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Guest Wi-Fi: How do I set up a network for visitors on my home broadband?

Wi-Fi home network

Visitors to your home may ask to use your Wi-Fi to get online, but you might not be keen to share the password and give them access to your network. 

Anyone with the password can use your broadband connection when in range of the Wi-Fi, and they don’t need to be inside your home to do it. There’s also a risk they may be able to access devices shared over the network, such as printers and hard drives.

To combat this, many Wi-Fi routers have a guest network feature. This lets visitors get online while protecting the overall security of your network.

In this guide, we’ll explain what a guest network is and show you how to set up and use it.

Setting up Guest Wi-Fi: the key points

  • A guest Wi-Fi network allows you to safely share broadband with visitors without compromising network security.
  • The guest Wi-Fi connection will have a separate network name and password.
  • Visitors will be able to use the internet but will not have access to other devices on your network.
  • Guest Wi-Fi is a standard feature on many Wi-Fi routers that anyone can set up in a few minutes.

What is a guest Wi-Fi network?

A guest Wi-Fi connection is an extension of your home broadband Wi-Fi that provides visitors with a limited internet access point. 

They’ll be able to get on the internet, but they won’t have access to the rest of your home network (unless you allow it).

That means they won’t be able to access devices or resources available on your networks, such as a shared printer or a network hard drive with shared files.

You can also control the speed of their broadband connection, so visitors don’t use up all your bandwidth and slow the internet for everyone else.

Guest Wi-Fi access uses a different network name than your home Wi-Fi. This is known as an SSID or Service Set Identifier. When someone wants to get online, you give them the guest Wi-Fi network name and password instead. This lets them use the broadband without putting the rest of your network at risk.

Why would I need guest Wi-Fi? 

Everyone who has visitors in their home that may want to use the internet should set up a guest Wi-Fi network.

It's especially important if you regularly have strangers staying over, for instance, if you’re letting out rooms on Airbnb. But it’s still a good idea, even if it’s just the occasional friend or relative.

Guest network settings can also be useful for separating smart home devices, such as Wi-Fi lightbulbs, smart TVs, and connected appliances, from your primary network. 

Smart home gadgets often have poor security which makes them vulnerable to hackers and malware. By keeping them on the guest Wi-Fi, you can make it harder for hackers to gain access to the rest of your network via insecure hardware and infected devices.

However, it’s still important to take other precautions, such as using strong passwords and regularly updating device firmware. It’s generally a good idea to be extremely wary of smart home devices, but guest Wi-Fi can make using them a little safer.

How do I set up guest Wi-Fi? 

Using guest Wi-Fi is easy. It doesn’t require any complex configuration or in-depth technical knowledge, and it's quick to set up.

But you’ll need a Wi-Fi router that supports guest networks. It’s common functionality now and any modern router made in the last few years probably has it, though if your router is older it may not be available.

You can ask your internet service provider if they have a newer model available which has guest Wi-Fi. Just remember that you may have to pay a fee for upgrading. Most providers will also allow you to purchase your own Wi-Fi router. Check before buying anything and be aware that they might not be able to offer technical support if anything goes wrong.

  • How to set up a Virgin Media guest network

    Virgin Media customers can set up a guest network on the Virgin Media Connect app

    To set this up on a Virgin Media Hub, you'll need to follow these steps:

    • Enter 192.168.0.1 into the address bar of your browser. This will load your settings page.
    • For Hub 3 and Hub 4, select Modify your guest network > Enable guest network > Next
    • For Hub 5 and Hub 5x, sign in and go to Advanced settings. Select Enable guest network > Modify your guest network > Enable your guest network > Next
    • A guest network name and password will be generated for you. Select Next
    • Set how long you want your guest network to remain active and select Next
    • Click Finish

Expert Summary

Whether we’re staying somewhere or just visiting a friend for a few hours, we usually want to connect to the Wi-Fi. But doing so can sometimes slow the bandwidth down for others, or we might be able to connect to devices they might not want us to.

A guest network can prevent all these things from happening. Provided your router is new enough, it’s easy to set up. You just have to change a few settings as well as the username and password. Doing so will protect any files you may have that can be accessed through a connected hard drive or whatever else.

If your router is too old and doesn't support guests, you can easily get a newer model by either asking your provider or buying a new one. Just make sure any equipment you buy is allowed by your provider before doing so.

Finally, we also recommend setting up a guest network if you have devices like smart TVs or lights on your broadband. These tend to be more easily hacked, so it can be practical to have them all on a separate network.

Meet the author:

Contributor

Matt has been working with Broadband Genie since 2009. A lifelong tech enthusiast, he has 20 years of experience writing about technology for print and online.


Specialist subject: The technicalities of broadband

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