Is your wireless router living up to its promise of reliable performance? Various factors, such as placement or interference, can negatively impact your wireless router’s performance. Meanwhile, weak security settings could allow hackers to sneak in with serious consequences that can compromise your identity, finances, and network performance. Use the tips below to optimize and secure your wireless router.
Web-Based Router Management Basics
Related: How To Set Up Your Wireless Router
Most wireless routers are managed from your computer using a Web browser. Find your router’s documentation which should include the IP address to enter in the address bar along with the user name and password. This information is also readily available online, and it’s not secret in the least. For example, the IP address is commonly 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1. Default credentials like “admin” and “password” are also common. While helpful for getting started, you’ll want to change these, which we’ll discuss shortly.
Now that you’re in the management console, you can fine-tune your router’s configuration. For example, if you suspect interference from other wireless devices, baby monitors, or microwaves in the home, you may want to try different channels.
Now that you’re in the management console, let’s change the default password for administering your router. As you likely know, using the word “password” as a password is extremely weak. Go ahead and change it and the user name in the management console and store it in a safe and secure place for future reference.
Next, double check to be sure you are using the strongest encryption possible which is WPA2, ideally WPA2-PSK AES if offered. Now you’ll need a strong password for your wireless network — between 8 and 63 alphanumeric characters including symbols like $# or @. The longer and more random, the better. If you need something memorable, use the first letters from a favorite passage as inspiration. For example, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm And On That Farm He Had a Pig” could form the following password: OMh@F&0tfHhAP1g.
Once you’ve done that, either rename your wireless network or consider turning its SSID broadcast feature altogether. Renaming is helpful if you have numerous networks nearby and want to be able to quickly identify your own amidst the others with similar names. Turning off the broadcast effectively hides your network from all wireless devices, thus making it harder for drive-by hackers, nosy neighbors, and passersby to attempt to break into your wireless network. If you turn off SSID, you’ll need to manually enter the network name in order to connect to it.
You may also want to turn off Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), which allows for one-button network connections and may be vulnerable to brute force attacks.
If you would like your guests to be able to log into your Wi-Fi, set up a guest network with limited rights and its own unique password. That way, your guests can access the Internet using your Wi-Fi but can’t snoop around your hard drives.
While you’re in your router’s management console, check for and apply any firmware updates. Manufacturers often issue updates to improve performance and patch vulnerabilities. The process varies depending on the manufacturer, so check the manufacturer’s website or help files for details.
Now that security is out of the way, let’s optimize for performance. Two of the more common performance issues are speed and range, both of which can be affected by your wireless router’s location. For example, is your router close to your main computer or is it tucked away in a closet upstairs on the other side of the house?
Think about which wireless devices are most crucial and place the router closest to them if at all possible. For example, if you work at home, it’s probably better to have the router near your computer rather than next to the rarely used gaming console in the other room.
You’ll also want to position the wireless router away from potential sources of interference (such as microwave ovens, copy machines, fax machines, elevators, and cell phones) or from items that may block the signal (such as fish tanks and large water sources and metal items like refrigerators, metal partitions, and reinforced concrete walls).
If your router sits relatively to a computer, consider using a direct Ethernet connection instead of the wireless signal. That computer will benefit from the improved speed and performance of a direction connection.
Getting familiar with the router’s management console and tweaking its settings will go a long way in improving its performance and security alike. These steps don’t take long and can enhance your wireless networking experience.