
These days many ISPs supply a router plus a modem in one, making set-up that much easier. But either way – whether you have a separate modem and router or a combination unit – it doesn’t matter. Just follow directions and you should be fine.
Routers Make Life Better
Connecting a router to your home or office network, or upgrading an old router to a newer, more robust version makes a lot of sense. You’ll enjoy faster download and upload speeds, improve your wireless range, and be able to use more of your devices online – while enjoying a reliable and consistent connection.
It Doesn’t Need To Be Difficult
Although the concept of ‘how to configure a router’ can seem quite technical, it’s actually not that difficult and it’s something most people can do themselves.
You need to set up your router properly. But thankfully, there’s not a lot to it as far as a basic set-up goes. But don’t try to do it when you’re pressed for time, or you’ll only frustrate yourself.
Take your time and get it right. Grab your favorite beverage, take a few deep breaths and relax. You’ve got this.
First Things First – Getting Started
The first step is to open the package containing your router. Inside, you should have the router itself, a power supply cord, and a network cable. It’s possible that there’s also a CD included to walk you through the setup process. But these days this step is mostly done online – once you’ve connected your router.
If you’re adding a router only to an existing connection, your modem will already be connected via the appropriate cable for the service you opted for (DSL, cable, or fiber optics). Here are the simple steps involved:
- Plug in the power supply cord to your router’s DC input.
- Plug in the other end of the power cord to the nearest electrical outlet.
- Insert one end of the network cable into the WAN port of your router.
- Connect the other end of the network cable to the Internet port on the modem
- Turn the router on by activating the power button and check to see the lights come on.
- Reboot the modem by locating the reset button at the back and holding it for 3 seconds.
- Allow a few minutes for the modem to reset.
If your new router is a combination router and modem, you won’t be using the existing modem that’s connected.
In this case, you simply take the cable (or fiber optic or DSL) liner and plug it directly into the router. This bypasses the old modem. Plug in the router. Connect one end of the network cable to the WAN port of the router and the other ran directly into your computer.
Regardless of the router you’re using, by this point you should be able to access the Internet and configure your router’s settings. If you have a CD, install the disc and follow the steps.
Wireless routers use radio waves. These are the same waves used by other devices like portable phones and microwave ovens – so you want to locate your router away from such tools. Radio waves can be blocked by cement walls and they get weaker the greater the distance they travel. So generally speaking, the farther you are from the router, the weaker the signal tends to be.
Ideally, you want to locate your router centrally in your home. It’s best located off the floor and the higher – the better. If you live in a multi-story home, it’s best to locate the router on the upper level since these radio waves tend to travel in a downward and outward direction better than they travel upwards.
How To Access And Set Up Your Router
You need to access the website provided in your package and log-in with the given details. Most routers today are managed via the via web browser and shipped with a default IP address administrator account and password. But these details will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so you’ll want to check your manual, if this information is not readily visible on the outside. Often what you’re looking for is a web address that’s all numbers – like this one : http://192.168.0.1.
Some manufacturers will have a different domain that you can access to further set up your router. For example, Netgear uses the web address: http://routerlogin.com.
In any event, if you don’t have this important login information on your device or in the manual, all is not lost. You may be able to find it online by doing a search for your brand of router. Look for the website and login details you need for your particular router.
With the router connected physically to a computer, you can begin to customize the configuration. once you have the information you need accessing the console is easy.
Launch your browser and enter the provided IP address (web address). Once there, enter your account and password details when prompted and hit ‘enter’ on the keyboard. You should now be inside the management page or console for your router.
The wireless network option should be enabled by default. But if not, you need to turn it on.
Mistake #1 – Update The Software and Default Passwords
This is arguably the #1 mistake when setting up a router for the first time.
Check whether there’s a software (also called firmware) update available for your router. Often this type of equipment can sit on store shelves for months before it’s in the hands of the consumer. In that time, new updates may have been made available. if there are updates, it’s important to install them to ensure the best user experience and security. Sometimes your router has an auto update feature when a new firmware is available. It would be in your best interest to enable that if you have that option.
Along with your router firmware, it’s equally as important to change the default passwords to your router. You should change the admin password to the router, and the default password to your wireless networks. Remember the passwords you set cause if you don’t you will have to reset your router which means you will have to setup everything once again. I like to store my passwords in a password manager called LastPass.
The SSID (short for Service Set Identifier) simply refers to the name of your network. In other words, it’s the very network you and your family and guests will be connecting to in order to tap into your Wi-Fi.
Your router will likely already have and SSID assigned and typically, it’s the name or your router brand and model. But you’ll want to change this to something that’s easy to remember. The name of your network will appear on any device wit in the vicinity when someone goes to login online. As an option, you can choose to keep this private. But you’ll need to remember it and enter your chosen SSID on all of your devices (and those of your visitors) if you do so.
Many new routers allow you to enable guest browsing. This makes it easy for you to provide Wi-Fi access to visitors on a separate band (if your router has multiple bands) or channel. This allows you to continue to use the Internet interrupted (like for your business), while allowing others the opportunity as well. Given the option, this is one I recommend you take. It also means that you won’t have the convenience of having to reset the password on all your own devices later, should you need to change your guest password down the road.
If your router is a dual band model, you’ll have separate configuration settings for both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks.
Initially at least, you can set the channel to ‘automatic’. This means the software powering the router will find the channel with the least amount of traffic for you. But you can always adjust the setting later, if your network seems slow.
If given the option for security settings, choose WPA-2 as this is the latest and most secure available today. With all your configurations set you ready to test your connection.
Improving your Wi-Fi
The first thing to look at if your Wi-Fi service is less than great and you have a quality ISP, is the location of your router. Again, it’s important to located centrally in your home or office. But you don’t want your router to be too close to a wall or on the floor.
You might also want to periodically check your connection speed at a site such as fast.com. When you purchased a package from your Internet service provider, they promised a certain level of performance. This is a means of checking that level of performance -to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. It’s good idea to test this out every month or two. If your service doesn’t measure up – take up the issue with your provider.
If when watching Netflix (for example), you experience interrupted service, the problem may be that your signal simply isn’t strong enough. Try a wireless LAN repeater near where the signal is weak to boost your connection. Try different router channels to see how the signal strength varies. You can do this through an app such as Wi-Fi Analyzer.
Take The Time To Set It Up Properly
Remember, the core of your home network is your router. So it’s important to get things right. Manufacturers have made it easier than ever to connect a router and configure the settings themselves – without the need for technical assistance. Go forth and get connected.