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Home Wi-Fi Router Setup and Maintenance: With Some Attention, You Can Do It!

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This post is part of a series that helps you set up a home network. It’ll work you through the detailed steps to get a home Wi-Fi router up and running.

When through, you’ll be able to figure out how to hook the hardware pieces together in the correct order and configure the Wi-Fi network you’d like.

On top of that, there are also a few tips on maintaining the network for the best performance and security. In any case, the related post in the box below will answer any questions you might have.

Dong’s note: This post was originally part of the piece on home networking basics. I moved it out on March 21, 2022, and added more information to convey the series better.

Netgear CM600 Cable Modem 12
Home Wi-Fi router setup: The router (top) must connect to a modem using its WAN (Internet) port. The modem connects to the Cable coaxial service cable (white.)

Home Wi-Fi router setup

Generally, a network consists of a few hardware pieces, the Internet box (a modem or a gateway), a router we’re trying to set up, and your computers. Following is how you connect them.

But first, brush up on different parts of the network and how to link them together.

A typical home network diagram

Generally, in a home network, we have the following:

  • The service line: That’s the line coming into the house from the street. It can be a phone line (DSL), a coaxial cable (Cable), or a Fiber-optic line.
  • The terminal device: This is the Internet receiver. Chances are it’s a modem for a DSL or Cable broadband or an ONT for a Fiber-optic plan, but it can also be any Internet receiver with a LAN port to connect to your router’s WAN port. Most terminal devices come with just one network port. If yours has more, you still use only one at a time unless:
    • You use a broadband plan with WAN Link Aggregation (generally available in Cable). In this case, you can use two ports to create a 2Gbps connection.
    • You have a plan with static IP addresses. In this case, you can simultaneously assign one IP address to a specific port.
  • The Wi-Fi router: That’s the device you need to set up.
  • Optional devices: These are additional devices — such as patch panels, switches, mesh satellites, etc. — that help expand the network.

Let’s use the arrow (➡) to represent a network cable or cables and square brackets ([]) to describe optional devices. We have the following simple diagram:

Service line ➡ Terminal deviceWi-Fi router ➡ [Switch] ➡ [patch panel] ➡ Wired devices / [more switches] ➡ More wired devices.

A wired device connects to a network via a network cable. Examples are a computer, a printer, Wi-Fi access points, etc.

Simple Network
A simple home network includes a terminal device (a modem or a fiber ONT) and a Wi-Fi router — or a combo device that consists of both, called a gateway.
If you use extra switches, Wi-Fi access points, or mesh satellites, treat them as wired network devices connecting to the router.

Home Wi-Fi router setup: The hardware hookup

Connecting the hardware is when you combine different devices of different roles to form an Internet-connected local network. This step is quite simple. It’s like plugging an appliance into power and turning it on.

Other than that, watch out for what goes into what is in the correct order and ports.

1. Connect to the Internet source

Hook the router’s WAN port (Internet) to an Internet source (such as your cable modem, Fiber-optic ONT, or a gateway) using a network cable.

If you use a modem (or a gateway), connect its service port to the service line.

Note: I assume you’re using a modem (or gateway) that has already been activated. If it’s a new device, you will need to call the service provider to activate it first.

2. Connect your computer to the router

Plug another network cable into your computer’s LAN port and one of the routers. Most routers have four LAN ports; you can use any of them.

If you have one of those new laptops that don’t have a network port, you can get a network dongle for just a few bucks.

If using a network cable is not possible, don’t worry. You can use the router’s default Wi-Fi information — generally found on its underside.

Asus TUF AX5400 Gaming Router
Home Wi-Fi router setup: You generally can find the default Wi-Fi network and setup information on the underside of a router.

3. Power on

Plug all hardware devices into power and turn them on. First, the modem (if you use one,) then the router. In that order.

And that’s it. You have finished with the hardware setup part. Connect all wired devices to the router’s LAN ports, and you’re game. For the Wi-Fi network, though, you need to do a few more things.

Home Wi-Fi router setup: The firmware customization

To configure a Wi-Fi network, you need to log in to the router’s web interface. It’s where you can make all the changes.

Routers for a home Wi-Fi network come in all shapes, sizes, and costs, but as far as this post is concerned, there are only two types: Those with a web user interface and those that don’t.

Router management: Web interface vs mobile app

The former gives you a lot of customization and settings, while the latter generally doesn’t give you much more than naming your Wi-Fi network and picking a password for it.

If you use one that requires a login account and a mobile app — such as the Google Nest Wi-Fi router or Amazon Eero — you need to install the app on a mobile device and then follow the steps on the app. Generally, it’s best to void this type of router for privacy reasons.

This post focuses on standard routers with a local user web interface, which always offers more features and customization than those without. In this case, a browser — Chrome, Firefox, Edge, etc. — is the only app you’d need.

Below are the detailed setup steps applicable to standard Wi-Fi routers.

1. Log in to the web interface of the router

You can access a router’s (or gateway’s) interface using a web browser (such as Firefox, Chrome, or Safari) from a connected computer.

If you’re setting up a new router the first time you launch the browser, you’ll likely automatically get to the web interface, where you can follow the setup wizard.

VendorFriendly URLDefault IPUsernamePassword
Asusrouter.asus.com192.168.1.1
192.168.50.1
adminadmin
AT&T Gatewayn/a192.168.1.254n/aAccess code printed 
on the hardware unit
Comcast 
(Xfinity) Gateway
n/a10.0.0.1 
10.1.10.1
admin 
cusadmin
password 
highspeed
Access code printed 
on the hardware unit
D-Linkdlinkrouter.local192.168.0.1 
192.168.1.1
n/aadmin
Netgearrouterlogin.com192.168.1.1adminpassword
Linksysmyrouter.local192.168.0.1 
192.168.1.1
n/aadmin
TP-Linktplinkwifi.net192.168.0.1adminadmin
Most Cable ModemsN/A192.168.100.1n/aadmin
password
default
Default Interface access address popular of routers/gateways/modems by vendors.

But you can always manually log in to the router’s interface by pointing the browser to its friendly URL or default IP address. The table above lists the default login info of most routers.

Can’t find it? You can always quickly figure out its IP yourself.

Extra: That dreadful privacy/security notice

When logging into a router’s or any local device’s web interface, you’ll likely run into a privacy/security error notice where the browser suggests that the website you’re accessing is potentially not safe, like the screenshot below.

Privacy Notice
You can ignore the Privacy/Security notice when accessing your router’s web interface. This one is on the Chrome browser.

The reason is the device’s built-in web server doesn’t at the time have a mechanism to prove that it supports the now-required HTTPs protocol. For that, among other things, it needs to be signed with an external party.

This is similar to when you get a brand-new vehicle — you can’t prove that it’s legit the normal way since it has no license plate or registration. But you know that it’s safe to get in and drive, and if you choose to only use it within your property — like a ranch — you might not even need to register it.

The point is it’s generally safe to ignore this notice and proceed to the interface when using your device. Be concerned with this warning only when you use a third party’s website, especially one that asks you to enter sensitive information like a credit card number or a username/password.

Different browsers have slightly different warnings and ways to bypass, but they all require clicking a few extra times. Pay a bit of attention, and you’ll find out.

Once you’ve logged in for the first time, most new routers require you to create a unique username or password during the initial setup before you can access its entire interface and the Internet.

TP Link Archer AX73 Wi Fi Settings
Home Wi-Fi router setup: The Wi-Fi setting page of a TP-Link router.

After that, the rest is relatively self-explanatory. Though the web user interfaces vary from one networking vendor to another, they all share similar sections, including Wi-Fi (or Wireless), WAN, LAN, Admin, etc.

Most importantly, they all have a password for the interface that you need to change right away from the default value.

2. Change the router admin password

This password keeps your network safe from hackers.

Home Wi-Fi router security: Practical tips on safeguarding your network

Pick a strong password that’s hard to guess. You’ll need to use this password only when accessing the interface. Make sure this password is different from the Wi-Fi password.

Tips on Wi-Fi passwords

When it comes to passwords, it’s always about keeping it a secret that matters. Don’t associate complexity with security.

The goal is to make your password hard to guess but easy for you to remember and use. Your password shouldn’t be so complex that you yourself have a hard time with it.

A Wi-Fi password that includes letters, numbers, and special characters, can be a pain, especially when you need to enter it into an IoT device, such as a printer. Generally, you should consider a digit-only password.

Here’s a way to make such a password effective:

Pick a long sentence and use each word’s letter count to form the password.

If you use that previous sentence, the password would be 414833545652438 — use your own!

3. Customize your Wi-Fi network

A Wi-Fi network includes a Wi-Fi name and a password. Like any proper name, the Wi-Fi network’s name is public. Everyone will see it. That said, pick one to your liking.

The password, on the other hand, needs to be a secret. Choose a hard-to-guess one but easy to type in, especially on a small screen like a printer. Generally, a string of random numbers (and letters) will do. Again, ensure this password differs from the router’s admin password above.

Netgear Orbi RBKE960 Wi Fi Settings
Home Wi-Fi router setup: The Wi-Fi setting page of the Netgear Orbi RBKE960 — the first Quad-band router on the market.

Use the most common encryption method — currently WPA2 or WPA3 — for the password. Note that some existing Wi-Fi clients won’t work with the newest WPA3. You might want to avoid using that or use it in the mixed WPA2/WPA3 mode.

Most routers have more than one band. They are Dual-Band, Tri-Band, or even Quad-band routers.

In this case, you can use SmartConnect, where the router lumps all bands together in a single Wi-Fi network (SSID). Or you can manually create an SSID for each band, which can help if you have a lot of devices with mixed Wi-Fi standards.

4. Initialize the Internet connection

Depending on the router, you can do this on the Internet, WAN, or Setup part of the interface. For most Internet connections, you can leave it at Auto and let the router detect the setting by itself.

Home Wi-Fi Router Setup and Maintenance: Static IP Internet Setup Asus RT AX58U Router
Home Wi-Fi router setup: Here’s the Internet setup page of an Asus router. Note the static IP information and custom DNS server settings.

Some Internet plans, especially those with static WAN IP addresses, will require you to type in the settings correctly. In this case, you need to enter the information, including the IP address, the subnet masks, and the default gateway provided by the consult your provider.

You can also change the DNS of the Internet connection to what you like, as I described in this post on DNS.

Extra: Switch a router’s WAN port

Generally, a router comes with a default WAN port, and it will work. However, some router comes with more options for this port, such as when you can use a faster port for the WAN connection.

WAN Port switching on an Asus GT AX16000 Router
Here are the steps to switch the WAN port — labeled as Primary WAN — in an Asus router. (Note: changing the WAN port is different from Dual-WAN.)

If you have Gigabit or faster Internet, it’s a good idea to pick the best (fastest) port for the WAN role when that’s an option. If so:

  • Complete the router’s initial setup process above first using its default WAN port.
  • Log in int the interface and change the desired port into the WAN role — the router will restart.
  • Move the cable from the default WAN port to the newly designated WAN port. (In most cases, though not always, the default WAN port now works as a LAN port.)

Some routers have auto-sensing ports. In this case, any of its ports will automatically work as the WAN when connected to the terminal device. However, in most cases, connecting a router’s LAN port to the terminal device alone will not automatically change its role.

***

Other than that, you can play with different interface parts to figure out additional features and settings of the router. Running into problems? Knowing how to reset a router will help. That brings us to the next part: maintaining a home Wi-Fi router.


Home Wi-Fi Router maintenance

A router works non-stop for days or even months on end — it might run into problems occasionally. So, knowing when to restart and how to reset it will come in handy.

Linksys AXE8400 Atlas Max 6Es underside
Home Wi-Fi router setup: The Reset button tends to locate on the underside of a router.

Schedule a periodical restart

Like a computer, a reboot helps the router refresh and work better. While most routers can work 24/7, it’s a good idea to give it a restart once or twice a month.

Many routers have a reboot scheduler within their interface that you can use. In this case, set the route to restart itself every week or two. Pick the time of the restart that won’t affect any user.

Alternatively, you can also restart or repower the router manually. Unplug the hardware from the power, wait for ten seconds or so, and plug it back in. Then give it a few minutes to be ready again.

Router firmware update

Firmware is the operating system of your home Wi-Fi router, and you should use the latest available. New firmware helps improve performance security and often brings in new features.

Generally, if a router has a mobile app, you can use the app for the firmware update. Generally, the firmware update is a standard function of any router’s mobile app.

If a router has the auto-update function, you might want to turn that on. In this case, ensure you set the update time appropriately since the route will restart.

A firmware update takes up to 10 minutes, so pick the time accordingly. Generally, a router only has new firmware every couple of months, if at all.

Synology Router Firmware Update
Home Wi-Fi router setup: The setting backup, reset, and firmware update section of a Synology router.

Alternatively, you can manually update a router’s firmware via the steps below.

Steps to perform a router firmware update

  1. Look for the latest firmware. The easiest way is to Google the router’s model and “firmware,” such as “Asus RT-AX68U firmware”. Most of the time, the first result is where you can find the latest firmware.
  2. Download the firmware. In most cases, the firmware is inside a zip file. You need to open this file and drag the firmware to a location you know, such as the desktop, on your computer.
  3. Login to the router’s web interface and navigate to the firmware update section. The chart below shows how to find this section in the interface of popular routers. Note that in this section, you will also be able to configure the auto-update (if available) or perform the router’s self-update process. Some routers will notify you as soon as you log into its interface if there’s new firmware available.
  4. Proceed to upload the new firmware.
  5. Confirm the update and wait for the process to complete.
VendorsThe location of the reset function in popular routersAuto Update availableSelf Update within the interface
AsusAdministration (left menu) ->  
Firmware (tab) -> 
Click on the “Check” (button) for self-update 
or “Upload” (link) for a manual update
YesYes
D-LinkManagement (top menu) -> 
Update (submenu) -> 
System (toggle tab) -> 
Click on “Check for New Firmware” for self-update 
or “Select File” for manual update.
NoYes
LinksysConnectivity (left menu) -> 
Basic (tab) -> 
Under “Firmware Update” ->
Click on the “Check for Updates” button for self-update 
or turn on the “Automatic” check box. 
YesYes
Netgear Advanced (tab)-> 
Administration (left menu) -> 
Firmware Update (submenu) -> 
Online Update (tab for self-update) or
Manual Update (tab) for manual update.
YesYes
SynologyControl Panel (icon) -> 
System (left menu) -> 
Update & Restore (tab) -> 
Click on “Manual Update” for manual update 
or on “Update Setting” to configure auto-update.
YesYes
Steps to update firmware on popular routers

Note that the update process takes about 5 minutes and can’t be interrupted. Consequently, if you unplug your router during this process, you might damage it. Also, you cannot access the Internet or your local network during this firmware update.

Asus RT AX89X Firmware Update Page
Home Wi-Fi router setup: Here’s the firmware update section of an Asus router.

Router reset

Resetting a router is the last-resort action that brings the router to the default factory settings.

That said, don’t mistake reset for a restart, as mentioned above — many folks call a restart a reset. Technically, a restart is a soft reset, and a reset is a hard reset. But take away “soft” and “hard,” and now you can confuse the two. The point is don’t.

When to do a router reset

Again, you’ll lose all the settings after a router reset. So don’t do this for fun. You only do that when finding yourself in one of the following situations:

  • If you’ve lost the admin password to access its web interface, a reset will restore that to the known default value.
  • You want to set up your home network from scratch or suspect that someone has hacked your router.
  • The router has issues that a restart doesn’t solve.
  • You no longer need it (before you give it away).

There are two ways to reset a router: using the reset button or via the web interface. You can reset a router as many times as you like. It doesn’t physically harm the hardware.

How to perform a router reset via the reset button

Every router has a reset button, often on its underside. You need a pointy object for this job. Here are the steps:

  1. Locate its reset button. This button is usually recessed to prevent users from pressing it by accident.
  2. Plug the router into power, and wait a few minutes for it to boot up fully. Now use a pin (or a pointy object) to press and hold the reset button for about 10 seconds. You’ll note that the router will restart — its LED status light will recycle. And that’s it.

If you want to ensure the router has reset, wait for a minute or two for the router to fully boot up again to see if the Wi-Fi network is gone and the default Wi-Fi network is now available.

Home Wi-Fi Router Security Reset
Home Wi-Fi router maintenance: You can easily reset a router with a paper clip.

Extra: The 30-30-30 router reset

With some old routers — those of Wi-Fi 4 and older — you might want to try the 30-30-30 reset method to ensure the router is fully reset. Here’s how:

  • Press and hold the reset button for 30 seconds with the router fully powered on.
  • Without releasing the reset button, unplug the power and keep holding the reset button for another 30 seconds.
  • Plug the power back in and keep holding the reset button for another 30 seconds.

In this method, you press and hold the reset button for 90 consecutive seconds.

Router backup and reset via the web interface

You can also reset a router via its user interface — if you still have access. In this case, you also can back up its settings before the reset.

The Reset button on an Asus Router's web interface.
Home Wi-Fi router maintenance: The Reset button on an Asus Router’s web interface.
  1. Log in to the web interface, as mentioned above.
  2. Navigate to the reset function. The table below shows how you can find the Reset function within the web interface of popular routers. Generally, you can see this function in the Administration or System section of the interface.
  3. Here you can back up the settings if you want to restore the router’s current condition after a reset.
  4. Click on the button (or link) to proceed with a reset. The process will take a few seconds to complete.
VendorsThe location of the Reset function
in popular routers’ web interfaces
AsusAdministration (left menu) ->  Restore/Save/Upload Setting (tab) -> Restore (button)
D-LinkManagement (top menu) -> System Admin (submenu) -> System (toggle tab) -> Restore (button)
LinksysTroubleshooting (left menu) -> Diagnostics (tab) ->Reset (link)
Netgear Advanced (tab)-> Administration (left menu) -> Backup Settings (submenu) -> Erase (button)
SynologyControl Panel (icon) -> System (left menu) -> Update & Restore (tab) -> Restore factory default settings (button)
How to locate the Reset function on popular routers

The takeaway

The key to being fluent in maintaining a home network is knowing how to access its local web interface — it’s crucial to get a router that has one.

An app-operated router might seem easy at first, but it tends to be limited in what it can do for your network while collecting your online activities for the vendor — it’s a privacy risk.

After that, if you’ve successfully worked with one router, you can figure out others relatively fast since all home routers share standard network settings and features.

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4 thoughts on “Home Wi-Fi Router Setup and Maintenance: With Some Attention, You Can Do It!”

  1. Hi Dong, thanks for all the sharing! 2 quick questions:
    1, I recently bought an AX86U, in terms of connection reliability for many different devices among wifi5, wifi6, 2.4G, 5G, will you recommend using the SmartConnect feature to let the router figure out which band for which device? Or will you recommend to have separate SSIDs for 2.4G and 5G and manually assign to different devices?
    2, will you recommend to create a separate guess network to connect all my smart devices like plugs, door bells and clocks? Or is it safe to connect them to my main network?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Kai,

      1. I’d always separate them. But this depends on what you want. It’s convenience vs control. Separating also allows you to handle older devices better — more in this post.
      2. You might have to make them part of the main network sometimes. This is case by case and has little to do with security. More in this post.

      Reply
  2. Hi Doug,
    Great piece. Where can I find the rest of: Home Wi-Fi Network Explained: How to Build an Entire System From Scratch? Please. I am particularly interested in the security aspect. I will be going to places where sharks are need all the help I can get. Thanks

    Reply

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