Wi-Fi router installation utilities have become easier to use over the years, but getting the best out of your new router usually means delving a little deeper than the standard installation routine will go. Just because you’ve plugged in everything and all the blinking lights have turned green doesn’t mean your network’s performance and its security are as good as they could be. Follow these basic steps to properly configure your router and optimize your wireless network.
What Kind of Wi-Fi Router Is Best?
Our advice below assumes that you’ve already found the right router for your home. If you’re still looking to make a purchase, check out our wireless router buying guide (link above) or, if you’re looking for something a little cheaper, try our budget routers roundup. If you’re looking for the fastest possible pipe with which to enjoy video gaming, then check out our gaming routers guide. All these buying guides contain our best and latest reviews in each category with every player completing PC Labs’ wireless router testing suite.
Top-Rated Routers We’ve Tested
When choosing a router, you’ll have to decide whether you want a Wi-Fi 6 router, a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) router, or a Wi-Fi mesh system. There are still plenty of capable Wi-Fi 5 routers out there that will handle light to moderate networking needs, but if you want the latest technology and the performance it brings, you’ll want to go with a Wi-Fi 6 router. (Check out our Wi-Fi 6 explainer for more in-depth information first.)
Wi-Fi mesh systems are for folks willing to pay a little more for two primary benefits: easy basic setup, and whole-home Wi-Fi coverage. While you can increase the coverage in your home with a standard router and a wireless range extender, that solution tends to make users jump through a few additional hoops to get things working smoothly, notably forcing users to log into different wireless networks depending on where they are in the home. Wi-Fi mesh makes all that go away with a quick, easy path to initial setup and a series of compatible “nodes” that integrate seamlessly into a single wireless network that blankets your entire home.
Top-Rated Wi-Fi Range Extenders We’ve Tested
Newer Wi-Fi mesh systems combine Wi-Fi 6 and mesh technology into a single package. While Wi-Fi mesh is definitely the simplest option when it comes to achieving that basic set of green blinking lights, that still represents just basic router setup, mesh or otherwise. Let’s say, though, that you want to improve security with a guest network and parental controls, or add quality of service (QoS) settings to protect the traffic coming from a specific application or traveling to a specific device. Then you’re going to need to dig beneath your router’s or mesh system’s basic installation utility. That’s when the steps below will come in handy.
How Do I Connect My Wi-Fi Router?
Before getting started, you need to consider where you’ll place your router. Finding an open space near the center of your residence is the best way to ensure optimal coverage. Be aware that walls and floors will impede Wi-Fi signals, so the more obstructions you have between your devices and your router, the weaker (and potentially slower) the signal will be. Try to avoid proximity to large metal, glass, brick, or concrete objects. Wi-Fi mesh systems get around this problem by letting you place an attractively designed node wherever coverage is weakest. But for those working with standard routers or even wireless range extenders, this will require some patience and testing to see where your optimal placement areas are.