How to Set Up Your Home Wi-Fi Network

Set up your wireless router and get your devices connected in 12 steps

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Setting up a wireless network only takes a few simple steps. It might sound complicated or beyond what you're capable of, but trust us – it's not!

You're going to need a wireless router, a computer or laptop with wireless capabilities (they all do), a modem (cable, fiber, DSL, etc.), and two ethernet cables.

Follow the instructions below to set up the router, configure it for strong wireless security, and connect your computers and portable devices to the network for wire-free browsing.

Note: If your wireless router and other devices are capable of Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), you can connect and configure them with the push of a button, but having WPS set up on your router is a big security risk. See the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) overview for more details or disable your WPS with these instructions.

How to Set Up Your Home Wi-Fi Network

Setting up your home wifi network is easy and should only take 20 minutes.

  1. Find the best location for your wireless router. Its optimal placement is in a central location of your home, free from obstructions that could cause wireless interference, such as windows, walls, and even the microwave.
  2. Turn off the modem. Power off the cable or DSL modem from your Internet service provider before connecting your equipment.
  3. Connect the router to the modem. Plug an ethernet cable (typically provided with the router) into the router's WAN port and then the other end to the modem.
  1. Connect your laptop or computer to the router. Plug one end of another ethernet cable into the router's LAN port (any will do) and the other end into your laptop's ethernet port. Don't worry this wiring is temporary!
  2. Power up the modem, router, and computer -- Turn them on in that order.
  3. Go to the management webpage for your router. Open a browser and type in the IP address of the router's administration page; this info is provided in your router documentation (it's usually something like 192.168.1.1). The login information will also be in the manual.
  1. Change the default administrator password (and username if you wish) for your router. This setting is usually found in a tab or section called administration. Remember to use a strong password that you won't forget.
  2. Add WPA2 security. This step is essential. You can find this setting in the wireless security section, where you'll select which type of encryption to use and then enter a passphrase of at least 8 characters -- the more characters and the more complex the password, the better. WPA2 is the latest wireless encryption protocol, much more secure than WEP, but you may need to use WPA or mixed mode WPA/WPA2 if you have an older wireless adapter in any of your devices. WPA-AES is the strongest encryption available to date.
  3. Change the wireless network name (SSID). To make it easy for you to identify your network, choose a descriptive name for your SSID (Service Set Identifier) in the wireless network information section.
  4. Optional: change the wireless channel. If you're in an area with a lot of other wireless networks, you can minimize interference by changing your router's wireless channel to one less used by other networks. You can use a wifi analyzer app for your smartphone to find the least crowded channel or just use trial and error (try channels 1, 6, or 11, since they don't overlap).
  1. Set up the wireless adapter on the computer. After saving the configuration settings on the router above, you can unplug the cable connecting your computer to the router. Then plug your USB or PC card wireless adapter into your laptop, if it doesn't already have a wireless adapter installed or built-in. Your computer may automatically install the drivers or you may have to use the setup CD that came with the adapter to install it.
  2. Finally, connect to your new wireless network. On your computer and other wireless-enabled devices, find the new network you set up and connect to it (step-by-step instructions are in our wi-fi connection tutorial).
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