Wireless Router Setup – The Complete Guide

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Setting Up Your Wireless Router

Back in the early days of Wi-Fi, wireless router setup router was not an easy task. The Internet forums were filled with frustrated people trying to figure out how to get their Wi-Fi devices to connect and stay connected. Over the years wireless router manufacturers have responded to this by making wireless routers easier and easier to set up. Nowadays you can literally take a wireless router out of the box plug it in type in the SSID and password printed on the bottom and you have a wi-fi connection. Not a very secure connection but still a Wi-Fi connection.

The only problem with this is if later you want to do something more interesting with your home network than surf and read emails you may not have a clue where to begin. This article and its accompanying video will cover all the major settings on your wireless router and give you a strong familiarity with it so later you’ll be able to do more advanced configurations with confidence. The router used in this article is the TP-Link Archer A9. It’s one of the best wireless routers available for under $100.

Wireless Router Setup – Video

How Do I Get Into This Thing?

Obviously, to configure a new wireless router we have to connect to it somehow and the way to do this is not always so obvious. Wireless routers offer a multitude of ways to connect and do the initial configuration. You can usually connect using Wi-Fi, an ethernet cable, and some wireless routers will provide a bar code you can use to do the initial configuration with your smartphone. In this article, I’m going to avoid the multiple proprietary ways of connecting to the wireless router and stick with the most straightforward way which is the good old-fashioned ethernet cable.

When introducing a new wireless router to your home network there’s a good chance it will be on a different network than your home devices. If that happens you won’t be able to connect to its web interface and configure it. Simply connect an ethernet cable to one of your computers and the other end to one of your wireless routers’ LAN ports and reboot the computer. Using the magic of DHCP the computer will come up with an IP address obtained from the wireless routers DHCP server. You can watch my video on Home Networking Basics to learn more about how DHCP works.

wireless router setup

Now we can connect to the wireless router’s web interface by opening a web browser and typing in the wireless router’s IP address. Sometimes the wireless router’s IP address will be a little hard to find. If you don’t know what the IP address is you might be able to find it on a plate on the bottom of the back of the router and if you still can’t find it you can always Google “default router passwords.”

It’ll either be an IP address like this:

Or it’ll be a website address like this:

These little website addresses are specially configured to find the wireless router and pull up its configuration page. Once your stars are all aligned correctly it’s time to log in to the wireless router. The first thing you want to do is to change your admin password. The admin password is the password you use to connect and configure your wireless router. It’s not the same thing as your wireless pass phrase which you use to connect to the Wi-Fi. You’ll normally find the place to do this under a section called Administration. The Administration section is usually in the Advanced section.

Set The Admin Password

If the security of your home wireless network is important to you you want to make sure you use a secure admin password. This is the password you use to get into and configure your wireless router with. It’s the key to your home network. Using your street address your pet’s name or your phone number is not a secure password. A good example of a secure password is something like this “iehjr028uy45z!” Of course, you’re thinking, “This is going to be next to impossible to remember!” You’re right. That’s why I recommend the use of a password management program like LastPass to remember passwords for you

Connect To The Internet

The wireless router does you no good if it’s not connected to the Internet. Most wireless routers have an easy setup wizard or auto-detect feature to connect to your Internet Service Provider. It’s still a good idea to know the manual steps to make sure that everything went right. First, we want to make sure that the cable provided by your ISP is plugged into the modem, the modem is turned on and an ethernet or DSL cable is connected to the WAN or DSL port on the wireless router. You might want to click the on/off button to get the wireless router to restart and sync up with the Internet Service Provider.

When setting up the original connection to the ISP I suggest you avoid any quick setup wizards because most of what they do is behind the scenes and you can’t really see what is happening. Later when you want to make changes to your wireless router’s configuration you may not know what’s what because you let the quick setup wizard do everything for you.

When choosing your connection type you’ll be offered several choices. Dynamic, Static, or PPOE. Most Internet Service providers are going to provide you with a dynamic IP address. This means that it will configure itself to your wireless router automatically and it will probably change periodically. Many businesses that own IP addresses on the internet will have to configure the router with a static IP address. PPOE is something you use with DSL and it usually involves a username and a password which you’ll have to get from your Internet Service Provider.

Don’t Settle For The Default Wi-Fi Passphrase

The next thing we want to configure is the wireless passphrase. The wireless passphrase is different from your administrator password. The administrative password is what you use to log on and configure the router. The wireless passphrase is what you use to connect to the Wi-Fi. I like to use the words “passphrase” and “password” to differentiate between the two.

You shouldn’t have to hunt too far for the wireless password section. It should be under a tab or section called “Wireless.” Once you find it you may notice is everything is already set up for you or your wireless router’s SSID and passphrase may be printed on the back or bottom of the router. That’s great right? Well no, actually it’s not great. You want to make sure your passphrase is not out in the open. If somebody else gets a hold of your default Wi-Fi password then get in and do anything they want to with your network.

wireless router setup

When you’re configuring a Wi-Fi passphrase you want to make it as secure as possible. That means random letters and numbers just like your Admin password. Yes, I realize it’s a pain but the good thing is most devices will remember your passphrase once you type it in once. A convenient way to make a complex Wi-Fi passphrase more memorable is to substitute some of the letters with numbers and add a special character or two. For example, if you love your cat you can use “1lov3myc4t!”

DHCP – Automatic IP Addressing

If you don’t know what DHCP is see my Home Networking 101 article for a quick explanation. Most wireless routers are already set up with a default DCHP scope so it’s not something you normally have to set up on a wireless router. If you plan on doing a lot of configurations it’s a good thing to get a handle on.  I go into great detail about DHCP in my Home Networking Basics video.

Basically, DHCP is a pool of IP addresses that the wireless router uses to give out to wireless and wired devices connected to it. There’s something called a DHCP reservation which means certain devices with certain mac addresses will automatically receive an IP address that you specify. This is a very handy configuration that we’ll get into later. To set that all up you want to have a DHCP scope well defined on your wireless router settings.

DHCP is considered an “Advanced” setting. You’ll usually find it in a section called “Network.” The DHCP server settings on your wireless router may be fine as they are right of the box but if you’re planning on doing some advanced configurations later on down the line this is something that’s good to get familiarized with. See the Wireless Router Setup video above for the exact details on how to set it up and set up a DHCP reservation as well.


QoS – Quality Of Service

The next thing we’re going to discuss is QoS. QoS stands for Quality Of Service. your wireless router uses QoS to give you the ability to prioritize certain types of traffic or give specific devices priority over other devices on the network in order to keep your favorite games and tv shows from lagging or being interrupted by someone else’s activity on the network. there are different ways to implement QoS depending on which manufacturer’s router you get.

Some types of QoS are so simple a child can do it and others are such pain you’ll wonder if it’s even worth the bother. I would avoid “Traditional QoS” and stick to “Dynamic QoS” or “Adaptive QoS” when shopping for a wireless router. The topic of QoS can require an entire article to cover. For a step-by-step guide on how to set up all three see the Wireless Router Setup video above.

QoS is one of those buzzwords that gets bounced around a lot by people who like to sound smart. The fact of the matter is QoS is not something you really need if you only have a few devices or a few people on your network at the same time. You really only need QoS if you have a lot of devices competing for network bandwidth and a few specific machines such as TVs and game consoles that need special attention.

You can drive yourself crazy constantly tweaking your QoS settings trying to get it just right because the conditions on your network are always changing. That magical sweet spot where everything is just perfect is constantly moving. My basic rule of thumb when it comes to QoS is it’s a great thing to have if you need it but if you don’t need it don’t pull your hair out over it.

Keep Your Firmware Updated

Okay now, let’s talk about firmware. Firmware may seem like a boring topic on the surface but it’s probably one of the most important things you’re going to want to familiarize yourself with when you have a wireless router. I remember once I got a comment on one of my wireless router videos from someone who was asking me when I planned on updating the video with this year’s models.

I chuckled to myself a little bit but I guess it’s easy to assume that wireless router manufacturers are like automobile manufacturers and produce a new model every year. That’s just not the case with wireless routers. It takes a lot of research and development to produce a new wireless router model and it usually only happens when there have been major changes in the technology. With the use of firmware updates, manufacturers can keep a router model new and relatively up-to-date for years without having to completely redo the design and hardware specs.

firmware upgrade

Several years ago I was very disappointed to find out that the router I just bought and thought it had VPN support didn’t. I searched and searched through all the menus and there were no VPN settings anywhere. As it turned out the latest firmware update included the VPN feature so I updated the firmware and, suddenly as if by magic, there was my VPN support!

So if you want your wireless router to be all it can be you want to periodically check the status of the firmware on the manufacturer’s website. You’ll find a complete demonstration of upgrading a wireless router’s firmware in my Wireless Router Setup video above.

If you’re doing a manual update you want to be 100 percent sure that the firmware you’re installing is the correct one for your router because if you get it wrong you can damage your router in fact you can not only damage your router you can brick your router and make it totally useless. That’s why it’s always nice to have a handy-dandy upgrade utility built into your wireless router that makes it a no-brainer.

Backup Your Wireless Routers Configuration

Our final topic is something that’s often overlooked but is still very important. it’s called your configuration backup. Sometimes after adding multiple configurations to your router things might start to get a little bit confusing and you may feel the urge to just blow everything away and start from scratch. In other cases, you may be getting a strange error that just doesn’t go away no matter what you do. In both cases, the best way to handle this is to simply reset your router.

This is done with the reset button on the back it’ll either be a little hole or it’ll be a little button now on this router. Pressing it and holding it down for a few seconds will reset your wireless router to its factory default settings. Of course, once you get to this point you don’t want to have to redo every single setting you’ve put on your wireless router since you’ve owned it. The whole point was just to get rid of the last few configurations.

back up wireless routers configuration

What you can do is once you get your wireless router to a point where you like it you can simply do a backup of that configuration into a file save it. Then when you start playing around with resets and doing all kinds of things later you can simply reset the router upload that configuration back up back into your router and you’re back to where you were before things got messed up. A full demonstration of backing up and restoring your wireless router’s configuration can be found in my Wireless Router Setup video above.

Backing up the configuration of your wireless router is one of those things you think you’ll never need until you do. Believe me, I’ve run into many instances when I was grateful that I took the time to save a backup copy of my wireless router configuration. This goes for not only your wireless router but all your computers and network devices.

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Jerry Jones (WiFi Guy) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

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Affiliate Disclosure

Jerry Jones (WiFi Guy) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

“As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” – Jerry Jones

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