How to Set Up a Home Wi-Fi Network

Our simple step-by-step guide to getting connected

Setting up Wi-Fi in your home or office is easier than you may think. All you need is an internet connection from an internet service provider, a modem, a wireless router, and a smartphone or computer. Let’s walk through the steps of setting up your Wi-Fi network.

Part 1: Get an internet connection

If you don’t have a home internet connection already, it’s time to get hooked up. You can look up and compare internet service providers (ISPs) in your area with our handy zip check tool.

Many providers allow you to sign up online or by calling a customer service representative. One perk to getting a new internet connection set up is that during installation, a professional may set up your whole home network for you.

Pro tip:

If you want a detailed walkthrough on how to choose an internet plan, check out our guide to choosing an ISP. But basically, you need to consider availability, speed, and cost.

Part 2: Set up your modem

Modems used by your internet service provider convert (modulate) internet data into electrical signals that are transmitted to the modem in your home or office. In turn, your modem reverts (demodulates) these signals back into data that can be passed through an Ethernet connection. Without this “translation,” your wireless router, computer, and mobile devices have no way of accessing the internet because they don’t understand your ISP’s “language.” 

Different types of internet (cable, DSL, fiber, etc.) use different “languages” (or technologies), which is why a DSL modem doesn’t work with a cable internet connection. Make sure that your modem of choice is compatible with your type of internet.

Pro tip:

Need a modem for gigabit internet? Check out our guide to the best gigabit modems.

If you receive home networking equipment from your ISP, you may see two devices—a modem and a wireless router—or a single combined modem/router unit called a wireless gateway. To connect your modem or wireless gateway to your home internet connection, find your main internet hookup. 

Cable internet: Your hookup is a coaxial outlet or a coaxial cable protruding from the wall.

DSL internet: Your hookup looks similar to a phone jack.

Satellite internet: Your main connection is probably an Ethernet cable.

Fiber internet: If you have fiber direct to your home, your hookup is an Optical Network Terminal (ONT). If not, your connection likely uses a coaxial cable.

Once connected to the internet source and plugged in, check your modem’s status lights. It can take a while for things to come fully online. You may have to call your internet service to activate the modem (basically to make sure the network recognizes the modem).

Pro tip:

You can connect a computer directly to your modem with an Ethernet cable to make sure your internet is working properly. But we don’t recommend using a direct modem connection for regular internet use because your other devices can’t access the internet at the same time without a Wi-Fi network.

Part 3: Set up your wireless router

Your wireless router manages your home network. It creates your Wi-Fi network, assigns IP addresses, organizes traffic, and makes sure all your data goes to where it’s supposed to go. Any wireless router should work because they all connect to your modem using an Ethernet cable.

Step 1: Connect your wireless router directly to your modem with an Ethernet cable and turn it on.

Step 2: Wait for status lights to show that it’s connected to the internet successfully and that its Wi-Fi network is up and running.

Step 3: Find your wireless router’s default IP address and log in to your router. If you are not sure how to do it, consult our guide on how to log in to your router.

Step 4: In your wireless router’s user interface or app, set up your Wi-Fi network’s name (SSID) and password. If your router has multiple Wi-Fi bands (usually 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), do this for each.

Step 5: If your wireless router offers more advanced features like scheduling, guest networks, or user profiles, set those up now as well.

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Part 4: Connect your devices

It’s time to get online. You have two options for connecting your internet devices: wired Ethernet connections or Wi-Fi.

How to connect to Wi-Fi

Accessing Wi-Fi is easy on nearly every device.

iOS 14/iPadOS 14

Step 1: Tap Settings.

Step 2: Tap Wi-Fi.

Step 3: Tap on the network’s name.

Step 4: Enter the network’s password.

Android 11 (stock)

Step 1: Swipe down from the top to expand the Notification Shade and tap on the “cog” icon. This opens the Settings panel.

Step 2: Tap Wi-Fi.

Step 3: Tap on the network’s name.

Step 4: Enter the network’s password.

Android 10/11 (Samsung)

Step 1: Swipe down from the top to expand the Notification Shade and tap on the “cog” icon, This opens the Settings panel.

Step 2: Tap Connections.

Step 3: Tap Wi-Fi.

Step 4: Tap on the network’s name.

Step 5: Enter the network’s password.

Step 6: Tap Connect.

Windows

Step 1: Click on the Wi-Fi icon displayed on the taskbar.

Step 2: Click on the network’s name listed on the pop-up menu.

Step 3: Click on the Connect button.

Step 4: Enter the network’s password.

Step 5: Click on the box next to Connect Automatically if you want to autoconnect.

macOS Big Sur

Step 1: Click the Wi-Fi icon displayed on the menu bar.

Step 2: Click on the network’s name listed on the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Enter the network’s password.

Step 4: Click Join.

How to connect via Ethernet

Wired connections are good for your most important connections—like a home computer or gaming console. Simply plug an Ethernet cable into one of the LAN ports on your router and plug the other end into an identical port on your device. If your device doesn’t have an Ethernet port, you can use an adapter. Here are a few suggestions:

If there aren’t enough Ethernet ports on your router, add an Ethernet switch to expand your network.

Author -

Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.

Editor - Aaron Gates

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