How to change your Wi-Fi router settings

As the gateway between your home technology and the internet, managing your broadband connection is an important task. From broadband installation to getting your Wi-Fi up and running, most internet service providers (ISPs) make it easy and intuitive to get online using a supplied router. However, it may periodically be necessary to fix router issues or customise them to your needs. In this article, we explain how to adjust router settings and security.

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Man changing router settings

What is my router?

A broadband router is the plastic device ISPs provide when customers sign up for a broadband deal. Capable of distributing Wi-Fi signals throughout the home, these sealed units are usually ready to work within minutes of being plugged into the mains and a master phone socket.

Common hardware specifications include:

  • Antennae – in charge of directing and transmitting your Wi-Fi signal, using either internal or external aerial prongs

  • Console port – it hardwires your router directly to a PC, printer or other device

  • Ethernet ports – far more commonly used than console ports, and suitable for Powerline adaptors as well as direct connections to games consoles, smart TVs and computers

  • USB port – for connecting devices that only have USB connections, such as printers

  • WPS button – Wi-Fi Protected Setup allows you to connect certain devices without needing to input the Wi-Fi password, or choose which router you wish to connect to

  • Reset button – modern routers usually reboot themselves when required, but you can use this button as you change settings that need to be finalised, or if the router is slowing down.

Why do I need to change my router settings?

There are a few settings which may be worth adjusting on your ISP’s supplied router, including:

  • Your IP address

  • Your username and password

  • Firewall settings

  • Remote access

  • Parental controls.

Always double-check the small print that comes with your router if it’s supplied by your ISP. Some elements can be changed easily (such as your password), but your provider may prohibit more significant modifications. 

If you only want to access your router to change parental controls, your ISP may support this through your online account or via an app. BT, Sky and TalkTalk all offer parental settings that can be easily changed in one of these ways.

How to change router settings

On a standard ISP router, you may be able to access the router’s settings menu in the following ways:

  • Using an admin key (this should be printed under your Wi-Fi password and username)

  • Using an app 

  • Using a specific web address

  • Changing router settings through your browser.

If none of these methods is available, access your router settings via your preferred web browser:

  • Find the IP address of your router printed on the device body. It’s often 192.168.1.1

  • Log in using the admin credentials also found on your router

  • This should display a menu of options which can be adjusted.

Bear in mind that ISP-supplied routers tend to be more user friendly than third-party models bought separately, though supplied routers may prevent significant changes being made.

If you don’t feel confident changing your router settings, call your ISP’s technical support team and ask for guidance. Accidentally changing the wrong settings may leave you open to router hacking and other avoidable risks. 

What Wi-Fi settings can I change through my router?

As the origin of your Wi-Fi connection, you can alter most router and WiFi settings, depending on the level of access your ISP has given you. You should be able to change the following:

  • Wi-Fi password – this can be reset to anything you like, but make sure the new password is still a secure mix of numbers and letters

  • Wi-Fi name – if you want to make your Wi-Fi more easily recognisable or less obvious, you can change its name

  • Wi-Fi guest network – this is an ideal way to accommodate guests or external devices while keeping a separate, secure network for core devices like a works PC

  • Wi-Fi channel – Wi-Fi can operate on different channels to lessen interference from nearby connections. Modern routers should automatically switch to the optimal channel 

  • Firmware updates – your router may do this automatically, ensuring it’s running on the latest program updates

  • Security – some security measures can be changed via the router settings menu.

How to change router passwords

While Wi-Fi password privacy is important, you may also want to consider changing the password to the router itself, because a malicious agent could potentially expel you from your own connection. The steps to do this should be clearly outlined when you initially log in via a web browser, and they may be clearly outlined in ISP apps as well.

Always change your password to something impossible to guess — a mix of numbers and letters, yet something you won’t easily forget. A good suggestion might be the registration plates of the first two cars you owned. A password you don’t have to write down is easier to remember, and it should never be the same password used for other important accounts like email. You can use a password checker or password manager to make sure a chosen character string is secure enough.

How do I change firewall settings through my router?

This is a task which shouldn’t be undertaken if you’re not confident in your technical skills. Your firewall is the router’s main defence against hacking, malware and other cyberthreats. Don’t start playing around with it unless you’re confident about what you’re doing – and how to undo any revisions. 

The most common changes people make to their firewall security include:

  • Turning it on – surprisingly, this isn’t always a given

  • Permitting certain programs, utilities or services that the firewall may have blocked.

There are two types of firewall – one operating at router level, and another that works on your laptop. Always run both, and get in touch with your ISP if you aren’t sure about how to accomplish this. You may find sufficient security programs are already installed or offered as part of your broadband deal.

Last updated: 14 December 2020