With more and more devices running over the internet and connecting to your Wifi router, running an efficient and secure home network is essential. If you have multiple computers and devices in your household, then chances are they’re already talking to each other, either through a wired connection or wireless. However, while your home network might be up and running, optimising and improving your home network takes some time and many changes can be made. Modern hardware and software have reduced the complexities of configuring networks down to a few setup screens and use the default security settings to give you the correct protection. But there are some settings that can be changed that can significantly improve performance and security on your network.
Follow this Tech Tip to help get the most from your home network hardware.
For information of how to improve your WiFi signal visit my article – Top ways to boost your home WiFi signal
Change Your WiFi channel number
Wireless routers will typically by default be set to a fixed channel. Since most routers are ship with a similar pre-selected channel, the wireless signal may interfere with other routers in the vicinity that are operating on the same channel. If you live in a crowded area or big apartment building, changing the wireless channel from the factory default is a good starting point if your wireless signal strength is poor.
Give your router some space
The biggest advantage of a wireless router is that it can penetrate doors and walls – but that doesn’t mean you can stash it out of sight in a cubby hole or use it as a stand for your stack of DVDs. Try to keep it in a central location, out in the open away from other wireless devices and ensure its vents and air holes aren’t covered.
Secure your WiFi with WPA2
Most modems will come with at minimum the 2.4Ghz wireless network active and ready to use with standard WPA2 security enabled. The SSID and password are usually in plain text stamped on the side of the modem. WPA2 is the most secure method at the moment so this should be ready to use. It’s a good idea to log in to your modem to make sure that it is in fact using WPA2 and while you are there change the password to a complex password that you and your household can easily remember. WPA3 is the next generation of Wi-Fi security and offers the latest security protocols. If your Modem can support this then you will be using this as a standard.
Restrict access to specific PCs
If you really don’t want to use encryption, you can force your router to only allow connection from specific PCs and devices. This is a great way to ensure only restricted devices can connect to your network. Your router identifies each computer or device by the unique MAC address of its network adaptor. Log into your modem to find this setting and provide a list of MAC addresses that you are happy to allow. This option, while very secure can be annoying to have the trouble of adding new mac addresses all the time.
Disable SSID broadcast
When connecting to a wireless network you will often see multiple networks in range for you to connect to, given you know the password. These network names are known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). Routers from the same manufacturer generally ship with the same SSID; ‘Netgear’ or ‘Cisco’, for example.
It’s a good idea to log into your router to change the SSID to something unique to set your router apart from those of your neighbours. Once you have all of your devices successfully connected you can opt to turn off broadcasting of the SSID altogether. This ensures your router isn’t displayed in the list of available networks to others, and won’t be a target for potential hackers.
Keep your router’s firmware updated
Router and modem manufacturers are constantly fixing bugs and improving their firmware on their devices. New versions might make better use of the various components in the router, add extra features or allow the device to run more efficiently. It’s a good idea to upgrade the firmware of the router regularly. To do this jump on to the manufacturer’s website and search for your model and download the software. There will be a section within the web console where you will be able to easily update the software and should only take a few minutes.
Check your DNS speed
DNS is what fetches you a website by translating the web address, such as https://supertechman.com.au, into a bunch of machine-friendly numbers called an IP address. The speed at which DNS can resolve the address for you factor in the speed at which the page will load. Generally, it’s up to the ISP to put up a DNS server. However, there are other free services as well, including the likes of OpenDNS and Google Public DNS. Try a different public DNS server to see if that helps your Internet speed
Turn on UPnP
Universal Plug and Play help smart devices that you have in your household that support UPnP to discover each other. Once turned on from within your router, UPnP enables a compatible infrared device, a Bluetooth phone or IoT device to see and talk to each other.
Share files and printers on your home network
The most logical use of a network is to share files and resources such as printers. This is the job of the SMB protocol. SMB allows you to write files to a remote network share or be used to share a printer attached to a Windows machine.
Plug in USB drives to your router
Typically, if you wanted to share files on the network, a network-attached-storage, or NAS, device was your best option. New routers enable you to plug in one or more USB devices such as hard drive and have them available to all of your devices on your network.