How to Set Up a Modem

The most important part of getting online

When you sign up for internet service, your internet service provider (ISP) provides you with a modem that accesses that internet service. This guide walks you through setting up your ISP modem and establishing a home network that you can use to get online.

Instructions in this article applies to Windows 10.

Screenshot of connecting a router
 Fausto Favetta Photoghrapher/Getty Images

How to Set Up a Modem

Different ISPs provide different models of modems. However, all modems have input connections to establish an internet connection and the output connections that create a home network.

Before you connect your modem, make sure that the ISP has programmed the modem with your account information. Sometimes, you may need to call the ISP after you plug the modem in at your home. Make sure you talk to your ISP about what they need to do to enable your internet connection.

  1. If you've purchased cable internet service, then you'll need to find a cable port in your house to connect the modem to. If you've purchased DSL phone internet service, you'll need to plug the modem into your home's phone port. Find the port in the area of the house where you'd like to place the modem.

    Image of cable wall jack
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  2. Plug one end of the coaxial (or coax) cable that came with your modem into the TV wall jack. Plug the other end into the coax port on the back of your cable modem. If you're using a cable modem, you'll see a coax port where you can screw in the other end of the coax cable. If you're using a DSL modem, the port on the modem will have a label that says something like "Phone In" or "Phone."

    Image of the coax port on a cable modem
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  3. Next, plug the power connector end into the modem. Insert the plug end into a wall power outlet.

    Image of plugging in a power cord into a wall outlet
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  4. Once you plug in the modem and it powers up, it'll cycle through a startup program. As it cycles through, you'll see the ports on the front of the modem blink and then go solid one at a time.

    Typically these ports are:

    • Power light: Power is connected to the modem
    • Online/Connected: The modem has established a connection with the ISP
    • Internet: The modem has established a connection to the internet
    • Network: A local area network (LAN) has been established
    Screenshot of lights on the front of a cable modem
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  5. Once all lights on the front of the modem are solid or blinking rapidly, you're ready to start connecting devices to the modem. You have several options for connecting to the internet through your router.

    • Built-In Wireless: Some ISPs offer modems with a built-in wireless router, so you don't need a secondary router. You can connect your devices to the modem's wireless network.
    • Direct LAN: Use a network cable to connect a wired router to the modem and connect your devices to the router using network cables.
    • Wireless: Use a network cable to connect a wireless router to the modem and connect your devices to the router via Wi-Fi.

    If you choose a wired network or wireless approach, purchase a router and connect it to the modem's WAN port using a network cable.

    Image of the LAN port on a modem
  6. Once you've connected the WAN port on your modem to your wired or wireless router to the WAN port on the router, you're ready to start connecting all of your computers and other devices.

Connect to Your Devices

Whether you've connected a wired or wireless router to your modem, the method of connecting your devices to the network is generally the same.

In the wired case, you'll need to use LAN network cables to connect your computer network port to one of the LAN network ports.

If your modem comes with a built-in wireless router, you won't need to connect a router to the modem. You can use the steps below to set up the wireless network in the same way.

  1. Connect a laptop or computer to one of the LAN ports using a network cable from the network port on your computer to a LAN port on the router.

  2. Select the Start menu.

    Selecting the search box in Windows 10.
  3. Enter cmd, and select Open under Command Prompt app.

    Opening the command prompt in Windows 10.
  4. In the Command Prompt, enter ipconfig and press Enter.

    The router IP address is highlighted in Command Prompt.
  5. Open a web browser and enter the IP address listed in the ipconfig results for the Default Gateway. You'll see the login window for the router. If this is the first time you're logging into the router, the administration ID is usually admin, and the password is blank. You should see the Wi-Fi SSID and the Wi-Fi passkey either on the main router window or under the Wi-Fi menu.

    Screenshot of the Wi-Fi credentials screen in a wireless router
  6. On any computer in your household, you can click the network icon in the taskbar and find the SSID from the list of available wireless networks. Select the Connect button for that network.

    Screenshot of connecting to a wireless network in Windows
  7. If this is the first time you're connecting to a new home wireless network, you will be asked to type the passkey\network security key that you recorded above from your router's Wi-Fi settings. Select Next to continue.

    Screenshot of entering a Wi-Fi password in a network connection
  8. Once the connection is established, you'll see the wireless status change to Connected.

    Don't forget to secure your router by changing the admin password from blank to a secure password you'll remember.

The system is connected wirelessly in Windows 10.

You can repeat the steps above to connect any other devices to the new home network.

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