Routers are simple, right? You unbox them, hook up a few cords, and power them up. While it’s true that router manufacturers have made it easier than ever to get your router up and running, it’s still important to understand how and where to install them.
A proper router setup is crucial.
Why? Because the placement and setup of your router will impact its speed, efficiency and overall performance. I’m going to walk you through the setup process to make it as simple as possible. I’ll also talk about setting up a network extender or booster to improve your signal strength.
Finding the Right Position
The placement of your router is crucial – it can make or break your network. Why is placement so important?
WiFi signals are broadcast outward and in a sphere fashion. The router is at the center of that sphere. With this in mind, let’s talk about the absolute ideal place for a router to go:
- At the center of the home. Remember, the signal is broadcast outward and in a sphere shape, so placing it in the center of the home means that the signal can be spread throughout the house as evenly as possible.
- At higher ground. It’s best to place the router above ground. If you have a two-story home, for example, the ideal place would be the second floor. If you have a single-story home, the ideal place would be on top of furniture or on the ceiling.
- In the open. To maximize the strength of your signal, the router should be placed out in the open without any nearby obstructions.
Of course, these are the ideal conditions for a router, but this may not be practical or possible for you. You may not have a network cable that’s long enough to keep your router in the center of your home, or maybe you just don’t want to have long cords running through your living room.
The position may not be absolutely perfect, but the goal is to get it as close to ideal conditions as possible. If you can’t put the router in the center of your home, maybe you can at least put it up higher (e.g. on top of a bookcase) and out in the open away from obstructions .
Connecting the Router
When setting up a WiFi network, you have a few pieces of hardware that need to connect to one another, mainly:
- Internet box, or modem
In some cases, your modem may also act as a router, as is the case with AT&T’s boxes. This eliminates the need to hook up an additional piece of hardware.
Let’s go through the process of connecting everything together.
Connecting the Router to the Internet
We’re going to assume that your modem is already connected to the Internet. When you sign up for Internet service with an ISP, a technician will typically come out to connect the modem to the Internet for you.
With your modem up and running, you can now connect an ethernet cord from the WAN port on your router to the back of the modem. WAN ports are always different from LAN ports, and they’re usually designated by different colors.
Next, you’ll want to plug the router into the wall, and wait a few minutes for it to boot up.
What About Gateway/Router Combos?
What happens if you have a combination router/gateway (modem), which is becoming increasingly common among ISPs? While convenient, these gateways don’t allow you to build out mesh networks or have multiple access points to expand your WiFi coverage.
If you have a gateway with an integrated router and you want to use a standalone router, you’ll need to configure the gateway to pass the WAN IP address and all other traffic to the new router.
In order to do this, you’ll need to have the IP address that the gateway is using. This information can usually be found on the label that’s on the gateway itself. Simply enter the IP address into the address bar of your web browser to enter the configuration screen.
The configuration process can be tricky, depending on the router and ISP. I would recommend calling your ISP to find out how to work through the rest of this step.
Once you’ve completed the configuration, you can connect the gateway to your router using the steps at the beginning of this section.
Connect Your Computer
Once the router has fully booted up, you can use a network cable to connect your computer’s LAN port to the LAN port on the router. Routers usually have four LAN ports. It doesn’t matter which port you connect to.
Setting Up the Router’s Admin Password
Many router manufacturers now have smartphone apps that make it easy to configure their routers. If yours has one, use it. If not, you’ll need to change the admin password the good old-fashioned way.
Start by entering the router’s IP address into the address bar of your browser. This information should be listed on a label on the router itself.
You’ll need default the login and password for the router in order to log in. This information may be also be printed on the router, or you may find it in the owner’s manual.
Enter the login information, and press Enter.
Next, create a unique password for your router because the current one is not secure. Keep the password in a safe place, or save it to a password manager like LastPass.
After you’ve changed the password, you may want to check for any firmware updates. Router manufacturers sometimes release updates to improve security or fix other issues. After installing updates, you’ll need to reboot your router.
Change Your WiFi Password
Depending on the manufacturer, your router may already have a pre-assigned password (which may be printed on the router itself). If not, you will probably be prompted to create your own password. Make sure that you’re using at least WPA2 encryption.
The process for setting up the password will vary from one manufacturer to the next, but it will likely walk you through the process.
What if you want to install a WiFi extender, like what I talk about in my Super Boost WiFi reviews ? Once you have your network up and running, it should be as simple as plugging in your extender and following the setup directions for your router. The owner’s manual will have detailed instructions on how to properly set up your extender.