A Guide to Changing the Wi-Fi Name (SSID) on a Network Router

Changing the SSID name may discourage hackers

Some Wi-Fi routers use a name called the Service Set Identifier—usually referenced as SSID—to identify the router on a local network. Manufacturers set a default SSID for their routers at the factory and typically use the same name for all their routers. Linksys routers, for example, usually all have the default SSID of Linksys, and AT&T routers use a variation of ATT plus three numbers.

Reasons to Change the Default SSID

People change a default Wi-Fi name for any of several reasons:

  • To avoid having their router and network confused with those of neighbors who also use the same default names.
  • To improve the security of their home network. The name choice does not increase protection by itself. Nonetheless, using a custom name can deter a network attacker because it indicates that the router is more conscientiously administered than other routers that use generic defaults. In a typical residential neighborhood with many home networks, attackers are more likely to single out the weakest network.
  • To personalize a home network. The SSID can be seen by anyone nearby who scans for Wi-Fi signals from their phone or another mobile device.

How to Change the SSID Name

Each router's instruction manual contains slightly different instructions for changing the SSID. However, the process, in general, is fairly common across the major router manufacturers. Exact names of menus and settings may vary depending on the specific router model.

  1. Determine the router's local address and log in to the router's administrative console through a web browser. Enter the currently active username and password when prompted. 

    Routers use different IP addresses to access the control panel:

    • AT&T routers use 192.168.1.254.
    • Linksys routers use 192.168.1.1.
    • Netgear routers use http://www.routerlogin.com.
    • Some routers use 192.168.0.1.

    Check the documentation or website of other router manufacturers for the local address and default login credentials of their products. An error message appears if the wrong login credentials are supplied.

    A router login screen

    One way to find a router's address is to check the default gateway. On a Windows PC, press Win+R to open the Run box, then type cmd to open a Command Prompt window. When the window opens, type ipconfig and review the resulting information for the IP address associated with your machine's default gateway. That's the address you'll type into a web browser to access the router's admin panel.

  2. Find the page within the router's control panel that manages the configuration of home Wi-Fi networks. Each router's language and menu placement will differ, so either refer to the documentation or browse the options until you find the right page.

    Basic Settings
  3. Choose a suitable network name and enter it. An SSID is case sensitive and has a maximum length of 32 alphanumeric characters.

    Avoid choosing words and phrases that are offensive to your local community. Names that may provoke network attackers such as HackMeIfUCan and GoAheadMakeMyDay should also be avoided.

  4. Select Save or Apply to apply the changes, which take effect immediately.

    Netgear SSID name box and applying changes
  5. Update the connection for all devices that used the previous SSID and password combination.