Setting up a home network for beginners is not the challenge of the year. In fact, thee steps are quite easy and if you plan enough in the beginning, you can save both time, money and frustration and who doesn’t want that?
So, in this home network guide, you will learn how to plan your network to get the best use out of it, you’ll get help to configure your new router as well as learning what kind of cool stuff you can do with a home network.
But first, planning!
Stage 1: Planning Your Home Network
Before you go out to purchase new hardware, you should have a general idea about what you should get. How much power do you need? What is your network used for? You should also have an idea of how much money you are ready to spend on a network. There are a few things you will need to get started with a new home network, which you can read more about in my blog post What equipment is needed for a home network.
So, what are you and your family doing on the internet?
Determine What You Need from a Network
Be surprised, but a family of two people will not use the network as much as a family of four, with two kids, in most cases at least. Different activities will also require different speeds and because of this, you should have an idea of what your network will be used for.
Try to count how many devices you have at home that will require a network at the same time. For example, if you are two people in the household, it’s not unthinkable to say that both of you have a smartphone that could be used at the same time, while a Netflix show is running on the TV maybe. This is not very demanding and will not generate that much network traffic.
However, if you are a family of four with kids that are playing online games and watching streams will you try to watch a Netflix show and at the same time, your loved one is trying to get some work done in the room next door. That will require good network gear in order to run smoothly. You don’t want to get the cheapest solution for that situation.
And just to make it clear, I am not just talking about the network speed from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) here, which should be at least 25 Mbps if you are closer to my second example. No, this will be relevant for what router you should get as well, as some routers are designed to handle more traffic at the same time.
Your Options When Setting up a New Home Network
By now, you should have a general idea of what your network is/will be used for. If you plan to run it lightly with just a couple of smartphones and a TV, maybe an iPad, then a fully wireless solution might be a good idea. There is no need to run cables through the whole home and it can be very easy to setup.
Go Fully Wireless with a Mesh Network
The solution to this situation would be to get a mesh network. A mesh network is multiple devices called nodes that you place around your house. One of them is the main node and that has to be connected with an ethernet cable, the other ones just require power. The nodes will work together to provide the best wireless network possible. These devices are often smart enough to know where it’s interference and try to work around it.
If you are interested in a mesh network, I would recommend you to check out my blog post What is a Mesh Network where I explain more about what a mesh network is and how you can benefit from one. You can also read my article Recommended Mesh Network to find the best mesh network right now.
Go for a Powerful, Traditional Router
If you are closer to my second example with kids playing games and watching streams all nights long, then you should probably get a traditional router and run some cables to the computers that use the network the most.
A modern router is made for these types of situations, where a lot is going on at the same time and network access is needed from everything. Because of this, there’s a technology called MU-MIMO which will help the router handle the traffic. Traditionally, a router could just take care of one device at the time, meaning it had to circle each device that sent a request. This is what’s happening when your video is buffering, to give you an example.
To solve this, MU-MIMO was invented. MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User, Multiple-input, Multiple-Output and does essentially what the name suggests. A router that supports any form of MU-MIMO can handle multiple inputs and outputs of traffic for multiple users at the same time. Maybe you can start to see the benefit of this?
Routers that support MU-MIMO will also specify how many devices they can handle at the same time. For example, the router that I recommend in 2019, the Asus RT-AC68U supports 3×3 MU-MIMO, meaning it can handle 3 connections at the same time. The maximum a router can do is 4×4, which is 4 open connections.
If you want to learn more about which router is the most suitable for you, you should read my blog post How to Know Which Router to Buy where I’ll cover this topic more in-depth.
Should You Get a Firewall?
A question that often comes up when speaking of a new network, is firewalls. Do you need a firewall for your home network to be secure? The simple answer is no. A firewall is great for Enterprise where the demands are higher, and the risk is bigger. For home networks, a firewall is just a waste of money.
Firstly, a good router has a built-in firewall that can take care of the most obvious bad traffic that is trying to access your network. On top of that, a software firewall is built into most operating systems such as Windows or OSX. These firewalls with further protect you from bad stuff.
This is a huge topic that I have already covered in my article Do You Need a Firewall to Protect Your Home Network and I suggest that you read that post if you are interested in learning more about why you don’t need a firewall.
Stage 2: Setting Up Your Home Network
Step one is done, and you should have chosen between a mesh network and a traditional router by now. A mesh network is usually much easier to set up than a traditional router, as you do it with your mobile phone, simply clicking next most of the time.
This is true for routers as well, but it can require some extra steps. That is why I have made a guide for the five most popular brands when it comes to routers, which you can find down below. Please keep in mind that the routers I used wasn’t the latest and greatest and things might be different between models, but the general idea should be the same.
Congratulations on your new Asus router. Asus has done a great job with their first-time setup and during this setup, you will do the most important steps. The first thing you need to do is to connect your new router to your modem. The cable should go from the modem to the router’s WAN port, or internet port (it’s the same thing but router manufacturers are labeling it differently).
Next, you connect a cable from the router to a computer. Make sure the router is powered on, some routers have an on/off button, and then open a web browser and type 192.168.1.1/ in the address field. This will open the routers configuration page, and this is where you will configure the settings.
Choose Automatic Setting on the first page. When doing so, you let the router do the heavy work to see what type of internet access you have, and it can do most of the configuration itself.
On the next page, you set up your login to the router. It is strongly recommended that you do not leave this as default and that you change both router login name and the password. Asus will show you how strong your password is, and you want it to be as strong as possible of course.
Next, you get to choose if you want the router to be in router mode or access point mode. In AP-mode, it will only provide WiFi and not do any of the router stuff, so you want it to be in Wireless router mode.
On the next page, you get to choose the type of connection you have to your ISP (Internet Service Provider). In 99% of the time, you have Automatic IP (DHCP) so that is what you should choose. If you have anything else, you have most likely made that choice and know about it.
Next page lets your setup your SSIDs. Here, you have two networks to set up, and this is because modern routers offer to kind of networks, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz provides longer range at a slower speed, making it good for smartphones or tablets, where you just surf the web. The 5 GHz has a shorter range but provides faster speeds, making it great for streaming and gaming.
Name your networks, preferably something anonymous and be sure to have some fun with it. You should also set up a password for both networks. As a default, Asus gives the 5 GHz network the same password as you give the 2.4 GHz networks. If you want to have it like that or not is up to you. When happy with the names and passwords, hit Apply.
On the final page, you get to review your settings and making sure that they all look OK. If you are happy with everything, simply click on Complete.
After doing so, you will get to the overview page of the router. Here, you can see how many clients are connected to your network, you can configure other settings in the router and you can update the firmware. But that is for another article.
Congratulations on your new Netgear router. Netgear has improved their first-time setup guide for the latest years but they still have a few things to work on. To start, connect your routers WAN7internet port to your modem with an ethernet cable. Next, take another ethernet port and connect LAN 1 on the router to a computer.
Make sure that your router is on (some routers have on/off-buttons) and then open your favorite web browser. In the address bar, type 192.168.0.1/ or 192.168.1.1/ and you will connect to the router. Netgear has routers with both 0.1 and 1.1 on their IP addresses so it will depend on your model which one you have. There is no difference between them other than a number.
Before you get to the setup, you will need to agree to Netgear’s terms of services and a privacy note and once you have done so, the router will search your network for another router (for some reason) and then an internet connection, which can take up to a minute. Once it’s finished, you get asked if you want help to configure your internet connection or not. Choose Yes and click Next.
On the next page, you will set up your admin account settings. This is not your wireless password but the password for accessing your router configuration. Unfortunately, you can’t change the username but setting up a strong and secure password is a must here. You will also choose two security questions in case you forget the password. When done, click next.
On this page, Netgear will show you the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz SSID name and passwords. Netgear has configured this for you so you don’t have to. You will also see your router admin settings at the bottom. You have the option to print this information if you want it stored on a paper. Click next when ready.
Netgear also has some bloatware they want to install on your computer. If you want this software, keep it checked, but I recommend to not use it, there are better software for backing up your computer.
Next, you can upgrade the firmware on your router. This is something I recommend that you do so click yes and allow the router to download the new firmware and install it. You should always make sure to have the latest firmware on your router as that is the only protection between your devices and the internet.
Once the upgrade is done, you are done. However, if you want to change the name and password of your wireless network, which I recommended that you do, go to your router configuration (192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1) and log in with the information you entered before. Click on the Wireless box and here, you can change the name and password of your SSIDs. Once you are happy with your new name and password, click on Apply and wait for the router to update the settings. Now you are done!
Congratulations on your new Linksys router. Linksys routers are easy to set up, so you have made a good choice if you are a beginner. The first step is to connect everything, and you do this by connecting an ethernet cable from your modem to the router’s WAN/Internet port. Next up, you connect an ethernet cable from LAN 1 on the router to the computers network port. When this is done, make sure the router is on (some routers have on/off-buttons) and then open your favorite web browser.
In the address bar at the top, enter 192.168.1.1, which will take you to the router’s configuration page. Starting, you will need to accept the Linksys terms and choose if you want to send information to Linksys for further helping them improve their products. Click next when you are ready.
The router will now make sure that everything is good, that there is an internet connection and see if there are any updates. This can take up to a minute so just wait while the router is doing its thing. Once finished, it will ask you if you want to update (if updates were found) and I would recommend you do that, as updates are for a reason (security, features and stability improvements).
On the next page, you will set up your wireless network name and password. As you notice, there are one 2.4 GHz and one 5 GHz networks. The 2.4 GHz is older technology with longer-range but slower speed while the 5 GHz technology is newer and faster but provide a shorter range.
Give both of them a name, preferably something anonymous like “home” or “what’s my wifi” or similar. The password should be strong and unique so that unauthorized users can’t guess it and access your network. Once happy, click next.
The router will do a little more of its thing and once done, it will ask you to choose a router password. This is not the wireless password that you just configured, but the password to access the router configuration. Don’t use the same password as you did before, choose something else. Once happy, click next.
On the final step, you can review the settings that you have configured. Make sure everything looks good and that you remember the passwords and then click next to create a Linksys Smart WiFi account if you want that. What it does is that you can check up on your network from anywhere in the world. If you don’t specifically need this, I’ll suggest not using it.
When clicking next, you will get to the dashboard of your Linksys router. This means that you are done with the configuration and you have a secure wireless home network.
Congratulations on your new TP-Link router. TP-Link has one of the better start-ups guides I’ve seen and they continue to improve it. To start, you need to connect your modem to the WAN/ISP port on the router with an ethernet cable. Next, you need to connect the computer to LAN 1 on the router with another ethernet cable. Then, make sure the router is turned on (some routers have on/off-buttons) and open your favorite browser on the computer.
In the address bar, go to 192.168.1.1. The first thing you are asked to do is to set up an admin password for accessing the router configuration. This is not your wireless network password. On the next page, you will choose your time zone and after that, you choose the connection type to your ISP (Internet Service Provider). If you don’t know, you can choose Auto Detect and the router will help you choose. But most likely, you have Dynamic as that is what most people have.
Click next and then next again, as the MAC address settings will, in 90% of the cases, not apply to you. On the page you end up on, you configure your wireless networks. You have the option to set up two networks, one 2.4 GHz and one 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz is older technology with longer-range but the slower speed and is great for smartphones and tablets that don’t need as much. The 5 GHz is newer and faster but with shorter range. This network is good for streaming and gaming.
Configure your names and passwords and make them unique and funny instead of boring and personal. For example, name the first one “Does this network work” and the other one “I am not sure” instead of “Family Brown’s Network”. The passwords should be hard to guess so that no unauthorized can access your network. When you are happy with your settings, click Next.
On the final page, there is a summary of the settings that you have chosen. Review them and if you are happy, click Save. The router will reboot, and you will see a progress bar at the bottom showing how far it has come. When finished, TP-Link wants you to use the TP-Link Cloud. If you are using it, you can log in, otherwise, you can skip it.
Now you are done configuring your TP-Link router. Click Finish to access the router configuration to further cartomizer the router or close the web page and enjoy your new network.
Congratulations on your new D-Link router. D-Link has a lot to work on with their first-time set up so there are a few key things that need to be done afterward. The first thing you need to do is to connect the router to the internet through an ethernet cable. Connect a cable to the WAN/Internet port of the router and the other end to your modem that you got from your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Next, you connect another ethernet cable from LAN 1on the router to a computer.
Make sure the router is powered on (some routers have an on/off button) and then open your favorite web browser and enter 192.168.0.1/ in the address field. This will let you access the router configuration page, which will automatically open the first-time setup for you.
On this page, you can see that your computer is connected to the router, but your router is not yet connected to the internet. This is OK as of right now. Under WAN Setup, you choose the type of connection you have to your ISP, which is 99% of the time is DHCP. If you have another set here, you have probably configured it manually and know about it.
Next up, under Wireless Setup, you choose what you want your SSID name to be. Choose something funny or random, don’t go with “Family Brown’s Network”. You will also set the password for the network, which should be a strong password that someone else cannot guess easily. When you are happy, click on Save and Connect.
On the next page, you will need to login to the router configuration menu. The default login is Admin and no password, so what you do here is to simply click on Login and you will be logged into the router.
Now, go to the Wireless tab on the top menu. If you can’t see a tab named Wireless, go to Setup and then you should find Wireless Basics / Wireless setup in the side menu. Here, you can see the wireless settings that you chose earlier. Under that, in Security Options, make sure that says WPA-PASK/WPA2-PSK AES. If not, choose that option. This will make sure that you use the best encryption for your wireless network.
There is one more step that needs to be done and that is to change your router username and login. Right now, it’s Admin with no password but that is not good as unauthorized users can access the configuration of your router. To do this, go to Tools and under Admin Password, you have the option to set your password. Make it something strong that other users can’t guess. When happy, click on Save Settings and you are done.
Home Network Security
By now, your router has been configured and setup, which means that you have a fully working home network and you can leave this behind you. Well, that’s one way to see and frankly, this is also what most people do. But I would argue that adding some extra security to your new network is always a good idea.
Even if you are not targeted for a specific reason, criminals are always looking for easy targets and while having a password for your wireless network (which you should have configured in the steps above), is the strongest protection, there are a few other things you can do to help yourself.
If your router supports remote access from the outside, you should make sure that this is disabled. By default, on my Asus router, this is enabled, which I don’t understand at all. This feature allows you to connect to your router from outside your home and while there can be benefits for this, it shouldn’t be on by default in my opinion.
This might be a little later, but you should also make your SSID name anonymous. The reason for this is to hide what network is yours. Naming it something like “The Johnson Family” makes it easy for targets to find your network.
Finally, you should always make sure that you are running the latest firmware on your network devices. Take a few minutes every second month to login to your router configuration and see if there are any new updates to install. These updates protect you from new vulnerabilities, can sometimes give new features and generally provides stability improvements.
There are of course other steps you can take to further increase your security. It’s these small steps that will count in the end. If you are interested, I have written a post named 7 Easy Security Tips for Your Home Network. Check it out to learn more about network security and what you can do about it.
Troubleshooting the Network if it Doesn’t Work
Sometimes it happens, it doesn’t work as expected. Without knowing much about networks or routers, this can be frustrating, and I wanted to have a section trying to help you if you are currently yelling at the router to start working (we’ll all been there).
I know this sounds like a cliché and very unhelpful but restarting the router will solve most of the problems. Yes, I’ve been working with IT support so I’ve used that phrase for quite some time but there is a reason why the IT helpdesk always tells you to reboot. Does the problem persist even after the router has been rebooted? There are other things you can do to troubleshoot.
Now it’s time to isolate the problem. Since a restart did not help, we need to dig further and one way to do that is to bypass the router to make sure that the internet is working as it’s supposed to do.
The way you do this is to take the ethernet cable that goes from the modem to the router and put it between a computer and the modem instead. If you get internet access by doing this, it’s the router. However, if you don’t have internet, you should call your ISP because then, it’s most likely on their side.
You should also try with multiple computers if you experience problems. It is unlikely, but it has happened more than once for me when you try troubleshooting something and it ends up being the computer that doesn’t work. If you have more than one available, try both of them to see if they both have the same problem.
In my post 7 Troubleshooting Steps if You Nothing About Routers, I’ve added some more steps than just three. If you continue to experience a problem, that is probably the article you want to read.
Stage 3: Enjoy Your New Home Network
By now, you should have bought everything you need to create your new home network and your router should be configured and ready, congratulations. You are essentially done setting up the basics of your home network now but there are more things that you can do to improve, learn and use your network more.
In step 3 of this guide, you will learn how you can improve your network with upgrades, storage solutions, further expansion in the future and of course, test your new home network to see how fast it goes.
See How Fast Your New Home Network is
You can measure your network speed by simply transferring a file from your computer to a NAS or another type of network storage. If you don’t have any network storage, you can connect a USB drive to your router (if it has USB which most newer routers have). Choose a big file and then copy it to the network drive.
You will then get a popup showing how fast the copy goes. If you have a graph like in the picture below, there the speed is 100 MB/s or more, that is a good connection and you will not get faster than that without buying completely new hardware (like a new router and a new network card for your computer) and frankly, it’s not worth it.
If your speed is slower than this, it might be that you are trying it on a computer that doesn’t support this speed or that you have something in your network that isn’t supporting the speed. It could be a switch for example. Another reason could be that you are on a wireless network and is getting interference from other devices in your home, like the microwave.
Generally, a wireless network is always slower than going with cable so if you want to go as fast as possible, running an ethernet cable is your best option.
Another way to test your speed is with a tool called TotuSoft LANSpeed. This software will send a package up to 200MB to measure the speed of your network. It’s a small program that is easy to use, even for non-networking people.
If you want to learn more about network speed, LAN speed and how to improve your speed, you can read my blog post here where I talk more about this topic.
Cool Things You Can Do with Your New Home Network
A network is something most people have at home and now you do as well. But wouldn’t it be cool to do more with your network? A network allows you to create solutions that will make your life easier. Just check out some of these suggestions that you can do.
Setting Up a NAS (Network-Attached Storage)
A NAS is storage on your network that any computer or device can reach. This is making sharing files between computers (and users) much easier. You can have a folder with all your images and anyone on your network can see them, for example.
There are multiple ways to set up a NAS. One way is to buy a pre-built NAS and some hard drives, which I recommend doing. You can also keep it simple and have an external drive in the USB port of your router and transfer files to this drive. That’s also a NAS.
A NAS will be required for most of the other suggestions down below and if you would purchase a pre-built NAS, it can be configured very easy with built-in apps. If you want to learn more about a NAS, what it is and what you can do with it, be sure to check out my blog post here where I go more in-depth.
Setting Up a Printer Server
If you still have a printer at home, you know how annoying it is to see something on your phone and then have to send it to yourself just so that you can open it on your computer to print it out. Well, no more. Most routers actually have a printer server built-in which means that you can connect a printer to the USB port of the router and then do a small configuration on the router.
This will allow all your devices on your network to reach the printer and the next time you find something on your phone, you can print directly from the phone, saving some hassle. On top of that, the rest of your family can use the printer from their devices as well.
Setting Up a Backup Solution
I’m sure that you have heard this before, that you should back up your files and folders if the worst would happen. This is not just something people are saying, it’s something you very much should be doing. But it takes time, you forget and suddenly everything is gone. Well, it doesn’t have to be like this.
This will also work best if you have a NAS or some kind of storage solution. Most routers have built-in backup software that you can use to automatically take backups of your computers and devices so that you don’t have to. It will then be stored on your network and if your computer would crash, you will have your files ready to be copied over to the new computer.
It’s an easy way to keep your information, files and folders protected.
Setting Up a Media Server
This works best if you have a NAS or a home server but will work on a computer as well. You can install something called Plex, which is a centralized media software. With Plex, you can create your own Netflix and Spotify. You create a movie-library in Plex and point it to a folder on the server/computer where you have all your movies.
Once that is done, you can go to the Plex server address in your web browser and get the cover of the moves, summaries, Rotten Tomato scores, trailer, music and much more, simply from having a movie file. The same thing applies to music or tv-shows. It’s a great way to digitize all the movies and music you have on DVD, Blu-Ray and CDs (or however you get your movies…).
Setting Up a Home Server
You can also build your own home server. With a home server, you can do all of the above and much more. For example, I have a home server that is running Plex, the UniFi Controller, virtual machines, acting as a NAS and it also takes backups of my computers at home. You may not need all of this, but it shows the flexibility of a home server.
This option is a fun idea if you are at least a little interested in networking and/or computers as it would require you to build a computer and install an operating system on it. If you still want to do all of these things but not sure how to build a computer, I’ll recommend a pre-built NAS as they can do many of the things as well, but in a much easier and more user-friendly way.
Expanding Your Wireless Network in the Future
While your router is doing a great job at covering your network right now, it may change in the future. If this is the case, you don’t necessarily need to buy a new router, there are other ways you can go about to expand your wireless network. A popular way to do this is by using range extenders.
A range extender is a little device that sits in a power outlet and picks up the wireless network from your router. It will then boost that signal so that the network reaches further away. This is a cheap solution to extend your WiFi and it works fairly well. There is a big drawback with it and that is the speed. It will not be as good as if you were connected directly to the router. But if you are just surfing the web, you will no notice anything.
I have previously written a blog post about range extenders, what it is, how they work and how they can benefit you. You can find the blog post here if you are interested.
Another way would be to buy an access point. An access point will also boost your network further away but will be connected to the router through a cable instead, making it more stable and not lose as much speed as a range extender. This solution is more expensive but can work great.
You can use the same solution with another router as well. Yes, you can connect two routers together to provide WiFi. This will also give you the benefit of having more LAN ports in another place in your house. The way it works is that you turn off all the router functionality in one of the routers so that it will act only as an access point.
This is not as complicated as you might think but if you want a guide to follow, you can find a blog post I have written here, where I show you how to connect two routers together while still having the same SSID.
This guide is finally coming to an end. It turned out to be much longer than anticipated but hopefully, you have learned a thing or two about networking now.
Step one in any build is to start with a plan and see what is needed. There is no point in buying the biggest router if you don’t need it. At the same time, it’s worth knowing what your network will be used for so that you can plan better and make a better purchase.
Step two is to configure the new router that you bought in step one. All routers look differently so it may require some YouTube or Google to fully understand all functions, but you should at least be able to set up an admin login and password as well as a wireless network once you are done with step 2.
Step 3 is all about expanding your network and making it more useful then it was before. Here, you learned how to check the speed of your network and fun things you can do with your network to make it more helpful. Also, how you can expand your network in the future, which is something most of us have to do some time.