How to Set up a Home Network Router

Here's how to get your home network up and running

internet connection with wlan router in home office

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This step-by-step guide explains how to set up a broadband router for home computer networks. The exact names of configuration settings on these routers vary depending on the specific model. However, this same general process applies:

  1. Choose a suitable location. Choose a convenient location to begin installing your router, such as an open floor space or table. The placement does not need to be the permanent location of the device as wireless routers sometimes need careful positioning and deployment in places difficult to reach. In the beginning, it's better to choose a location where it's easiest to work with the router and worry about final placement later.

  2. Turn it on. Plug in the router's electrical power source, then turn on the router by pushing the power button.

  3. Connect your internet modem to the router (Optional). Many network modems connect via an Ethernet cable but USB connections have becoming increasingly common. The cable plugs into the router jack with possible labels as WAN, uplink, or internet. When connecting devices with network cables, be sure each end of the cable connects tightly. Loose cables are one of the most common sources of network setup problems. After connecting the cable, be sure to power cycle (turn off and turn back on) the modem to ensure the router recognizes it.

  4. Connect one computer to the router. Connect this first computer to the router via a network cable. Note that using the Wi-Fi connection of a wireless router for initial installation is not recommended as its Wi-Fi settings are not yet configured. Temporarily using a cable for router installation avoids unstable or dropped connections. After router installation is complete, the computer can be changed over to a wireless connection as needed.

  5. Open the router's administration console. From the computer connected to the router, open a web browser. Then enter the router's address for network administration in the web address field and press return to reach the router's home page. Many routers are reached by either the web address http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1. Consult your router's documentation to determine the exact address for your model. Note that you do not need a working internet connection for this step.

  6. Log in to the router. The router's home page will prompt for a username and password. Both are provided in the router's documentation. You should change the router's password for security reasons, but do this after the installation is complete to avoid unnecessary complications during initial setup.

  7. Enter internet connection information. If you want your router to connect to the internet, enter internet connection information into that section of the router's configuration (exact location varies). For example, those using DSL internet often require entering PPPoE username and password settings into the router. Likewise, if you requested and have been issued a static IP address by your internet, the static IP settings (including network mask and gateway address) supplied by the provider must also be set in the router.

  8. Update the MAC address of the router. Some internet providers authenticate their customers by MAC address. If you were using an older network router or other gateway device to connect to the internet before, your provider may be tracking that MAC address and prevent you from going online with the new router. If your internet service has this restriction, you can (through the administrator console) update the MAC address of the router with the MAC address of the device you were using previously to avoid having to wait for the provider to update their records.

  9. Consider changing the network name (Otherwise known as SSID). Routers come from the manufacturer with a default name chosen, but there are advantages to using a different name instead. You can also change the Wi-Fi name on a network router.

  10. Verify the local network connection. Verify the local network connection between your one computer and the router is working. To do this, check that the computer has received valid IP address information from the router. 

  11. Verify your computer can connect to the internet properly. Open a web browser and visit a few internet sites.

  12. Connect additional computers to the router. When connecting from a wireless device, ensure the network name – also called a Service Set Identifier (SSID) — chosen matches that of the router.

  13. Configure network security features. Configure additional network security features as needed to guard your systems against hackers. These Wi-Fi home network security tips contain a checklist to follow.