How to Set Up a Router

Getting your home network set up

What to Know

  • Connect your modem to your router with an Ethernet cable.
  • Connect the router to power.
  • The router will automatically turn on. If it's a wireless router, you can connect using login credentials printed on the router.

Setting up a router for the first time will take 10 to 15 minutes. While router setup is broadly similar between brands, it's a good idea to have your router's manual nearby, as some details may differ based on the specific router you own.

How to Set up a Wired or Wireless Router

Wireless routers are the most common sold today, and most Internet Service Providers give their customers the option to lease a modem from the company. If you have a wired router, however, these same steps will apply.

Follow the steps below to set up your router for the first time.

This guide assumes you have contacted an Internet Service Provider and set up service with that ISP. A router will not provide internet access if the owner hasn't set up the service. It's true even if your home already has a modem or in-wall Internet cable or outlet installed by a previous owner.

  1. Connect the router to the modem installed by your Internet Service Provider with an Ethernet cable.

    Some Internet Service Providers may use a router that also acts as a modem. In this case, you should connect the router to the cable or outlet in the wall if your ISP didn't already install it.

    A person connecting an Ethernet cable to a wireless router

    Ahmad Hairi Mohamed / EyeEm / Getty Images

  2. Connect the router to power. Most turn on automatically, in which case the router's status lights will become visible. If that doesn't happen, look for a power switch and flip it on.

  3. Wait for the router to finish booting up (typically a minute or two). With most routers, you'll need to wait for the status light to turn a solid green with no flickering or pulsing. Your router's manual can provide details about what status lights indicate on your model of router.

    If you are setting up a wired router, congratulations! You're finished. The router will now work with devices you connect using an Ethernet cable. If you want tips on advanced configuration, however, read our home network router guide.

  4. Examine the router for a label that indicates its default Wi-Fi network name and password. This might also be on a card that came with the router.

  5. Connect to your wireless router's default Wi-Fi network on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and enter the default password.

  6. Your wireless router is now set up and functioning, but it's a good idea to change the default name and password. Read our guide to setting up a home Wi-Fi network for more information.

    If you don't change the default password, it's far easier for others to get access to your router and either snoop on you or cause other havoc.

How to Set up a Router With an App

The steps above are the traditional method for setting up a router, but some new wireless routers, like mesh network routers, use a different approach. They rely on an app that connects to the router wirelessly. Usually, you can't set up routers that work this way without the app.

  1. Connect the router to the modem provided by your Internet Service Provider with an Ethernet cable.

  2. Connect the router to power. It will turn on automatically, indicated by a status light that will become visible.

  3. Download the app provided by the brand of router you own.

  4. Open the app and start setup. The details will differ between apps, but most include a prominent option such as Set Up Device or Add New Device. It's likely the only option available if you've never set up a router with the app before.

  5. Follow the instructions provided by the app.

Where Should a Router Be Placed?

Router placement matters most for wireless routers. They emit a Wi-Fi signal in all directions, but the signal can be interrupted by objects and other devices. It also has a limited range.

A wireless router is best placed in the center of your home and away from obstacles like concrete or brick walls, home appliances, and other electronic devices.

Most routers don't look like a work of art, but the more of your router you can see, the more likely it is to work well. If you want to tuck away your wireless router, hide it with light, low-density objects, like a stuffed toy or a plastic paperweight.

Should You Change Your Wireless Router's Default Security Settings?

The steps in this guide have you set up your wireless router using the default network name and password that is printed on, or provided with, your router.

It's best to change this information after you've finished the setup. It will help you identify your router's wireless network on new devices and will prevent unauthorized access to your network by anyone who knows the default password. Our guide to changing your Wi-Fi password will walk you through the process.

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