How to Set Up Your Home Wi-Fi Network

Get your devices connected

Setting up a wireless network takes a few simple steps. Before you begin, you'll need a wireless router, a computer or laptop with wireless capabilities, a modem (cable, fiber, DSL, or another type of modem), and two Ethernet cables. After you've collected your equipment, follow these instructions 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.

If the wireless router and other devices are capable of Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), connect and configure these devices with the push of a button, but having WPS set up on a router is a security risk. Disable WPS if you don't want this risk.

How to Set Up Your Home Wi-Fi Network

Setting up a home Wi-Fi network is easy and takes about 20 minutes.

  1. Find the best location for the wireless router. The optimal placement is in a central location of your home, free from obstructions that could cause wireless interference. Don't place the router close to windows, walls, or the microwave.

  2. Turn off the modem. Power off the cable or DSL modem from your internet service provider before connecting your equipment.

    Cable modem.
    Paul Boxley / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr
  3. Connect the router to the modem. Plug an Ethernet cable (typically provided with the router) into the router WAN port. Then, connect the other end of the Ethernet cable to the modem.

    Cable modem and Wi-Fi connected.
    osde8info / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr
  4. Connect a laptop or computer to the router. Plug one end of another Ethernet cable into the router LAN port (any port will work) and the other end of the Ethernet cable into the Ethernet port of a laptop. This wiring is temporary; the cable will be removed after the network is set up.

    Ethernet cable.
  5. Power up the modem, router, and computer. It's important that these devices be turned on in the proper order. Turn on the modem first. When the modem lights are all on, turn on the router. When the router is on, turn on the computer.

  6. Go to the management web page for the router. Open a browser and enter the IP address of the router administration page. This information is provided in the router documentation (it's usually something like 192.168.1.1). The login information is also in the manual.

    A Linksys login webpage for router.
  7. Change the default administrator password (and username) for the router. This setting is usually found in the router administration page in a tab or section called Administration. Use a strong password that you won't forget.

  8. Add WPA2 security. This step is essential. Find this setting in the wireless security section of the router administration page. Select which type of encryption to use and 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 and is more secure than WEP. Use WPA or mixed mode WPA/WPA2 with older wireless adapters. WPA-AES is the strongest encryption available.

    Wireless security configuration page.
  9. 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 of the router administration page.

  10. Optional: change the wireless channel. If you're in an area with other wireless networks, minimize interference by changing the router wireless channel to one that isn't used by other networks. Use a Wi-Fi analyzer app on your smartphone to find the least crowded channel or use trial and error (try channels 1, 6, or 11, since these channels don't overlap).

  11. Set up the wireless adapter on the computer. After saving the configuration settings on the router, unplug the cable that connects the computer to the router. Then, plug a USB or PC card wireless adapter into the laptop, if it doesn't 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.

  12. Connect to the new wireless network. On your computer and other wireless-enabled devices, find the new network you set up and connect to the network.