Last week, we looked at ways to look for a good Wi-Fi router. It's one thing to choose a Wi-Fi router, but it's equally important to spend the same time to install and configure it correctly. If you’ve bought a router from your ISP, then someone from the ISP might have come over to your place and installed the router for you.
Sometimes, the ISP personnel might not have any knowledge of wireless security and have no idea about your network setup at your home. If you’ve bought your own Wi-Fi router, then you will have to configure your router yourself. Let’s look at some of the most important features that need to be configured on your router.
Logging into your router
At this point, we are going to assume that you’ve setup the cables between the ISP and the router correctly. Routers and modems do not have any controls or LCD displays that let you configure the settings for them externally. The firmware on the router can only be accessed through a web browser. The web interface can typically be accessed on http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1. The user name and password are both admin most of the time as well. If that doesn’t work, refer to the router manual for the correct URL or look at the back of the router. The user name and password will also be mentioned there.
Entering authentication details for internet account
Some of them require you to authenticate using a web login while most of them use PPPoE (PPP over Ethernet). When you first buy your router, you might have to enter these details into the router manually for once. The interface and location of the menus differs from one brand of routers to another, but the features are common everywhere. If your ISP doesn’t use PPPoE, you can use DHCP as your setup type and if your ISP assigns you specific IP addresses, you can choose the Static IP option and enter the details manually.
Enabling MAC Address Cloning
Every single network device has a MAC address which is unique to that device. ISPs lock internet access to MAC addresses on their clients’ PCs. So when you buy a new router, the ISP detects a different MAC address and disables internet access to that connection.
Fortunately, routers have a MAC address cloning feature that allow you to manually add the MAC address of your PC. Most of the routers have a MAC address auto-detection feature built into them. Enable it if you find your internet connection not working the moment you install your brand new router.
Securing your Wi-Fi network
Wi-Fi security is absolutely important if you don’t want your network PCs to be exposed and if you don’t want random users using your internet connections. Most routers come with no passwords set for the wireless network, which makes it easy for you to get online but at the same time, also easy for those unauthorized users. There are a few steps that can reduce the chances of that happening.
Setting a complicated password is a must
When you first install the router, make sure that you have Security mode on your router setup to WPA2-Personal and enter a long and somewhat complicated password. Most ISPs today distribute routers amongst their users with the passwords set as admin, password, the user’s phone number or name.
MAC filtering only allows specific devices to connect to the wireless network
The next step is to block all MAC addresses other than your PC and other devices that you might be using. Remember, we talked about ISPs blocking PCs with unrecognized MAC address? Routers have a similar feature that blocks devices whose MAC addresses aren’t present in the white list. Linksys calls the feature the Wireless MAC filter.
Disabling SSID Broadcast hides your network to outsiders
Disabling SSID Broadcast is one of the last steps to securing your router. With the broadcasting disabled, users aren’t able to see any wireless networks and accessing it isn’t possible unless you know the exact SSID of the network. Ideally, disable this once you’ve connected your devices to the Wi-Fi router at least once so that the SSID, password and settings are saved.
Setting up port forwarding
A lot of P2P applications and games might require open ports, which basically means that the router should be able to accept ports and forward them to your devices. Since all the connections being made to your network pass through the single router, the router needs to redirect those requests to specific PCs. In this case, incoming connections coming to various ports need to forwarded to the correct PCs. P2P applications for example need an accessible incoming port. Once you know which port your P2P application knows (which is something you can find out from the connection settings for the application), you can specify the port you would like the router to forward and to which PC or device.
Port forwarding is necessary for certain applications to operate flawlessly
Some manufacturer use the term NAT, port forwarding or in the case of recent Linksys routers, the feature is available through a menu called Applications & Gaming. In this case, users can choose from one of the preset applications and ports or can choose to manually enter the values. For example, if you were hosting a game of Quake III Arena (a game that uses the port 27960) for your friends, you would need to specify the external port to be 27960, the internal port to be 27960 as well and mention the destination PC’s IP address. Don’t forget to specify TCP/UDP traffic. You can set it to be both if you’re unsure.
Enabling bandwidth priority
Streaming Youtube uses a lot of bandwidth. If you happen to be playing a multiplayer game online while someone else is watching a Youtube video on the same connection, you’re likely to face lag or disconnections. This is obviously very annoying.
Load balancing between PCs is possible using QoS features
Routers have a feature which allows users to set higher or lower priority for bandwidth provided to specific PCs or applications. The QoS feature should allow you to select MAC addresses, IPs address and ports, so that bandwidth priorities can be assigned to them.
If you have any queries related to setting up Wi-Fi routers, do post in the comment section.