A decade ago, routers were too expensive to own in a home. Now, you need a router for DSL or cable modem. If your cable or DSL provider doesn’t give you a wireless router, you need a secondary router from the store. Your provider will set up your main router for you, but you’ll need to understand how to configure any secondary routers in your home. Each router has its own interface, but there are basic configurations that are standard across all small networks.
The first step is to place the router in a convenient location. Since this is a home network, you probably have a wireless router. Wireless routers have a limited signal strength. Unless you have a large house, you can place the router anywhere provided your computers get a signal.
You will need an Ethernet cord to connect one computer directly to the router. Some routers support a USB connection as an alternative if you don’t have an Ethernet cable. Either way, you’ll need one of the two to configure the router. This is so you can configure it for the first time. After you configure it once, you can store the Ethernet cable somewhere in case you reset your router to factory settings. You’ll need to do this if you forgot your router’s interface administrator password.
The router manufacture gives you the IP address for the private network. Typically, the IP is “192.168.1.1.” Some router manufacturers use “192.168.1.254.” Type this IP address into your browser from the computer connected directly with the Ethernet cable. Any router has an administrator password set. You’ll need this password to log in. You should immediately change this password after you log in for the first time. Anyone can log in to your router if you don’t change the administrator password.
Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP)
DHCP is a protocol that organizes and assigns IP addresses. You need an IP address to connect to the router and communicate over the Internet. Instead of assigning an IP address to each device (which is an overhead nightmare), you can let a DHCP server handle IP assignments. A DHCP server can be a router or a computer. In the case of your home router, you’re using the router to assign IP addresses. If you use a wireless router from the provider, DHCP is probably already set, so you don’t need to configure it.
You need to give your router a static IP address, though. The router IP address shouldn’t change, because it’s a critical component on the network. All critical servers, routers and printers should have a static IP address. When you set up DHCP, you specify IPs reserved by this critical equipment. For instance, if you have 3 computers that shouldn’t have a static IP, you can set a block of about 5 IP addresses to reserve some IPs for static machines.
Since this is a home router, you probably have wireless connectivity. At least, you should have wireless service. Tablets and smartphones include wireless devices that you can connect to your network. It benefits you to buy a router with wireless connectivity functionality, but most home routers come with this functionality. You can buy a wireless router for as little as $30.
You first need to assign an SSID to your router. This ID is the name you see in the list of available wireless connections when you browse connections. Your router comes with a default name, but it’s best to configure a personalized SSID to more easily identify your network from your neighbor’s. Leaving the default SSID also makes it easier for hackers to identify the type of router you own. Hackers can use specific hacks and limit the amount of “tries” needed to gain access if they know your router manufacturer.
Next, you need a security type. Security over wireless is encryption. Your connection from your computer or mobile device to the router is encrypted. This means the data passed between devices is encrypted and protected. Hackers can use equipment parked outside of your house to read your data. Even worse, they can sometimes connect to your network if you don’t use any security. This means that they can gain access to your private documents and sometimes even install software on your computer.
There are several types of security options. The top three are WEP, WPA and WPA-2. WEP is a poor choice, because it’s been cracked. Some public Wi-Fi networks still use it. WPA is the next level up. It’s preferred over WPA-2, because not all devices support WPA-2. You want any device (even old ones) to connect to your network, so WPA is probably the best option. However, if you want to increase your security to maximum potential, WPA-2 is better.
After you save your settings, the router will reboot automatically. When the router reboots, you’re disconnected. You’ll need to use the new admin password you set up to reconnect after it reboots. Disconnect your Ethernet or USB cable. The next step is to attempt a connection from another computer. You can also use the laptop or netbook you used to configure the router.
You need either a wireless or wired network card to connect to your router. Even wireless routers come with some wired connections (usually 5). Wireless connections are limited only by your bandwidth. You should test both types of connections if you use both. However, most people just use the wireless connection. You can buy wireless network cards even for a desktop, so it makes it easy to connect multiple computers.
After you set up your router, you probably won’t ever need to reconnect to the administration interface unless you need major changes. Port forwarding is the next level, but you only need port forwarding if you want to host a server or website from within your personal network. Port forwarding leaves your network open, so you should block all incoming traffic unless you’re familiar with routers and security. Incidentally, if you ever forget the admin password, there is always a reset button that sets the router back to manufacturer defaults so that you can redo your configurations and gain access even when you forget the password.