If you have replaced a Wi-Fi router before — like when you moved from an ISP-supplied gateway to a retail router — you already know how it can be a tedious process. Wi-Fi router swapping is a pain when you have to reconnect many existing devices — especially IoT ones, such as wireless cameras, printers, or media streaming sticks — to the new network.
But that can be avoided. The trick is to make the new Wi-Fi router (or mesh system) replicate the network settings of the one it replaces. This post will come in handy when you’re ready to replace your current router.
Let’s find out how.
Wi-Fi router swapping: How to do it without disconnecting existing devices
I’d say that I’m the one who has replaced or swapped the most Wi-Fi routers you’ve met.
For this website alone, I test at least a few routers — or any Wi-Fi broadcaster, for that matter, including access points, extenders, and others — a month and use a couple dozen devices of all different types and Wi-Fi standards for the evaluation.
Many of these devices, such as IP cameras, are placed in hard-to-reach spots. It would take me hours to reconnect all of them to a new Wi-Fi network each time I review a new router. Those are hours I don’t want to waste. (So far, there’s been only one time that I needed to reprogram my test clients, as I lamented in the review of the ARRIS SURFboard G54.)
And that brings us to the first tip on making your router support existing Wi-Fi devices.
1. Keep the SSID and password the same
For testing, I use the same Wi-Fi network names — a.k.a SSIDs — and the same password for them. Specifically, depending on the hardware, my test SSIDs have always been based on this one:
Often I use variants with the “-2.4GHz”, “-5GHz”, “6GHz”, “-MLO”, “-Guest”, etc. suffixes to clarify which band or virtual network is being tested. You don’t need them if you want to use all bands with identical SSIDs, either manually or via Smart Connect. By the way, Dong-Know-Tech is an excellent SSID. Feel free to use it for yourself.
The password for all of them is always:
This is not a great password, but it serves my testing purposes. You should pick another one for your needs.
Whenever I set up a new router, I use these two for their Wi-Fi bands, and that’s it! My test clients will connect to them automatically.
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 to remember and use.
A Wi-Fi password that includes letters, numbers, UPPER case/lower case, and special characters can be a real pain, especially when you need to enter it into an IoT device, such as a printer or a media streamer — even a modern one like the Fire TV.
Generally, it’s best to use a digit-only password. Here’s a way to make a password effective and easy to remember:
Pick a long sentence or phrase and use each word’s letter count to form the password.
If you use that previous sentence, the password would be 414833545652438 — use another phrase for yourself. If you think you can’t remember the password, write that sentence down in a conspicuous place instead of the password itself.
The point is that you should pick an SSID or SSIDs that you love and a suitable password for each. Now, use them for your current Wi-Fi solution. When you get a replacement router (or mesh system), program it with the same SSID and password (for each of its Wi-Fi bands). In most cases, that’s all it’d take for your existing devices around the house to get connected. You won’t need to reconnect them individually.
But sometimes, reusing SSID and password is not enough. Some existing devices still don’t connect. This is where the next tip comes into play.
2. Use the same security Authentication Method and Wi-Fi channel width (bandwidth)
The Authentication Method is the level of security applicable to the Wi-Fi password. The higher it is, the more secure the Wi-Fi network is. However, that also means the less compatible the network becomes.
For example, if your current Wi-Fi network uses WPA or WPA2, and you program the new router with WPA3, chances are most existing devices won’t be able to connect.
When in doubt, use the lowest Authentication Method, but it’s best to use the same level used in the previous router.
Additionally, for the 5GHz and 6GHz bands, keep the value of the Wi-Fi channel width (or bandwidth) the same. When in doubt, leave the setting as “Auto” or the value that includes all width options. If you pick a specific width, such as 160Mhz, unsupported clients, such as those capable of 80MHz or lower, can’t connect.
Now, it’s likely all of your existing devices will connect to the new network with no issue. But if some still don’t, there’s the final tip.
3. Keep the IP pool the same or larger
The IP pool is the range of IP addresses the router will give out to the connected client. In most cases, the change of the IP pool doesn’t affect connectivity.
However, if you happen to have programmed an IP address on a device manually, it won’t get an IP address given out by the router. In this case, if the router’s IP pool is not in the same range, the device won’t get connected.
Using the same (or larger) IP range when replacing your Wi-Fi router is also a good idea when you have specific settings, such as IP reservation or port forwarding. Routers from the same vendor tend to use the same IP range, but if you change the brand, the range almost always changes. The table below includes the default IP addresses for popular, which are the roots of their IP ranges.
(Internet connection required)
(a.k.a Default Gateway IP)
|For the user to create during the initial setup wizard
|Access code printed
on the hardware unit
|For the user to create during the initial setup wizard
(printed on hardware)
|For the user to create during initial setup wizard
(must be changed during the initial setup process)
|Most Cable Modems
For more on the IP pool and how to adjust it, check out the steps in this post on Wi-Fi routers.
Extra: Cross-router setting restoration
Certain router brands allow users to back up an existing router’s setting to a file and restore that file to another model, allowing you to keep all the settings.
- The replacement router and the old router generally need to use firmware of the same major release. In the case of Asus, the former typically needs to use a newer firmware than the latter.
- After the restoration, adjust the settings to meet the new router’s model and Wi-Fi standard. After doing a backup and restoration of the new router itself to work out all the potential problematic settings
While the ability to import the settings of an old router to a new one is convenient, generally, it’s best to set up a new router from scratch and enter the settings manually.
The final tip
Moving from one Wi-Fi router to another doesn’t have to be complicated or cause interruptions.
You can perform all the Wi-Fi router swapping tips above on the new hardware without connecting it to the network. After that, physically switch it with the existing router. In this case, the actual downtime will be no longer than a few minutes, and if you do it right, it’s not even noticed by the involved parties.