HomeTechnologyNews13 things to do after connecting your new router

13 things to do after connecting your new router

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Jordan Gloor / Geek Instructors

Getting a new Wi-Fi router is the perfect time to update your passwords, set up a guest network, and secure your router.

You just connected your new Wi-Fi router. Now what? It’s the perfect time to set things up with best practices from the ground up and get the most out of your faster, better, and up-to-date hardware.

Consider starting with a clean slate

Before we look at the individual configuration options, let’s talk about starting from scratch. It’s tempting to just “clone” your old router’s settings and do everything the way you did before. And believe us, we got it.

Adding a bunch of devices like Wi-Fi cameras and smart home equipment to your home network is a hassle. And if you’re the tech support person at home, you probably want to prevent everyone from yelling, “Why isn’t my tablet working?” for the next day or two.

But from a security standpoint, there’s nothing better than wiping the slate clean and starting with a whole new network. In fact, it’s the only safe way to get people off your Wi-Fi network and make sure it’s properly locked down. We know it’s a hassle, but there are some compelling reasons to start over with a new Wi-Fi network name and password.

Set your ISP’s modem/router combination

Most of the setup you’ll do when you get a new Wi-Fi router is on the Wi-Fi router itself, but many people will need to tinker with the equipment provided by their Internet Service Provider (ISP).

If you previously used your ISP’s Wi-Fi modem/router combo, you need to make two configuration changes for a smooth experience with your new Wi-Fi router. First, you need to put your ISP’s combo drive into bridge mode. Bridge mode tells the ISP’s router to stop acting as a router and start passing the Internet connection to your new Wi-Fi router.

If you don’t put your ISP-provided router into bridge mode, it can cause delays, connection instability, and other problems that arise when your connection goes through a network address translation (NAT) process twice. While some devices will warn you that you have a double NAT problem (the Xbox, for example, will warn you with “Double NAT Detected” in the network menu), most devices won’t and you’ll be left in the obscurity of why some services just don’t seem to work right.

Second, you need to turn off the Wi-Fi radio on the ISP’s Wi-Fi router combo unit. Some models will automatically turn off Wi-Fi when you put the combo drive in bridge mode, but many won’t. If you don’t disable the Wi-Fi radio, you will be adding Wi-Fi interference and congestion to the same airspace in which you are deploying your new Wi-Fi router.

update firmware

An image of the router firmware update page for a TP-link router.

You’ve just unpacked your router and plugged it in, which means it’s running the firmware that was pushed to the device during manufacturing. It’s probably not painfully out of date, but it’s a good idea to immediately update your firmware when you first boot up your router and before messing with any other settings.

Updating the firmware not only ensures that bug fixes and security patches are applied, it also ensures that your router’s interface is up to date and matches the manufacturer’s support documents, should you need to refer to them.

Enable automatic updates

Some people like to keep automatic updates turned off because they carefully manage their home network in a very convenient way. If you’re the type of person who pores over firmware release notes and frequents network forums to see what problems other hobbyist network sysadmins are having with various firmware updates, then this isn’t the advice for you. .

But most people fall into the exact opposite camp, which is the camp of never updating the firmware on your router and running it for years with outdated firmware and potential security vulnerabilities.

Some newer routers, especially mesh systems like those from Eero and Nest, update automatically (which is one reason we recommend people give their parents and other family members mesh Wi-Fi). But if yours doesn’t, make sure you turn it on so you don’t have to worry about checking for updates in the future.

If your router doesn’t support automatic updates, it’s helpful to put a reminder on your calendar to check for firmware updates every few months.

Update admin password

The administrator password is an often overlooked aspect of router security. Many models still have common default admin login and password combinations that you can easily guess or look up on the internet. Newer models may have pseudorandom passwords. In both cases, the password is almost always printed directly on the label attached to the router.

As such, it’s best to change the default password to something new to ensure that access to your router isn’t as simple as trying a common combination or just reading the login directly from the body of the router.

Enable the best Wi-Fi encryption

Modern Wi-Fi devices are backward compatible with older Wi-Fi encryption standards, but that doesn’t mean you should continue to use them just because you used them in the past.

The best Wi-Fi encryption to use is WPA3, but if you have devices on your network that you can’t easily replace or switch to Ethernet, then we recommend using WPA2 AES. Unlike earlier Wi-Fi encryption standards that are now deprecated, WPA2 AES is still considered secure.

Change the default Wi-Fi password

Most routers now come with a pseudo-random password set as the default. Like the administrator login and password, that password is usually found on a label attached to the router.

While it’s better than the simplistic default admin passwords still used by many routers, your router’s default Wi-Fi password isn’t as random or secure as you might think.

Changing it right away with a better, longer Wi-Fi password takes you away from the security issues inherent with pre-generated passwords, and more importantly, the password printed right there on the device you’re meant to protect.

Change the default SSID

While many Wi-Fi routers, mainly mesh routers, will ask you to enter an SSID right out of the box, many routers on the market come with a default option.

Using the default SSID isn’t the end of the world, but the default SSID almost always broadcasts information about your router. Changing your SSID won’t deter a competent and determined attacker from obtaining information about your hardware, but changing from one preset default to another never hurts. As always, avoid any identifying information. Changing from a default SSID of “Netgear98” to “Apartment2A” is a security downgrade.

Enable guest network

an image of the guest network settings page of an ASUS router.

Enabling the guest network from the start is a great way to avoid future issues and security issues. Why does that matter? Giving someone the password to your main Wi-Fi network gives them direct access to your entire home network and everything on it. On the other hand, a guest network is designed to give people access to the Internet without opening up the entire network to them.

And using the guest network for guests saves you from ending up in a situation where you need to update your Wi-Fi password, but are reluctant to do so due to the hassle of resetting the password on dozens and dozens of devices. When you reset the guest network password, you can give the new one to any guest the next time they come. Please refer to these guest Wi-Fi network best practices when setting up your guest network.

Change your DNS servers

You may not think about Dynamic Name System (DNS) servers often, or ever, but you should take a moment to think about DNS when setting up a new router.

If you do not choose a DNS server, your router will default to your ISP’s DNS servers. There are plenty of privacy, security, and speed reasons to change your ISP’s DNS, so you might as well do it while speeding through this list of Wi-Fi router best practices.

Check that remote access is disabled

Remote access is usually disabled by default, but since you’re already in the router’s control panel doing a thorough audit, now is the time to locate the remote access option and make sure it’s disabled.

Some routers do not have traditional remote access, where you can log in to the administrative control panel by connecting to the router’s public IP address. Platforms like eero and Nest Wi-Fi have cloud-based management through their respective apps, so be sure to use a strong password for your account and enable two-factor authentication where available.

Disable WPS and UPnP

Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) and Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) are two protocols intended to make it easy to set up devices on your Wi-Fi network and automatically set up connections with your router.

They, to be fair, do that. But they also introduced a bunch of security vulnerabilities. Some routers no longer include WPS, but you should check yours independently and disable it. UPnP is still included in routers and is usually on by default, so check that as well and turn it off. And if you’re having trouble with UPnP disabled, you can always manually forward ports for services that need them.

Plan your next router upgrade

“Wow wow wow, I just bought this router!” you might be thinking And that’s a completely fair reaction to seeing us end this list by suggesting that you need to plan on buying another router.

But most people buy a Wi-Fi router and use it until their last breath (or until it gets so unstable and slow that they wish it would just give up). The best way to avoid becoming that super old, super outdated, super frustrating Wi-Fi router person is to make a mental note now, as you’re setting up your new router, to replace it. Better yet, put a reminder on your calendar to review the issue.

How soon should you consider a replacement? We recommend that people replace their Wi-Fi routers every 3-5 years. For better performance and regular feature updates, upgrade every three years. If you want to avoid obsolescence and security issues, update every five. However, whatever you do, don’t wait until you can check off every item on this list of signs it’s time to upgrade.

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