Many people think setting up a wireless network is so hard, you have to be an engineer to do it. No, you don’t. It’s actually pretty easy and very straightforward. I’m going to walk you through the steps required to set up your wireless network, using screenshots from my wireless network as examples of what you should be seeing as you go through the setup process.
The exact configuration screens you’ll be looking at will be slightly different from mine because you probably have a different brand router/modem than I do, but the information pictured is pretty much identical. The steps I outline below will work whether your High Speed Internet modem has the router built-in like mine, or if you have a separate router from Belkin, Linksys, Netgear, or any of the other router manufacturers out there. If you’re looking for a Wi-Fi router, PCMag was nice enough to compile a list of the top 10 routers.
What Setting Up a Wireless Network Entails
Setting up a wireless network is basically a two-step process.
First, you configure the router and then you put the router where it will give you the best signal broadcast to provide the coverage you need. What I do is configure the router (when it’s a separate router) with it sitting near the HSI modem, then put it up in the attic if I’m working in a house, or on top of the ceiling if I’m installing it in a large apartment.
Once I have the router located in the attic, I run an Ethernet cable from the modem to the router and provide power for the modem by tapping into one of the electrical junction boxes in the ceiling (or run a small extension cord). In most apartments I don’t worry about this. You will also have to make sure that all the computers that will connect to the router have their network adapters configured to receive IP addresses automatically. That’s outlined in another piece here.
Configuring the Wireless Network Using the Setup Wizard
Most router manufacturers include a CD in the packaging that contains a setup wizard that makes setting up a wireless network a simple matter of clicking “Next” a few times and typing a few pieces of information here and there. If that’s your plan, you can stop reading here because I’m not going to cover that. However, know that except for the passphrase for wireless security that you will create, bad guys that want to break into your wireless network know all the information that the router will be configured with by default. So, you may want to set the CD aside and keep reading.
Configuring the Network Address Scheme
Typically, most routers are, by default, configured to use the 192.168.1.xxx network. The bad guys know this. So we’re going to change this. We do this as follows:
- Plug a network cable into the router and computer, then open up a browser window.
- Type in the address 192.168.1.1 and hit enter.
- Type in the router password (usually Admin), leaving the username field blank.
- Type in 10.10.1.100 in the “Local IP Address” field in “Network Setup.”
- Make sure that the router is configured for automatic address assignment – DHCP.
- Click “Save.”
- On the line that says “Starting IP,” type a number between 100 and 254.
- Count the number of devices in your house that will be allowed to connect to the wireless network and add 2. Type this number into the field labeled “Max Users” (or something similar).
- Click “Save” again.
Our next step is to make sure that people we don’t want sharing our bandwidth and having access to our network will have trouble getting in. We do this by configuring the channel in use, the wireless security protocol, and changing the username and password to access the router configuration interface. Here’s how:
- Click on the link or tab that says Password, Security, or something similar.
- Type in a username that is unique.
- Type and re-type a password.
- Write these down.
- Click “Apply” or “Save.”
Now we need to ensure that unauthorized people can’t get into the network. We do this by configuring the security protocol. We will be using WPA2-Personal (Wireless Protected Access -2).
- Click on the “Wireless,” “Wireless Network,” or “Security” tab or link. You want to see a screen that looks similar to the one above.
- Change the SSID (Service Set Identification: The name of the wireless network being configured.)
- Set the type of protection to WPA2-Personal and the encryption to TKIP-AES.
- On the same paper with the router username and password from above, write down a passphrase/network key of between eight and 63 characters. Use numbers, digits, and symbols.
- Enter this passphrase in the two boxes.
- Click “Save.”
Your next step is to locate the router to give the best range. If you’re in an apartment, you can skip this, but for larger houses, or when you may want to sit outside somewhere and use your tablet, you need to get the router as high as possible. As I said above, I try to put the routers I install into the attic crawlspace whenever possible. I run a long Ethernet cable from the modem to the router and get power from one of the junction boxes in the attic. If there are computers you want to physically connect to the router, run those cables down from the router to them through the ceiling. Use some DAP or spackle to disguise the hole.
You’re done setting up a wireless network! Your network should be up and running now, and only you and those you allow should be able to get online. As a quick check of this, you can log back into your router and check the usage page to see how many computers are connected and what their names are. Happy surfing!
Photo Credit: Daniel*1977