How to Set up A Router for Home WiFi

People ask me occasionally about how to set up WiFi and make sure it’s secure. It’s not something that is easy to explain in person, it takes illustrations. So I’ve compiled it here.

First off, I suggest Linksys routers. If you don’t have one, go get a Linksys E2000 router. You can find them at Office Depot, Best Buy or most big box stores. I’ve also shamelessly added a link at the bottom of the page to get one on Amazon.

It isn’t totally necessary to get an E2000. An E1000, E2500, E3000, or Similar “E” router will have almost identical instructions. Most Cisco-Linksys routers will actually have similar screens.

Also grab some ethernet cable. You can buy this, make your own, or go to your IT guy’s office at work and ask if he has any spare pieces. You’d be surprised at how often the answer is, “Yes, how much do you need?” He might even be so happy for anyone coming around that doesn’t need to reboot their computer that he’ll make the cable for you. Your router will come with a piece, but you will need two pieces for the first setup even if you are going entirely wireless.

Step 1 – Unplug your modem from the power and disconnect it from your computer, or old router.

Step 2 – Look on the back of the router for the port (the hole) labeled “Internet” or “WAN”. Plug one piece of patch cable in here, and plug the other end of that cable into the modem’s Ethernet Port. Pro-tip: They look like big telephone jacks.

Step 3 – Plug the other piece of Ethernet cable into the port labeled “1” and plug the other end of that cable into your laptop or desktop’s Ethernet port.

Step 4 – Plug the router into power. Wait for the router to fully boot up. This usually takes about a minute.

Step 5 – Open the web browser on your computer and type “192.168.1.1” into the address bar and hit enter. Do not type this into the Google bar. See the picture below. Never mind that it says “192.168.227.1” in mine.

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Step 6 – It will ask for a password. On Cisco/Linksys routers the username is “admin” and the password is “admin”.

Step 7 – My router had some Express setup screen that came up instead of what you see above. Just cancel that and get into the advanced setup screen. It’s not that complicated and I’m going to show you how to make things very secure.

Step 8 – Internet Setup – Leave the Internet Connection Type as “Automatic Configuration – DHCP”. Most Internet Providers don’t require a host name or domain name and you can leave MTU as default.

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Step 9 – Network Setup – This is where we do things a bit different from most.

IP Address – The IP address is 192.168.1.1 by default. I would leave it like that. You’ll see in mine I’ve changed it. You can change the third number in the IP address to anything between 0 and 253 if you want.

If you change the IP Address write what you changed it to down. It’s important!

Subnet Mask – Leave this the default.

Device Name – You can change the device name to something different.

DHCP Server – Set DHCP server to enabled. The start IP address blank should be “100”. I always set Maximum Number of Users to 10, but if you have more than 10 Wi-Fi devices (laptops, phones, kindles, mp3 players, blu-ray players, XBOX, PS3, etc…) figure out how many you have and set this number to five or ten more than that.

Leave everything else here the default. It should fill the IP Address from above in the “Static DNS 1” blank.

Step 10 – Time Settings – Set this to your local time zone. You can see mine is wrong. It really doesn’t mean anything.

Step 11 – Click the “Save Settings” button. The router will reboot.

Step 12 – Close your web browser, wait a few minutes for the router to reboot.

Step 13 – Open the web browser and enter the IP address you change it to in Step 9, or the default “192.168.1.1” into your browser bar and hit enter.

If things work right the browser should open up to the page from before. If not, the easiest way to fix it is to reboot your computer.

On to the wireless set up!

Step 14 – Wireless – Click on the Wireless link at the top beside “Setup”. Change the Configuration View to “Manual” if it isn’t already.

Wireless Band – Select 2.4 GHz.

Network Mode – Select Mixed (this will allow a greater variety of devices to connect).

Network Name – Give your network a descriptive name, do NOT leave it as Linksys. Mine is “thegreentower”. You might want to name yours after your last name or something.

Channel Width – Leave this whatever the default is.

Channel – Leave this as Auto.

SSID Broadcast – Set to Enabled.

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Step 15 – Click on Wireless Security and change the Security Mode to “WPA2 Personal”. If you have some really old devices you can set it to WPA.

DO NOT USE WEP! It is trivial to break WEP security. I’ve seen someone do it in five minutes.

Passphrase –  Enter a good 6 to 10 character password here. Something you’ll remember but that isn’t easy to guess. I’ve blacked mine out on the picture.

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Step 16 – Click the “Save Settings” button at the bottom, reboot the router if you need to and you’re done!

The only other thing I would recommend doing is going to the Administration screen and changing the Router Password from something other than the default.

Congratulations!  You can now connect to your new, secure wireless network! Remember to enter the password you entered in step 15 to connect.

How To Install a New Cable Modem

So your cable modem went out, you don’t want to take an hour off of work to have a technician come over. How can you replace it? Well you can’t just plug it in like you can with DSL and it work. Also most cable providers don’t have a good ‘set it up yourself’ method as many DSL companies do.

Step 1 – Go get a new cable modem. Most big box electronics places like Best Buy Sell them. Refer to the notes at the end of the post for what the two major ISPs now use before you go shopping.

Step 2 – Remove the old modem. Remember what cables went where.

Step 3 – Unplug the power from your router, or turn your computer off if connected directly.

Step 4 – Plug in the new modem starting with the coaxial cable (this is the big cable with the screw on end. Do not use tools to connect this as you can damage the connector on the modem. Tighten this with your fingers until it is “just tight”.

Step 5 – Plug the ethernet cable in next (the one that looks like a large phone cable). Do NOT plug the power in.

Step 6 – Call your Internet Service provider and get to the tech support option. I’ve included phone numbers below for Comcast and Suddenlink.

Step 7 – Tell the tech support person your account info so they can look you up then tell them that you want to “provision a new modem” and take the old modem off your account.

Step 8 – They will ask for the MAC address of the modem. This is usually labeled clearly on the bottom of the modem. Most manufacturers print this on the box as well. MAC Addresses look like this 00-00-00-00-00-00. They contain numbers and the letters A through F.

Step 9 – They may ask for the serial number too. Motorola serials are something like 24 digits long and has only numbers. Don’t’ confuse this with the Customer Serial which is shorter and has letters.

Step 10 – Follow the instructions the tech support agent gives you. You may need to reboot some stuff a few times.

Step Done – You should have internet!

Modems By Provider

I’d love to add more links here. If someone would send me information for their local cable internet providers. 

I highly recommend the Motorola SB6121 modem. Both Suddenlink and Comcast list it as compatible with their service. It’s easy to find at Best Buy or you can order one here: Motorola Surfboard Cable Modem SB6121

Comcast – Comcast has a modem compatibility tool here: http://customer.comcast.com/help-and-support/internet/list-of-approved-cable-modems/

Suddenlink – You need at least a DOCSIS 3.0 modem to get the best service. The compatibility list here: http://help.suddenlink.com/Internet/Pages/DOCSIS2.0(orhigher)CompliantModemList.aspx

Tech Support Numbers

Comcast – 1-800-XFINITY – 1-800-934-6489 is the number in real person digits. This is their main 800 number listed on their website.

Suddenlink – 877-794-2724 is the tech support number listed on their website but may be regional to the southwest. There is also 1-888-822-5151 which might be all purpose.

If you hate working the menus here’s a link to Get Human’s instructions for getting a human:

Suddenlinkhttp://gethuman.com/phone-number/Suddenlink-Cable/
Comcasthttp://gethuman.com/phone-number/Comcast-Xfinity/

I do not endorse the Get Human method, but some people might find it useful.

Motorola SB6121 Instructions

Here’s a link to Motorola’s quick start and user guide instructions for the cable modem I recommend. The quick start guide is included in your manual.

Quick Start Guide – This is quick guide to installation.
User Guide – This one has a little more details on how to set it up and what the lights mean.