Overview of Wireless Networks: How to Configure a Wireless Router

how to configure a wireless routerWireless networks are much more convenient than wired networks. To set up a wireless network in your home or office, you need to buy a wireless router. Belkin, Cisco (Linksys) and Netgear are a few name brands for wireless routers. You can buy a wireless router for approximately $30 to $100. Once set up, the wireless router allows any number of smartphones, tables, phablets and desktops to connect to your network. Wireless routers also make networking your home or office more affordable without the expensive hardware and wiring.

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Choosing the Right Wireless Router

Every wireless router brand has several different options. These options can get confusing if you’re new to networking.

First, the issue is single or dual band? The two primary bands are 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The 2.4GHz band was the first and primary communication signal. With more wireless devices popping up, this band gets congested. Congestion means your data slows down, because it has to share the same signal with all the other devices within range. Single band routers use this 2.4GHz band. Dual band routers use both the 2.4GHz band and the 5GHz band. The 5GHz band is less congested, because fewer devices can use it. The only downside to this band is that it has a shorter range than the 2.4GHz band.

Speed is always an issue especially if you want to play video games over wireless. Gaming over wireless is naturally slower with more latency, but you might not have a choice with some games.  You have the choices of 300Mbps, 900Mbps, 1900Mps and even faster. Notice this speed is “megabits” per second and not “megabytes.” Obviously, the higher the Mbps rating the faster the router will transfer data. However, faster routers are also more expensive, so it’s an issue if you plan to network your home or office on a budget. The one issue to remember is that you will probably never max out the router speed. You also don’t need super speeds if you plan to do basic office work. Unless you plan to play video games or transfer large amounts of data, you can probably save yourself some expense and purchase a slower router speed.  For someone who needs a faster router, you should probably buy a router with a slightly slower speed than the fastest model, because you won’t get those speeds anyway.

Configuring Your Router

Obviously, each manufacturer has its own configuration layout. However, each router has some basic, ordinary settings that span across all wireless routers. Most routers have a web-based interface you can use from your laptop or desktop. It’s convenient to use an Ethernet cable to connect to the router using a browser. Open your browser and type the IP address into the browser’s address bar. The router documentation usually lists the IP address. The documentation instructions also give you the default router administration user name and password.

The first option is IP address information. Typically, you want your router to have a static IP address such as 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1. The static IP address is defined by your cable or DSL router. The ISP router has an internal IP address for your internal network, and that’s the address you base your router’s IP address. You want the route to have the same subnet, so the router IP is generally one of the aforementioned addresses.

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The next option is DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol). DHCP lets the router assign IP addresses to each device. It’s much easier setting IP addresses using DHCP than statically assigning each device. With static addresses, you need to manually configure each device. With DHCP, the router manages the IP addresses and just assigns an IP that is next in the open pool. The user just needs to know the wireless SSID and the password and the router handles the rest.

Another important configuration setting is the SSID. The SSID is more commonly known as the network name. The network name is what displays when users browse for available wireless networks. You can name your network anything you want. Hackers try to hack default SSIDs, so you should always at least change the name to something customized for your home or office.

With the SSID name is the need for a password and encryption type. Most routers offer several kinds of encryption. WEP is one of the oldest, but it’s been hacked and it’s not recommended. WPA is probably the most common and recommended and WPA2 is the latest and strongest. Not every device supports WPA2, so it’s best to ensure that all your devices support WPA2 before using it. The best option is to choose WPA.

The final change is to change the administrator password and disable remote control. Hackers try to gain access to your router by identifying the manufacturer and using the default administration user name and password. If you don’t change it, you run the risk of a hacker changing your router’s settings and blocking your connection.

Once these settings are saved, your router will reboot. Any currently connected computers will be disconnected. Once the router reboots, you can connect to the wireless network with any device. You can test the new connection using the laptop or netbook you used to configure the router. If this device connects to the wireless SSID, it’s likely that your other devices will also connect.

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It’s good to check the router’s IP table every once in a while. This just ensures that there are no strange connections from unauthorized users. You can also change your password, but this means that you must change the password on all the other wireless device connections. Most wireless routers work without much management after this basic setup. If you ever forget your administrator password, routers have a reset button on the hardware. Resetting the router settings returns it to the manufacturer’s settings, so you must reconfigure the router after you reset it.