Things You Must Do With a Brand New Router

Change the default admin password

This is not the password you need to get internet access — we’ll get to that in a minute — but instead the password you need to get into the router’s settings and perform other administrative tasks. In most cases, a brand-new Wi-Fi router will come out of the box with a very simple factory-default admin password like, well, “admin” or “password.” And if you don’t change that admin password, that might be the single greatest cybersecurity mistake you can make. If you leave the admin password unchanged, anyone who can get on your Wi-Fi network will be able to get into the router’s settings and change your access password, add more devices to the network or even change the admin password to lock you out.

The admin password you create should be long, strong and very hard to guess. You can use one of the best password managers to generate and store it, or you can just use an online password generator and then write the password down and keep it someplace safe.

Change the Wi-Fi access password

Many newer routers don’t have a default access password, but instead force you to make one up during the setup process. Don’t rush when creating the password or make it something too easy. Your Wi-Fi access password should not be too obvious, but still something you’d remember

Change the default network name

Many routers will automatically create a network name, or SSID, based on their model name or number. Don’t leave it unchanged. The danger here is that if an attacker knows what kind of router you have, they can attack it more easily if that router brand is known to have security flaws. And if you’re the kind of person who leaves the network name unchanged, chances are you’ve left the admin password unchanged and have a lousy access password too. Ideally, you want a Wi-Fi network name that’s memorable and unique but doesn’t contain your name, address or any other personal information. Anything that doesn’t contain that information or the router brand should be fine.

Update the Firmware

With any new piece of hardware, it’s always a good idea to check whether there’s a firmware update available, and a router is no different. You probably won’t get any exciting new features with a router firmware update, but you may get performance and connectivity improvements, and you’ll certainly get security patches. Vulnerabilities are discovered in routers all the time, so for this reason alone, you should always ensure that yours is kept up to date. It should happen automatically in the future, but since it isn’t uncommon for products to ship with older firmware, it’s a good idea to force a manual update straight away when you get a brand new router. You’ll find the option in the Maintenance, Administration, or other similarly labeled section of the router settings and it may involve downloading a file to your PC. Simply follow the instructions for your particular router model.

Disable Remote Access

Remote Access is a feature that network administrators (or anyone else) can use to log into the router remotely via the internet. It has little practical use for a typical home user and should be disabled by default because it poses a potential security risk.

Enable Parental Controls

If you’ve got children and you want to restrict access to what they can do or how much time they spend online, then your router can help. A lot of modern routers ship with Parental Control options built right in. They can prevent access to specific sites, filter particular content, limit the hours where the internet is available and much more. They can also be tailored to specific users so that the controls won’t infringe on your own internet use.

Enable or Disable Guest Browsing

It’s safe to say that anyone who comes to your house will be asking for the Wi-Fi password within about five minutes of stepping through the door. If your router supports Guest Access, it’s a good idea to turn it on—and keep it on—for this very reason.

Guest mode effectively creates a second network with its own SSID and its own password. The options vary between routers, but on the most basic level, changing the Guest password regularly lets you control who has access to your Wi-Fi without the inconvenience of resetting the password on all of your own devices.

Some routers give more control, like being able to restrict the internet speed available to guests. They also vary in how much security they offer. Some are essentially unsecured like public hotspots, while others let you choose how far you want to lock it down.

Enable QoS

Quality of Service (QoS) is a feature that allows you to prioritize traffic on your network, ensuring that important applications like video streaming and gaming get the bandwidth they need. Enabling QoS can help to improve the performance and reliability of your network.

Set up a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that encrypts your online traffic and hides your IP address. This can help to protect your online activity from prying eyes and improve your online privacy. Set up a VPN on your new router to improve your online security.

Find the Right Position

The first—and most important—thing to do when setting up a new router is to find the best position for it. You can subscribe to the fastest internet provider and use the most up-to-date and powerful hardware, but it’ll all be in vain if you put your router in the wrong place. Wireless routers use radio waves which can be weakened (or even blocked) by obstacles like brick walls, and they also get weaker the further they travel. The weaker the signal, the slower your connection

There are several rules for router placement:

  • Place it near the center of your home.
  • Don’t place it on the floor—a desk, table, or shelf is ideal.
  • Don’t place it right next to a wall, which will absorb the signal.
  • Don’t place it near other devices that emit wireless frequencies, like microwaves or cordless phones.

Secure your IoT devices

Finally, if you have IoT devices like smart home appliances connected to your network, make sure to secure them with strong passwords and, if possible, enable two-factor authentication. This will help protect your network from potential hacks.

Conclusion

Setting up a brand new router does not have to be stressful. Follow the ten steps mentioned above to optimize your network’s performance, improve security and make the most of your Wi-Fi network.

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