How to set up your WiFi
By Phil Wilkinson-Jones | Friday, December 2nd 2022
Setting up a wifi network at home isn't difficult – it's pretty much a case of plug in and go. But getting the details right in the first instance will save you some frustration later on. Follow our advice and you'll have that wifi up and running smoothly in no time.
We're about to take you through the key elements of the wifi set-up process, from getting the positioning of the router right and how to connect your devices, to wifi security and boosting your signal – should you need to.
Acquiring a router
Getting hold of a router is not difficult, as all major broadband providers offer a free one when you sign up to their broadband service. And while it's probably not going to be your top priority when searching for a new broadband deal – price, speed and customer service are all important – it is worth checking out the different routers offered by providers before you sign up.
The Virgin Media Hub 5 is Virgin’s latest router and although not yet available to all customers, it is currently the only WiFi 6 router supplied with a broadband package, which means it can properly support gigabit broadband. The BT Smart Hub 2 can easily support wireless speeds in excess of 100Mbps, and it's packed with features including Smart Scan, which continually checks your network connection and reboots automatically if there's a problem.
You may choose to go with a third-party router. You can buy a router of your choice for anything upwards of £20 – it's up to you how much you spend and what features are important to you. Just bear in mind that in general, the more expensive, the better performance the router will provide. If this is something you're thinking about, check out our guide to using your own router.
Where to position your wifi router
An important consideration before you plug your router in is where to put it. The easy thing to do is to just plug it into the socket nearest the point where your broadband connection enters your home. The problem is, this won't necessarily give you the best wireless coverage.
Ideally, you want your router to be as close to the centre of your home as possible to give you the best all-round wifi coverage. Positioning your router away from windows/the front of the house also brings a security benefit as it means people will have to be pretty close to your property in order for their devices to find your network.
Wherever possible, you should avoid placing your router inside or behind other objects as these can get in the way of your receiving a strong signal. Microwaves in particular can cause interference with wifi signals so the kitchen counter may be somewhere to avoid for your router. If you still find that you're left with wifi blackspots even after doing your best to place your router in the optimal position, there are a few things you can do – we'll get into those a bit later on.
Installing your wifi router
Actually installing your router is the easy bit – just follow the instructions from your broadband provider. You'll need to plug the router into the mains and also into your broadband or telephone socket. It will probably take a few minutes to get online and there may be one or two extra steps depending on the router you have, but you'll pretty much be good to go.
Connecting devices to your wifi network
When your router is all set up and broadcasting a wifi network throughout your home, the next thing to do is get some devices connected.
You're going to need your chosen device to search for your wifi network. This is very simple – on a phone it means going into the settings then choosing the option for wifi settings. On a PC it may be called something like 'internet access' but it's all the same thing. You'll be presented with a list of all the wifi networks your device can find. If there are a lot of households or businesses nearby, this may be quite a long list.
What you're looking for is your SSID (service set identifier), in other words the name of your network. Your default SSID will be written either on the router itself or on a sticker that came with the router. Click on your SSID and enter the password that will most likely be found in the same place.
Making your wifi network secure
The next step is to make sure your home network is as secure as it can be. Modern routers do have a lot of security features built in, but they are not always activated by default, so this next bit will require you getting a bit more familiar with your router settings.
- Change your passwords – It's good practice, security-wise, to change passwords and usernames from the default ones to something more unique. Do this for both your wifi password and for your router password – the one you use to log in to your router settings
- Change your SSID – You should also change your SSID. The default one is likely to be the same as many others and so is easy to find. Avoid choosing a network name that gives away your identity or address... and keep it clean
- Use an antivirus and firewall – You'll probably find your router has a built-in firewall. Make sure it is activated in your router settings. Getting yourself a good antivirus with a firewall included, like Bullguard or Norton, is also a good idea
- Set up a guest network – Having a guest network running alongside your main wifi network means you can give visitors internet access without giving away your main wifi password. You can also connect smart devices to your guest network, providing an extra layer of protection against hackers who may look to exploit weaknesses in the security of smart devices
For more ways to protect your home network, check out our guide to router security.
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How to boost your wifi network
If you've done everything possible to place your router in the best position, but still find there are places in your home with poor or no wifi coverage, there are a few things you can do to give your signal a bit of help.
Update your firmware
This could have easily sat in the security section of this guide, but making sure your router's firmware is up to date can have a big impact on the kind of speeds you’re going to see over your wifi network. Log into your router settings and see if there are any updates you need to download.
Providers including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk all sell a range of devices that can improve the reach and quality of your wifi network. Wifi extenders take your existing wifi signal and re-broadcast it, helping it reach the furthest corners of your home. There are also powerline adapters, which use your home's electrical wiring to transmit your broadband signal from one plug socket to another. Mesh networks comprise multiple (at least three) nodes (as offered by Virgin Media with its WiFi Pods, and BT with its Complete Wi-Fi Discs) dotted around your home – each broadcasting the same signal simultaneously, giving you a stronger network.
Use a wired connection
If there's a particular device such as a computer or games console that needs a better connection than the one it’s getting over wifi, consider connecting it directly to the router using an ethernet cable. Wired connections tend to be more stable and faster than wireless ones, with the big trade-off being that, depending on the location of the device, you may have to trail a wire across a room or into another.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need to install microfilters?
Microfilters reduce the interference when you've got a broadband service and voice calls using the same phone line. They're generally only needed on ADSL (non-fibre) broadband and aren't necessary if you have Virgin Media broadband. If microfilters are needed, your broadband provider will probably fit them as part of the installation process.
How can I get wifi at home without a router?
To create a wifi network without a broadband connection or router, you'll need to share a device's mobile data, to which you can tether other devicest. You can get 4G/5G home broadband packages but these still come with a router. You also buy portable wifi units (also known as Mifi units) that allow you to create a 4G hotspot in a small area.
How do I see who is using my wifi?
Log into your router settings and you'll be able to see a list of the devices currently connected to your network. Be aware that your old devices may still show up as being connected, so if there's something you don't recognise it may not necessarily be that your neighbour is trying to pinch your wifi.
What if my wifi stops working?
Switching your router off and then on again will usually solve the problem. If not, get in touch with your broadband provider as there may be an outage in the area that's affecting your broadband, or a deeper problem with your connection that requires their help.
My wifi is always really slow, what can I do?
Take a look at our guide to boosting your broadband speed. If all else fails, it may be time to either complain to your broadband provider or simply find a new one.