If you’re like most people, you leave the technical setup of your home or office router to the networking professionals. And let’s face it, once all of the router lights are lit up and your connections are secured, you hardly bat an eye at your router, so long as it’s doing its job. However, because setup and configuration procedures are out of your hands, you’re probably a stranger to your router’s many settings and features.
You’re probably asking yourself, why even bother altering your router’s settings? Why fix something that’s not broken? The answer is simple: because going in and tweaking only works to your benefit. A safer, more secure, and more personalized router will leave you and your digital world protected.
In the case that you do find yourself in need of a quick crash course on how to access and manage your router settings, use this comprehensive guide to learn how to change router settings, along with how to manage your router’s many untapped features.
What is a router and how does it work?
You probably know your router best as the single device responsible for connecting you to the world wide web, and while that is true, there are several other working components that complete your router’s architecture.
Why do I need a router?
A router serves as the beacon of multiple networks and it routes all network traffic between each associated network. The router authorizes communication between devices and the internet by connecting a modem (the device that secures your connection to the web) to your WiFi-enabled devices. Think of the router as the final step to getting your smartphone, tablet, computers, and IoT
connected to the web.
What is the difference between the router and the modem?
In essence, your router is tasked with connecting your devices to WiFi while the modem is the primary device responsible for connecting you to the internet. Typically your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will offer both as part of your internet plan, but not all web plans are created equal.
The simplest way to think about routers, especially the one(s) living in your home, is like this. The router is the middleman between your internet connection and your local network. It is the device that allows you to connect multiple devices to the web through a singular physical internet connection. Your router also allows those devices to intercommunicate, for instance your laptop connecting to your printer, over a shared local network, while offering a valuable degree of web-protection to your devices.
It’s important to note that the vast majority of routers come equipped with a number of built-in switches that allow you to connect multiple wired devices directly. This is especially handy for those working in an office space. It’s also good to keep in mind that routers track of all traffic between every device connected to your private local network.
How can I access my router settings?
Before configuring and modifying any settings, you’ll need the know-how to access your router settings. And in order to gain entry into your router’s settings, you’ll need to first access as an administrator. Let’s walk you through a couple of different methods:
If your device of choice, say your laptop computer, is connected to the same network as your router, this method may be your easiest solution.
Step 1. Open your preferred web browser
Step 2. Enter the following IP addresses until you successfully reach a login or welcome page:
Step 3. Once you’ve reached a login or welcome page, enter your router’s admin information. (If you’re unsure of the correct credentials, check for a sticker on the back or bottom of your router that details the default username and password.)
If you tried to enter all six of the IP address options and did not connect to a login page, follow these instructions for an alternative method.
Step 1. Access your start menu by clicking the Windows symbol
Step 2. Click the gear icon to open your computer settings
Step 3. Select Network & Internet and click View your network properties
Step 4. Within Properties, scroll down to Default gateway to locate your router’s unique IP address
Step 5. Enter the address as it appears into your browser's URL bar
Step 6. Upon reaching a login or welcome screen, enter your admin credentials for a full login.
What settings can I change on my router?
Whether you’re setting up your router for the first time or simply want to make modifications to your current router settings, it’s best to tackle the task with a solid understanding of your changeable options. We’ve narrowed the list of possibilities down to 4 key modifiable settings; login credentials, firmware, security, remote management, and parental controls. Let’s break them down, one by one.
1. Login credentials
After gaining entry into your administrative router profile, you should make a point to customize your login information to something unique you’ll remember. Leaving the default username and password unchanged makes it incredibly easy for anyone to log into your router settings, make random changes, and steal your personal information. Changing your login information ensures you’re the only one with authorized access.
Follow these four easy steps to change your router’s administrative login:
Step 1. Using either Method #1 or Method #2, access your router settings
Step 2. Select Change Router Password or a similar command (wording will vary per router brand and type)
Step 3. Choose a password that has at least 10 characters, includes capital letters, numbers, and symbols for supreme security
Step 4. Save the new password
Should you run into any roadblocks or confusion trying to access the correct page to update your information, visit your router’s manufacturer site for additional troubleshooting help.
2. Remote management
allows you to access and manage your home or office router from a remote location at any given time. This is an incredibly useful tool for users who need to track how much traffic is being generated on a daily, monthly, or annual basis. Stay in tune with your router’s usage and management via smartphone, tablet, or laptop, no matter where in the world you are.
Typically, remote management is turned off by default, because it does pose a certain security risk
and could make your router more vulnerable to third-party hackers. We recommend only using remote management when you’re a distance away or away for an extended period of time to make sure your web gateway is as secure as possible.
To access and activate remote management on your capable router, follow these 3 easy steps:
Step 1. Enter your router’s admin panel
Step 2. Open settings and access Remote Management
Step 3. Turn on Remote Management and save your settings
3. Parental controls
Parental controls are becoming a more common feature on modern routers. Not only do they protect children from dangerous and inappropriate online content, but they give parents the peace of mind needed while their little ones surf the web.
Parental controls can be divided into two categories; filtering and monitoring. Filtering allows you to limit web access to age-inappropriate content and can even place time limits on internet time. Additionally, monitoring allows you to oversee what your child is doing online and allows you to intervene should you find your child on questionable sites.
Follow these steps to configure your router’s parental controls:
Step 1. Access your router’s settings using Method #1 or Method #2
Step 2. Locate the Access Restrictions page (this may live within the Firewall page)
Step 3. Depending on your specific router, you may be able to click a single checkbox and restrict all inappropriate content, or you may need to block specific domains, one by one
Step 4. Save and Apply your settings before exiting out
Think of your router’s firmware the same way you think of your computer’s operating system. Your computer is great at auto-updating itself whenever crucial patches and fixes are needed, but your router isn’t nearly as self-sufficient.
Instead, routers require a painstaking process of installing new firmware to stay up to date. As time-consuming and finicky as this process may be, it’s important to do to maintain the highest degree of security at all times.
In addition to bolstering router security, firmware updates can also enhance performance. Just like many other technologies, routers are no exception to aging. The longer you go without updating your firmware, the slower your current firmware is. Update for increased speed and processing performance. Here’s how:
Step 1. Download the appropriate firmware file from the manufacturer's website
Step 2. Log into your router’s administrative console using either Method #1 or Method #2 above
Step 3. Access the Firmware section within your router’s settings. This may look different or carry a different name per your specific router. Typically this section lives within an Advanced or Management section
Step 4. Transfer the firmware file to the router. Depending on your specific router’s configuration specs, this could be via a flash drive plug-in or it could a simple matter of visiting the router’s Firmware section and pressing “Update Firmware”
Step 5. Reboot the router once you’ve received confirmation of update completion
If you run into any confusion or instructional discrepancies, visit your router’s manufacturer site to find quick solutions to your troubleshooting problems.
No matter what’s going on in your digital world, you can always count on HP® as your number one resource for all things tech.
About the Author: Tulie Finley-Moise is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Tulie is a digital content creation specialist based in San Diego, California with a passion for the latest tech and digital media news.