Basic Home Router Setup
*You should always read over the install guide or use the CD that came with your router for most of this.
- Connect the cable modem/or DSL Modem from your Internet provider to the WAN port of the router using an ethernet cable (usually supplied with the router)
- Connect your laptop of computers network port to the LAN port on your router. Use an ethernet cable (might need to buy one if you don't have one)
- *Using a browser (Chrome/Firefox,etc), navigate to 192.168.1.1. (This could also possibly 192.168.0.1 - consult the user manual to be sure)
- If needed set the default gateway on to: 192.168.1.1 (again is could possibly be 192.168.0.1, but consult the manual). This is used by the router to tell any computers that the router is how you get out to the Internet
- If needed configure the Subnet Mask to: 255.255.255.0
- To enable WIFI, go to Wireless Network, most likely a tab within the routers setup. It's recommended that you use WPA-2 Personal Security. Don't use WEP as this is easily hacked.
Wireless Router Setup
This starts to get a little more advanced. But can be fun to play with.
Things you should know about wireless networks
- 2.4GHz - known as 802.11b or 802.11g. This is used for range and device compatibility. Most older devices will use this channel
- 5GHz - known as 802.11a, 802.11n or 802.11ac. This is used for speed/bandwidth. Great for gaming or newer 4K t.v.'s. Its also great as not too many people use it which mean you have less interference with other signals
- After scanning your area with a WiFi tool, determine which channels are being used by your neighbors' wifi.
- Most newer wireless routers will figure this part automatically, but if you want, you can manually set your WiFi to a specific channel. If you find you are getting a lot of interference, this may help. For the 2.4GHz band use either channel 1, 6, or 11 depending on what you might find your neighbors are using. Again most modern routers will automatically detect this and choose the least "noisy" channel.
- Higher numbered channels will typically offer slightly better performance, not always. If there are no other wireless networks, choose a high channel number like 11.
There are more channels that you can choose from, however there are only three channels in the spectrum that don't overlap ,which is why we recommend using either channel 1, 6 or 11. It's recommended to simply choose one of these channels if you are going to set this up manually.
Advanced Router Configuration Steps
Here are a few more networking terms to know:
- DHCP Server- this is used by the router to automatically assign addresses to the various connecting devices.
- Static IP- an assigned address that does not change.
- QoS- stands for "quality of service" - is used to prioritize network traffic.
- DMZ- stands for 'demilitarized zone" - allows to expose a computer directly to the internet and bypass the router's firewall. **Don't enable this unless you know exactly what you're doing!
- Port Forwarding- this specifies what port to allow traffic through. This can also be a huge security risk as you are again bypassing the firewall for a particular port. Check out portforwarding.com for the best help with this. They also have hundreds of router guides.
Expanding Your Network - Getting Really Fancy
There are a few ways to do this and each have they're purpose. Here's the run down to the most of these typical set ups.
- Wireless Access Point
This is used to expand your wireless coverage by having a second router broadcast the same SSID network id and connect to the same backend LAN.
To do this you need to have two wireless routers either connected with a cable or connected to the same network. When complete all connected devices, i.e., laptops, phones, consoles, etc., can see each other on the local network, regardless of what wireless router they are connected to. It's best to use a device that is setup to only be a wireless access point, however most routers will perform this function.
- Connect ethernet cable from the primary router(default gateway) LAN port, to a LAN port on the secondary router(Access Point). This can be done either directly or through another switch.
On the second router (the one acting as the wireless access point):
- Disable DHCP, (usually a check box on the lan configuration tab) The main router will handle this task for both routers.
- Subnet Mask must be the same as main router
- Configure the same SSID as the main router. Note: the two routers need to be a good distance away so as not to interfere with each other.
- Set wireless on the secondary to use a different channel than the main router. If the main is on channel 11, set the second router to channel 1. This should allow the best roaming throughout your network
2. Repeater Bridge (WDS - Wireless Distribution System)
This is used to extend you're network to areas that you can't run cable to. This is common in older houses or offices.
To set this up, you will connect two routers together wirelessly. This is known as a wireless bridge or wireless network extension.
To set this up do the following:
- Assign a Static IP Address on the primary router(most likely already configured this way), on the second router, usually 192.168.1.2 or 192.168.0.2 (but this must match the main router's subnet). This will become the local IP address of the second router allowing you to connect to it's configuration page.
On the second router:
- Disable DHCP, your primary router will handle this task
- Subnet Mask must be the same as Primary Router
3. Client Bridge
The goal here is to connect a second router and therefore create a second network. Devices connected to either router, cannot see devices on the other router on the local network. The keyword here is "subnetting."
- Connect ethernet cable from LAN on the primary router to WAN on the secondary router.
On the second router:
- Default gateway is the primary router's IP address. (192.168.1.1 for example)
- Local IP must be a different subnet. If the primary router's IP is 192.168.1.1, then this secondary router must be 192.168.2.1. You can further subnet routers down the network to further create more and more networks.
- You must enable DHCP. Since this is a new network, the new router needs to assign addresses on the new subnet.
- DNS can be let up to the default gateway/primary router.
Overall, repurposing home routers should only be done with older device you might have laying around. It's really not the best use of your money or of the device to take a new router such as a TP-Link to function as an access point. It's also frustrating if you ever have to trouble very complex setups like this. If you have a fresh home network to set up, then in most cases you should have only one router to be used as your main router, and purchase dedicate access points, or wireless range extenders to do these jobs.
- What are some ways I can improve my router's performance?
If your router supports it, you may consider installing 3rd party software on your router. A popular solution being DD-WRT OpenWRT or Tomato and if you have and Asus router check out Merlin.
- How to I set up Port Forwarding?
Check out portforwarding.com. They have hundreds of guides specific to hundreds of router models.
Some essential reading for folks wanting to understand more about the use of wireless channels and the best way to configure it: