Installing a Wireless Router

Category: Wireless

If you have several home or small office computers and want them to share one Internet connection, installing a wireless router is the best solution. Even if you have only one computer and don't see any need for a network, there are still good reasons for installing a wireless router. But you have to do it right or you may end up exposed to identity thieves, computer hijackers, and other online predators...

How to Install a Wireless Router

A wireless router makes sense for a one-computer home or office because desktop computers are not the only devices that connect to each other. You might have a laptop, or a visitor with a laptop, who needs an Internet connection. Portable devices such as smartphones, iPods, iPads, and ebook readers can all use a wireless router for Internet connectivity.

Also, your computer probably needs to connect to a printer, at least; a printer is a "node" on a network just as much as a PC or Mac is. Photocopiers, fax machines, and other office devices can also be parts of a network. Positioning devices and moving them around is much easier when they are connected wirelessly.
Wireless Routers

You may already have a wireless router, and not be aware. If you have high-speed internet (DSL, cable, or fiber) chances are your ISP provided you with a wireless router. If there's a box with lots of blinking lights and cables plugged in, and it has an antenna, (see photo) you've got a wireless router. If not, you can buy a "Wireless N Router" at most any electronics or office store. Netgear, Linksys, D-Link and Belkin all make good products in the $50 range. See my related article Wireless N Routers for more info.

When you install a wireless router, it is configured by default to allow everything connected to it to communicate with everything else fully. That's dangerous when a router is connected to the Internet where all the viruses, Trojans, war-drivers, and other bad guys lurk. Installing a wireless router without changing its default configuration is like building a house, moving all your stuff into it, and leaving the front door wide open.

Here's How To Install a Wireless Router Safely:

  • Connect your router's Ethernet port (often labeled "Internet" or "WLAN") to your Internet access modem (generally, a DSL or cable modem).
  • Power up the router and wait for it to connect to the Internet. Lights on the router will blink rapidly, then settle into a steady pattern that indicates the router is connected.
  • Connect your computer to the router with an Ethernet cable. The cable plugs into the Ethernet port on your computer and an identical port on the router. The ports on the router may be labeled "PC", "LAN" or may be labeled with a number such as 1, 2, 3, etc. Generally it doesn't matter which port you choose.
  • The router and computer will "shake hands" and connect. Now you can use your computer's browser to configure the router securely.
  • The router has a mini web server built into it through which you can configure the router's settings. Consult the router's user manual for the router's IP address and enter it into your browser's address bar. A web page will appear, asking you for the administrator's username and password. The default username and password are in your router's manual.
  • The administrator's username and password are the first things to change once you are logged in as an administrator. Default administrator credentials for the most popular routers are well known among hackers, and with that info they can do just about anything they wish on your network. So change the username and password to something hard to guess.
  • Encryption is disabled by default on most routers. Enable the strongest encryption that's available on your router (i.e., WEP, WPA, WPA2). When you enable encryption you will also set up one or more "keys" or passwords that can be used by other devices to log onto the network. Outsiders who don't know the keys may try to guess them, so make the keys long and complex. Keep the keys as safe as your house keys!
  • Finally, take note of the router's SSID in the wireless settings. Even better, change it to something that makes sense to you. You'll need that SSID in order to make a wireless connection.

Once you've verified that you can connect to the router with a wired connection, it's time to try a wireless (wifi) connection. If you have a device with wifi capability (a laptop, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone or other smartphone, Kindle, Nook, etc.) go to the Settings page on the device and make sure the Wireless option is turned on. A list of nearby wireless routers should appear. If there is more than one in the list, look for your SSID select it, and enter your wifi key/password. If all goes well, your device will be connected to the Internet. You can open a web browser or email program to test the connection.

There's no reason your desktop PC or Mac can't connect wirelessly, too. The only catch is that most desktops don't have a wifi adapter. But they are cheap (under $20) and plug right into the USB port. If you have a printer that can connect wirelessly, you can really cut down on cable clutter. You might even decide to put the printer in another room.

How do YOU use your wireless router? Post your comment or question below…

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Most recent comments on "Installing a Wireless Router"

Posted by:

Lefty Mills
30 Mar 2011

You say - "There's no reason your desktop PC or Mac can't connect wirelessly, too." 2 reasons -

1) wired is safer

2) wired is faster

EDITOR'S NOTE: Definitely not faster. Most ethernet (wired) connections operate at 100 Mb/sec. Wireless N can provide up to 300 Mb/sec. (Although it in practice it tends to max at about 140.) But even the fastest "high-speed internet" connections are only 20-30Mb/sec. Most cable internet hookups are 3-5 Mb/sec. And that's the limiting factor.

Posted by:

Tom S.
30 Mar 2011

And make sure that its password enabled so that your friends and neighbors don't use it to d/l music, and get you in trouble. (A word to the wise from someone who Cablevision has contacted on this same matter!)

Posted by:

30 Mar 2011

We have three computers, Mom's, mine and my brother's in different locations. We're using Linksys router and internal cards. When we set up the router it generated a password that we had to put on a flash drive so we could copy it to the computers.
It took about 20 minutes from opening the box to operating.

Posted by:

Paul B
30 Mar 2011

I have 2 PC's and a laptop that uses my network..PLUS my Blu-ray DVD which streams Netflix is also connected (with a dongle). I have my sons car repair manual loaded on my laptop so when I go to the garage to work on his car if we need parts I can check availability of the part at my favorite store and go pick it up or order online right from there! Wireless is the only way to go!

Posted by:

Larry M.
30 Mar 2011

@ Lefty Mills

"There's no reason your desktop PC or Mac can't connect wirelessly, too."

Read the ninth word "can't". Never said you had to or should.

Posted by:

30 Mar 2011

Bob, can you write a short description of the lights on the typical router and what they indicate?

Do the lights have a trouble shooting function that is common? Or does each manufacturer use a different light configuration?

And what about the devices that talk through the router. Are the lights pretty much standard, or does each owner have to read the specific manual for each connected device?

Also post as a comment to an existing article? OK. Maybe some other readers have thoughts.

Rephrase? By all means. Disclaim ownership? My wife says I've never had an original idea. Everything I say or write has been said or written by someone already. :-(

EDITOR'S NOTE: Tell your wife she's wrong! This is first time anyone has asked me about the flashing lights on a router. I take a simple view: If the light next to the Internet/Globe symbol is on, that means the router is connected to the Internet. If that was off, it could mean your ISP is experiencing an outage. If the Wireless light is on, your Wifi is enabled and broadcasting a signal. As for the lights on the 1, 2, 3 ports, if they are flashing, data is flowing. I've never felt I needed to know more than that.

Posted by:

31 Mar 2011

Setting up a Wireless Router can be confusing, for some, especially to those who have never set one up. I know that it was for me, the very first time, but since that time, it has been easy and makes logical sense.

Caution --- Make sure that you use the highest encryption password possible!!! Many beginners, including me, use the WEP encryption, which is usually the company's number or code for the unit you have purchased or got from your Cable or Phone company.

I used the WEP encryption for years, when last year, all of a sudden, someone had 'hacked' into my wireless system. I am still not sure how they did, just that they did. In calling Tech Support for my DSL Wireless Modem, they told me to use WPA or even better to use WPA2, that they were safer and used stronger encryption coding.

The tech helped me set up a password using Large Case Letters, Small Case Letters, Numbers, Spaces and Punctuation Marks. YES, it is really hard to remember, but I know that my Wireless System is safe and quite secure.

Posted by:

31 Mar 2011

Ref: Bullet 2

Some modems will not initially connect to a router unless powered off first.

Ref: Bullet 6

Some routers won't allow you to change the "administrator's username", just the password.

Ref: Bullet 7

You need to ensure that all devices that you wish to connect wirelessly are capable of the strongest encryption. You need to set the encryption strength to the weakest device. For example, I have a wireless Print Server that won't do better than WEP Therefore, I had to set my router to WEP. (I know, I should get a newer one -- when I win the lottery.)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks for your comments. As for WEP, it's a mistake to assume that you're completely unprotected with WEP. It still requires a VERY motivated hacker and some luck to break WEP. If your password is strong, you should feel confident.

Posted by:

31 Mar 2011

My router was installed by my cable provider without any security code years ago. I have tried but cannot access the online account using the default "admin" and so cannot put in a security code. What to do?

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can either Google the name of the router to see what the default password is, or ask your ISP. Sometimes they set the password when installing the router.

Posted by:

Andrew Jordan
01 Apr 2011

1.I have a lot of difficulty with my routers due to power outages and brown outs.(common where we live and even with the APC0 We lose internet connections and/or the whole set up.It just seems a non reliable process and then to do the restore config never goes right.Belkin f5d8231-4 & a backup D link.

2. Trying to input default WEP system generated password to I Phone or network printer is ridiculous.The latest one is about 30 characters!

3. Read that highest throughput on Wireless is achieved using no protection or WEP but not WPA? True? Also that if I have N on laptop and wife's laptop with G turns on, we all go down to G speeds? Would a dual band router solve that?

4. Lastly I just feel that the more I can wire that are fixed, desktop etc, it should help reduce the load on the wireless, True? If not I will go wireless and save all the tripping on the cables!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Well of course using less wireless will reduce the load. But that only matters if you have more than one concurrent user, and you're both doing something bandwisth intensive, such as watching a video or streaming music.

Some wireless routers slow down to G speed when you connect both G and N devices to them. You'll have to check the tech specs before buying to make sure.

And yes, using encyption (WEP or WPA) does introduce some overhead, but on newer, faster routers, it should not impact performance much at all.

Posted by:

r.e. boettiger
02 Apr 2011

Linksys router
Motorola DSL MODEM

Should be simple! NOT

2 day to figure out:

Set MODEM to bridged

Posted by:

G. Cox
08 Apr 2011

My Linksyn "N" router powers three laptops, a printer, a wireless security camera,and a Roku player to stream movies to the living room tv set.

Posted by:

Sue Wohlwend
29 Dec 2012

I don't have a manual,how do I go about setting up my Linksys wireless-G 2.4 Broadband router with Speed Booster 802.11

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