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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Home networking explained, Part 5: Setting up a home router


CNET editor Dong Ngo explains the best way to set up most Wi-Fi routers: via the Web interface. This guide can be applied to all consumer-grade routers in the market, save those from Apple.


Most routers' Web interfaces come with similar items and are self-explanatory.
Most routers' Web interfaces come with similar items and are self-explanatory.
(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
Editors' note: This post is part of an ongoing series. For the other parts, check out the related stories.
It might seem like a daunting task to set up a new home router. But it doesn't have to be if you understand the most common way routers are managed: through the Web interface. The hardest part of the Web interface is not the interface itself, but how to get to it. Once you have gotten there, the rest, at least most of it, is self-explanatory.

Common home router Web interfaces (pictures)

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 Note: Almost all home routers on the market come with an Web interface, which is a Web page from which users can view, manage, and monitor the router's settings and features. The only company that doesn't offer a Web interface for its router is Apple. With that in mind, this guide is intended for non-Apple routers only.
In this post, I'll talk about how you can quickly setup any router by accessing its Web interface and manage it from any connected computer or even a tablet or smartphone.
Let's start with the basics.
1. What is a browser?
A browser is a short name for a Web browser. This is a software application designed for retrieving, presenting, and exchanging information resources on the Internet. All browsers have an address bar where you can type in the Web address of a Web site, such as www.cnet.com. After that, you hit Enter and the browser will browse (hence the name) the content of the site. As you surf the Internet, the address bar also automatically displays the current address of a Web page that you get to by clicking on a link, such as one from within an e-mail or from another Web page. This Web page address is called a uniform resource locator (URL).
Among the most popular browsers are Google ChromeMozilla FirefoxApple Safari, andMicrosoft Internet Explorer. You'll find at least one of these browsers on any computer, tablet, or smartphone, and any of them can be used to manage a router's Web interface.
A router's WAN (Internet) port is always clearly distinguished from the LAN (Ethernet) ports. Also note the reset button which brings the router's settings to default value.
A router's WAN (Internet) port is always clearly distinguished from the LAN (Ethernet) ports. Also note the reset button which brings the router's settings to default value.
(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
2. Setting up the hardware
When you get a new router, setting up the hardware is very simple. (If this part of home networking is new to you, check out Part 1 of this series first). All you need is a computer that has a network port (most computers do) and two network cables (a new router comes with at least one network cable). Follow these steps, regardless of what the router's included setup guide might say:
A. Connect the router's WAN port to your Internet source, such as a DSL or cable modem, using the first network cable. All home routers come with just one WAN port (sometimes labeled as the Internet port); this port is always separate from the other network ports and often is a different color to further differentiate it.
Note: If you do not have Internet access at home, or want to have an isolated (non Internet-enabled) network, you can skip this step. Later on you can always complete this step when the Internet is available or needed.
B. Connect one of the router's LAN ports (most routers have four LAN ports) to the computer using the second network cable.
C. Plug the router into the power outlet using its power adapter, as you would with most electronics. If the router has an on-off switch, make sure the router is on. Many routers don't have this switch and will turn on as you plug it in.
That's it -- you have just finished the hardware setup.
3. Accessing the Web interface
This step involves making a browser, on the connected computer, display the content of the router's Web interface. Basically, you will need two things: the router's URL, which is always its default IP address, and default log-in information. While this might sound intimidating, most, if not all home routers on the market have a default IP address in this format: 192.168.x.1, where, depending on the vendor, x tends to be 0, 1, 2, 3, 10, or 11. For example, routers from Trendnet almost always have a default address of 192.168.10.1. D-Link routers, however, use 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1.
And the log-in information is also quite common. The username (if any) is almost always adminand the password (if any) tends to be one of these: adminpassworddefault, or 1234.
Once you have gotten these two pieces of information, on a connected computer, just type the router's IP address in the address bar of a browser, press Enter, and then enter the log-in information, after which you'll be greeted with the Web interface.
You can quickly find out the router's default address by using the ipconfig command on a Windows computer.
You can quickly find out the router's default address by using the ipconfig command on a Windows computer.
(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
Note that you can always find the router's default IP address and its default log-in information on the router's manual. Some routers even have this information printed on their bottoms. Or you can also consult the handy chart of info for popular networking vendors that I put together below.
VendorDefault IPDefault log-in (username/password)
2Wire (AT&T)192.168.0.254(blank)/(the device's serial number)
3Com192.168.1.1(blank)/admin or adminttd/adminttd
Amped Wireless192.168.3.1admin/admin
Asus192.168.1.1admin/admin
Belkin192.168.2.1(blank)/(blank) or admin/1234
Buffalo192.168.11.1root/(blank)
D-Link192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1admin/(blank)
Linksys192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1(blank)/root or admin/admin or (blank)/admin or Administrator/admin
Motorola192.168.0.1admin/motorola or admin/password
Netgear192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1admin/password or Admin/1234
Trendnet192.168.10.1admin/admin
ZyXel192.168.1.1admin/1234
Also, from a connected computer, you can always find out what the local network's router's current IP address is. This is helpful if router's default IP address has been changed. On a Windows computer do this:
A. Run the command prompt (you can find it on the Start menu, or in Windows 8 just type cmdwhen you're at the Metro Start menu, then press Enter)
B. At the Command Prompt window, type in ipconfig then press Enter. You will see a lot of things, but the IP address following the Default Gateway is the address of the router.
On a Mac, it's also quite easy to find out the default IP of the local network's router.
On a Mac, it's also quite easy to find out the default IP of the local network's router.
(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
On a Mac:
Click on the apple at the top left corner -> System Preferences -> Network -> Pick the current connected connection (it's likely the Ethernet) -> click on Advanced -> on the tab TCP/IP (first tab), the router's IP address is shown next to Router.
4. Setting up a new router's basic settings
Once the Web interface is opened, setting up a router is fairly self-explanatory. Though the design of the interface varies from one vendor to another, most of them have a granular menu design. Listed below are the main-menu items and what they do. (Note that this is just general information.):
Wizard: This is where you can start a step-by step guided setup process. Many routers' interfaces show the wizard when the Web interface is accessed for the first time. You just have to go through and set up a few of the routers' settings, such as its log-in password (to be changed from the default), the name and password for the Wi-Fi network (or networks for dual-band routers). Some wizards also ask for input in terms of time zone, the current time and date, and so on. With most routers you can skip the wizard and setup the router manually, or you can just finish the wizard and get back to the interface to further customize the network.
It's a good practice to save the router's current settings before making changes to it. This way you can always restore the previous settings if something goes wrong.
It's a good practice to save the router's current settings before making changes to it. This way you can always restore the previous settings if something goes wrong.
(Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
Items in the Setup part:
Wireless (or Wireless settings): Where you can customize the router's Wi-Fi network(s). You can pick the name of the network, change the password, turn the Wi-Fi Protected Setup feature on or off, and a lot more.
WAN (or Internet): Most of the time you should use the Auto setting for this section. However, some ISPs might require special settings; in those cases you can enter them here.
LAN (or Network settings): This is where you can change the local network settings, including the default IP address of the router itself. (Note that if you change the router's default IP address, you'll need to use the new address to access the router's Web interface.) Here you can also change range of IP addresses used for local clients and also add clients to the DHCP Reservation list. Once on this list, their IP address will remain the same, which is required for some Internet applications. Most of the time, you don't need to change anything in this section at all.
Items in the Tools (or Administration) part:
Admin password (or Password): Change the router's password. This is the password required when you log in the router's Web interface.
System: Where you can backup the current settings of the router to a file, or restore settings from a file. Update the router's firmware, and so on. It's always helpful to backup the router's settings before you make changes.
You'll find a lot more settings and feature on a router's Web interface, and when have time, you should try them out. Worst come to worst, you can turn to the last resort step below to restore the router to its default settings.
5. The last resort
All routers comes with a reset button. This is a tiny recessed button that can be found on the bottom or a side of the device. Using something pointy, such as a paper clip, to press and hold this button for about 10 seconds (when the router is plugged into power) will bring its settings back to the factory default. In other words, the router will be reset to the state it was in when you bought it. You can set it up from the beginning, or you can just log in to its Web interface and restore the router's settings from a backup file.
That's it for now. If you haven't found your questions answered, send them to me via Facebook,TwitterGoogle+, or just post them in the comments section below.