How to configure and optimize the modem to improve Wi-Fi performance

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Follow these simple steps to set up your modem and wireless network the right way.

How do you connect a Wi-Fi modem?

Having a new modem up and running isn't as simple as taking it out of the box and plugging it in. Although it is not that difficult even if you are a beginner. Nowadays, modem manufacturers have made it easier than ever to connect to Wi-Fi quickly and easily. 

But just because you've connected everything and it looks like it's working doesn't mean your network's performance and security are as good as you think. Follow these basic steps to properly set up your wireless modem and optimize your wireless network and connectivity.

Are you interested? What does the modem mean? It is actually a combination of two words

Place and install a Wi-Fi modem

Before starting, you need to consider where you will be placing your modem. Finding an open space towards the center of the house is the best way to ensure optimal coverage. Keep in mind that walls and floors will prevent you from having a good Wi-Fi signal, so the more obstacles you have between your devices and your modem, the weaker (and potentially slower) the signal will be. 

Try to avoid proximity to large metal, glass, brick or concrete objects.

First, you need to connect the modem. For this you will need an Ethernet cable, which we recommend connecting to the WAN (wide area network) port on the back of the modem. 

This port may look slightly different from modem to modem, but it will usually have a distinct color from the other ports and will be labeled "WAN", "Internet" or something similar. From the WAN port, connect the other end of the Ethernet cable to the Ethernet port on the back of the modem. 

Make sure your modem is turned on and you will be ready to connect to the Internet. Then, of course, you need to plug the modem into a wall outlet and turn it on.

Many modern modems can be fully configured from your smartphone. Manufacturers will have their own unique setup app, so check out your modem's quick start guide to make sure you download the right one. However, not all modems have a mobile app. 

Some have a dedicated website that loads the modem's internal configuration page. You can find this URL by connecting your computer to one of the modem's LAN ports with an Ethernet cable and typing or a similar address (as specified by the modem's documentation) in your browser's search bar.

The first step in getting your network up and running will be setting up a username and password. If you happen to have a modem used, the username and password can be reset to factory defaults by holding down a button found somewhere on the modem (usually on the back). 

Often, these defaults are something like “admin” and “admin”, which every would-be hacker knows about, so be sure to change them right away. Make sure you use a strong password that includes a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

How to configure a modem?

With the username and password set, you can proceed to configure the modem settings. Like cooking a dinner, there is no "right" way to install a modem and each model will likely have its own unique steps, depending on its characteristics. 

For this reason, trying to describe every possible configuration path here would be exhausting and pointless. It is highly recommended that you consult your modem manual for details.

That said, we have some recommendations:

Use the simple installation wizard. Most modems provide some sort of short installation procedure that requires little more than an SSID and password. If in doubt, start with this. (The SSID is the Wi-Fi name of your modem.

It could be something like "asus" or "netgear" out of the box, but feel free to change it to something creative, like "FBI-surveillance-van".) You can always log back into the modem app or browser page to access more advanced options to refine your experience.

Related: How to change the default name (SSID) of a wireless modem?

Use the WPS button to connect Wi-Fi devices. If you've ever paired two Bluetooth devices, like a smartphone with headphones, you already have a basic understanding of how it works. Let's say you want to connect a Windows 10 laptop to the modem. 

On your laptop, you will see your modem's SSID appear in the list of visible wireless networks in Windows. When you select the SSID and try to connect, Windows will ask you to enter the network security key, which is an unnecessarily technical way of telling the password. 

If you've done a good job with your security and created a password with random uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, you will have completely forgotten it and won't want to mess with typing. 

Instead, hit the WPS button on your modem. You should have at least a minute for the modem and laptop to find and pair properly. Note that WPS only works with Windows and Android devices.

If in doubt, let the modem do it. The "Auto" configuration tools are your friends. In more than 20 years, I've never had a reason not to allow the modem to manage my IP addresses with Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), a protocol that automatically assigns IP addresses to devices. 

Just because you can change something doesn't mean you should. At least during the setup and early use stages, go with the automatic settings.

Is it better to connect to the 2,4GHz or 5GHz band?

On the client device side, all things being equal, 5 GHz connections will provide better short-range performance than 2,4 GHz. This is because 5 GHz, while a little faster, cannot travel that far or transmit through some objects due to the shorter wavelengths of that band. 

The 2,4 GHz band tends to have more congestion and fewer channel options. That said, if you want to continue using 2,4GHz, consider experimenting with channel selection.

"Auto" usually does a decent job of jumping between channel options and finding the best one, but if you're struggling with client connections, try manually setting the channel to 1 or 11. The 2,4GHz band has a total 11 channels that can be switched to avoid interference, with channel 6 usually default. 

Read here: How to improve your WiFi by choosing the best channel on the modem

When you select a certain channel, there is usually a spillover signal. So selecting channel 2, for example, will often spill traffic on channels 1 and 3. Therefore, switching to extremes of 1 or 11, the points furthest from the default of 6, can sometimes ensure the best performing connections.

After the “simple” setup, some modems will guide you through some additional steps, such as creating parental controls (features that allow you to filter out certain types of content) and automatically updating the modem's firmware. 

After these preliminaries, go to “wireless setup” or a similarly named tab / screen to activate the Wi-Fi network. Once the network is activated, you can connect to any device and start browsing the web.

Let's take it to the next level

With most modems, simply turning on the network and connecting to the Internet only scratches the surface of what is possible. While a tab name like "advanced settings" may seem a little intimidating, the menus contained here often allow you to control some of your modem's most useful features. Below we will cover some of the more interesting elements.

Quality of Service (QoS)

QoS is one of the most useful features for online entertainment. It allows you to select and prioritize upstream and downstream traffic on your network, which can provide a performance boost for your favorite streaming service or online game. Most modems will have a tab on their app / configuration page dedicated to traffic monitoring. 

Go to this and find the QoS tab. Enable QoS, so you can prioritize certain services, such as online gaming or video streaming. You can also prioritize devices on the network. Years ago, this was typically provided by providing the unique MAC address of the device and setting a priority level for that device. 

These days, vendors like Netgear are increasingly providing more intuitive graphical approaches to the same idea, as in the manual prioritization screen below.

The QoS options can also let you see how your total bandwidth is being distributed by the device, so you can pinpoint anyone grabbing more of their right or desired share.

These days, most of the traffic is downloadable in nature, especially with media streaming. If you feel your streaming services are paused for buffering every now and then, try using QoS to prioritize their traffic. However, in general, only players need to worry about prioritizing upstream.

Guest networks

A guest network is useful if you prefer to keep all data and files on your personal network away from others. To configure one, go to the app / modem configuration page and go to the wireless settings. Most modems have guest networks disabled by default, so there will usually be a page to configure this. 

Confirm the network name and password and the network will be configured.

We highly recommend that you at least apply WPA2 encryption to your regular Wi-Fi network, but you may want to leave your guest network "open" for easier access. While convenient, this could also encourage connections from neighbors and people parking on the pavement. 

Make sure you limit the access privileges to the guest network, such as what bandwidth they can use or what hours the network is active. You may also want to limit the guest network to the 2,4GHz or 5GHz band, but not both.

Traffic monitoring

It may be helpful to know how to see the traffic passing through your network, as well as the ability to limit that traffic. If you are interested in either of these two functions, go to your modem's advanced settings menu. 

There will usually be an option called traffic monitor, traffic meter, traffic monitor or something similar. Enable this feature and you will be able to observe your modem traffic. 

In some modems you can also choose to limit inbound traffic (download), outbound traffic (upload) or both. Not all modems have a traffic monitoring feature, but there are many online services that can do this for you, including Solarwinds RTBM or PRTG.

fTP server

Internet elders may remember the days before Dropbox, when they moved large files between required systems by jumping through different hoops with dedicated file transfer protocol applications. FTP apps may no longer be used, but technology can still be a handy way to transfer a lot of files without bothering with cloud services.

FTP servers are only available for modems with at least one USB port. The first thing you need is a USB storage device, such as an external hard drive, connected to the modem. Next, go to advanced settings on the app / configuration page and find a tab named USB storage, USB settings or something similar. 

Once in that tab, click the checkbox for "FTP over the Internet" or similar. The USB device will now be available for network users. If you want to be the only one with access to the USB device, you can change the read and write access to be administrator only.

Some modems will set you up for read and write access for specific folders. Simply click "new folder", "select folder" or something similar and navigate to the desired folder on your USB device. Select the folder and click Apply Changes.

MAC address filter

Think of a Media Access Control (MAC) address as a universal unique name for any network device. The address is related to the hardware of the device. Some modems allow you to set up a list of specific MAC addresses that can (or cannot) access the network. It's like blacklisting or whitelisting which devices can access your LAN.

To do this, find the MAC filter in the Advanced Settings tab. Dual or triple band modems typically select you which band the filter will apply to, and some modems will select you whether the MAC address entered will be the only accepted address on the network or the only address rejected by it. 

Once you've set your preferences for those options, the last step is to find the MAC addresses on the devices you want to filter and type them in.

For mobile devices such as phones or tablets, you can find the MAC address by going to the device settings and going to the About tab on the phone. From here, some devices may have a tab called Status, where you can find the MAC address, while others have it readily available in the About phone section. 

On a Mac or PC, go to your device's network settings page and open the network and sharing center. Click on your Wi-Fi connection and look for Details or Properties. This area will display a myriad of information, including the “physical address” of the device, another term for MAC address. (On a Mac, it's called the “Wi-Fi Address”).

Parental control

Parental Controls, at a minimum, allow you to set time limits for when each permitted device (identified by its MAC address) can be on the network. So, if your child has a bad habit of using devices a long time before bed, but you don't want to constantly play the bad cop who has to supervise where and when the devices are turned on every night, that's no problem, use our tutorial. beginning of paragraph.

Further Reading:

  • How to access the Wi-Fi modem settings
  • Slow Wi-Fi / Internet connectivity issues on Samsung Galaxy A20
  • Slow Wi-Fi / Internet connectivity issues on Samsung Galaxy A40
  • Slow Wi-Fi / Internet connectivity issues on Samsung Galaxy S10
  • What does the modem mean? It is actually a combination of two words

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