Wi-Fi is the easiest way to create a network and get broadband anywhere in your home. In this guide, we’ll explain how to set up Wi-Fi with your wireless home broadband router.
You'll also find tips for securing Wi-Fi, improving weak wireless signals, and troubleshooting common problems.
Setting up Wi-Fi: the key points
Getting a Wi-Fi router: the first steps to setting up Wi-Fi
To use wireless broadband at home, you'll need a Wi-Fi router. It's standard for a router (sometimes referred to as a 'hub') to be bundled in when you sign up for a new broadband deal.
You can use your own router with some providers. But double-check this. Some won’t let you, or the type of router you have might not work.
Your router or hub will include a power adapter, cable for the broadband/phone socket and at least one network cable. Depending on the type of broadband, you also might get a microfilter that must be plugged into the phone socket.
In some cases, the provider may supply a separate modem and wireless router. This type of set-up only differs slightly. It isn't complicated to configure, but you'll need an additional power socket.
A surge-protected power strip is optional, but highly recommended. These aren’t expensive and will protect your electronics in case of a power surge. Just remember, you’ll need to replace surge protectors every few years as they become less effective over time.
If you're interested in finding out more about the type of Wi-Fi router you'll get when you sign up to a broadband service, visit these round-up pages:
How to set up your Wi-Fi router
Microfilters reduce interference between broadband service and voice calls. You’ll need to install these on all telephone sockets in use around the home (unless you have the newer dual-socket phone points, as these have built-in filters). Your provider should include microfilters with the router if they’re needed.
Microfilters are most commonly used for ADSL broadband. They’ll only be required for fibre broadband if you don’t have the dual-socket faceplate on your telephone line. Don't worry if you have an engineer visiting for an installation - they'll install them if necessary.
What does ADSL mean?
ADSL stands for ‘Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line’. It’s broadband technology that allows the transfer data across regular telephone lines. You can make calls at the same time as being connected to the internet.
An ADSL line will, at minimum, allow for a broadband connection of up to 8Mb. These days, that’s pretty slow and won’t allow you to do much other than emailing or basic web searches.
ADSL2+ is now available at nearly all exchanges across the UK with slightly faster data transfer rates of around 10-11Mb.
Microfilters also aren’t required for Virgin Media broadband or full fibre broadband.
Install your Wi-Fi router
Plug your router in at a power source, and connect it to the broadband or telephone wall socket using the supplied cables. You can also connect any wired network devices to the LAN (local area network) ports on the back of the router.
If you have a separate modem and router, the modem is connected to the wall socket and then linked to the router with a network cable plugged into the 'WAN' or 'DSL' port.
And with that, your router can be switched on and is ready to go!
Connect wireless devices
To connect wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets and game consoles, you’ll need the Wi-Fi SSID (the network name) and password.
For now, use the default settings. You can find the pre-configured network name and password either in the manual or printed on a sticker attached to the router.
On your Wi-Fi devices, select the SSID from the list of networks (in a busy area there could be lots of these) then enter the password when prompted.
Securing your Wi-Fi network
Because wireless networks can be accessed from outside your home, it's important to keep your Wi-Fi network secure. Follow these tips:
- Change the default admin password. Out of the box, your Wi-Fi router’s settings are likely to set with a weak, default password. If someone gets access, they could cause all sorts of havoc, so the first thing you should do is change this to a unique password.
- Change the Wi-Fi password. The default Wi-Fi password is probably reasonably secure, as most now come set up with a unique random key. However, as it's usually on a sticker on the router itself, this isn't very helpful if you want to control who has access to the Wi-Fi. You can access your router settings to change this.
- Change the Wi-Fi SSID. The default SSID is likely to reveal either the make and model of the router or the name of your ISP. This can help an attacker, as they’ll be able to apply known security vulnerabilities or default passwords to gain access. Choosing your own network name makes things a little more complicated for an attacker. It also helps you pick out your network if there are lots of other Wi-Fi signals around.
- Keep the router updated. You should regularly check for firmware updates for your router to protect against new security holes.
- Use WPA2 or WPA3 security. Make sure to check your router is using the ‘WPA2’ or 'WPA3' security standard, and not WPA or WEP. This can usually be found in the same section of the settings where you change the Wi-Fi password. WPA2 is a more secure standard than the older WPA or WEP, which can both be easily cracked, and WPA3 is even better.
- Disable WPS. Wi-Fi Protected Setup or WPS makes it easy to connect new devices without having to select the network or enter a password. But this is unfortunately also a security flaw that can make it easy for hackers to break your Wi-Fi password. So, we recommend you disable it.
For further help, read our guide to securing home and business broadband routers.
Improving Wi-Fi signal strength and range
Wi-Fi is terrific when it works, but the signal is relatively short-range and can be blocked by walls or affected by interference from household appliances and other networks. Even being in a room on the opposite side of the house to your router can wind up affecting the speed.
It’s possible to get high-speed Wi-Fi access all over your home, including the garden, but to do so, you’ll need to make sure your network is operating well. There are a few extra bits of hardware you can use to help.
Find the best place for your Wi-Fi router at home
To get the most out of your home internet, set your Wi-Fi router up in the centre of your home. It should be away from walls and sources of interference such as kitchen appliances and cordless telephones.
If there’s a particular room in the house that you need the internet the most, such as a living space or an office, this could also be a good place to keep your router.
For more help, read our guide: 'where's the best place to put a Wi-Fi router?'
Select a quiet Wi-Fi channel
Home Wi-Fi networks operate on various channels within their frequency band. If there are lots of other wireless networks in the area sharing the same channel, it can affect performance.
Usually, you're fine to leave it on automatic and let the router decide, but manually selecting a quieter channel may be required to avoid interference. If you need to find the best channel, a smartphone network tool such as Wi-Fi Analyzer can show you what other local networks are using.
Extend your Wi-Fi network
Wi-Fi boosters, also known as range extenders and repeaters, are a cheap way to expand the network beyond the router’s maximum range. Wi-Fi boosters take the weak signal and re-broadcast it. You do lose some performance, but they mean you’ll be able to access the internet further than you could without.
A more effective alternative to boosters is mesh Wi-Fi. This can extend Wi-Fi to every room of a home while delivering faster speeds than a booster can manage, using a network of mesh ‘nodes’. However, it does cost more.
Another option is a powerline network booster. These use your home’s electrical circuits to transmit data between an adapter connected to the router and the booster anywhere else on the same electrical circuit. The advantage of these is that they can be used even in areas where there is no Wi-Fi signal to boost.
Basic Wi-Fi boosters start from under £20, while powerline adapters are available from under £30. For mesh Wi-Fi, you can expect to pay at least around £100 for a cheap starter kit.
Troubleshooting common Wi-Fi problems
- Weak signal strength: The weaker your wireless signal, the slower and less reliable the internet connection. If you can, move closer to the router. If that’s not possible, or it keeps happening, you may need to buy a Wi-Fi booster.
- Busy shared networks: Slow speeds can be caused by other people or devices using the internet at the same time. Shut down any unnecessary software and hardware to reduce the load on your broadband bandwidth. You should also check that the Wi-Fi connection isn’t being used by neighbours or anyone else who shouldn’t be there. Check the router’s admin controls to view connected devices, and if necessary, change your Wi-Fi password.
- Signal interference: Change your Wi-Fi channel to one that’s not used by other networks nearby to reduce interference. That’ll improve your Wi-Fi performance.
- No broadband?: Sometimes your internet will simply stop working. This is common, and there’s not always an apparent reason. Usually, the easiest fix is to power cycle the router. Switch it off and on, then wait a few minutes for it to reconnect. If this doesn’t fix it, contact your provider to find out if there’s a network outage, and get help from tech support.
- No Wi-Fi?: If the Wi-Fi drops, switching it off and on is usually the most effective solution. If you're using a Wi-Fi booster, always try resetting this first, as it's quicker and less disruptive. If this doesn’t work, you’ll need to connect to the router with an ethernet cable and access the router settings to diagnose the problem.
If you're after more tips, you can check out our detailed guide on how to speed up your broadband.
Setting up Wi-Fi is something that anyone can do with a few simple instructions. Unless you need an engineer’s visit, you should be sent a router that you can easily plug in yourself. If you sign up to a basic broadband package with a speed of around 11Mb , you may have to use microfilters. If you have a newer fibre broadband package, everything should be ready to plug in.
If you’re having problems with your broadband and want to know how to speed your internet up, we have a broadband troubleshooting guide. You can easily buy Wi-Fi boosters to extend the signal around your house too.
We recommend that you go for a fibre package as you’ll generally get better speeds. And if you’re ever really stuck with something to do with your internet, you can always contact your provider.
For more help, check out our guide to wireless broadband.
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