Top Tips for Wireless Home Network Setup


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It’s easy to get lost in the technical details of home networking with an almost endless number of variations in network devices and how they are configured. Wireless devices simplify some aspects of network setup but also bring their own challenges. Follow these tips for best results in setting up all kinds of wireless home networks.

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Plug Broadband Modems Into the Correct Port on Wireless Routers

Several network cables often are required even on so-called wireless networks. The one connecting the broadband modem to the broadband router is especially critical as Internet service can’t be distributed through the home without it. A modem cable can physically join to several different places on a router, but be sure to connect it to the router’s uplink port and not some other port: Broadband Internet will not work through a router unless its uplink port is used. (Residential gateway devices that combine both a router and modem into a single unit do not require this cabling, of course).

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Use an Ethernet Cable for Initial Setup of Wireless Routers

Configuring the Wi-Fi settings on a wireless router requires connecting to the unit from a separate computer. When performing the initial router setup, make an Ethernet cable connection to the computer. Vendors supply free cables with most new routers for this purpose. Those who try to use their wireless link during setup often encounter technical difficulty as the router’s Wi-Fi may not work properly until fully configured.

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Install Broadband Routers in Good Locations

The wireless transmitters of home broadband routers usually can cover all the rooms in residence plus outdoor patios and garages. However, routers located in corner rooms of larger homes may not reach the desired distances, particularly in buildings with brick or plaster walls. Install routers in more central locations where possible. Add a second router (or wireless access point) to a home if necessary.

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Reboot or Reset Routers and Other Equipment

Technical glitches can cause wireless routers to freeze or otherwise start malfunctioning during setup. Rebooting a router allows the device to flush its non-essential temporary data, which can resolve some of these issues. A router reset differs from a router reboot. In addition to non-essential data flushing, a router reset also erases any customized settings entered during setup and restores the unit to its original default settings as configured by the manufacturer. Router resets afford administrators a simple way to start over from botched attempts at setup. Just as wireless routers can benefit from a reboot, some other devices on a wireless network may also require rebooting during the setup process. A reboot is an easy and relatively quick way to ensure unrelated glitches on the device are not interfering with network operation and that any settings changes have taken permanent effect.

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Enable WPA2 Security on Wi-Fi Devices (If Possible)

An essential security feature for Wi-Fi networks, WPA2 encryption keeps data mathematically scrambled while it travels over the air between devices. Other forms of Wi-Fi encryption exist, but WPA2 is the most widely supported option that offers a reasonable protection level. Manufacturers ship their routers with encryption options disabled, so enabling WPA2 on a router typically requires logging into the administrator console and changing the default security settings.

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Match Wi-Fi Security Keys or Passphrases Exactly

Enabling WPA2 (or similar Wi-Fi security options) requires choosing a key value or passphrase. These keys and passphrases are strings — sequences of letters and/or digits — of varying length. Every device must be programmed with a matching string to be able to communicate with each other over Wi-Fi with security enabled. When setting up Wi-Fi devices, take special care to enter security strings that match exactly, avoiding transposed digits or letters in upper instead of lower case (and vice versa).