How to create a Wi-Fi network for guests. Allow visitors to use your Wi-Fi without sharing the master password. Some routers support guest networks, which are part of the primary network but use a different (or no) password and often limit functionality. Guest networks are almost common in businesses but have also become common for home networks.
Advantages of the guest Wi-Fi network
A guest Wi-Fi network is beneficial to both parties: the owner of the network and the users of the network.
The guest network provides a way for users to log into a network in seconds with little or no configuration on their part. Depending on the guest network configuration, they can access the Internet and local resources on the network such as files, printers, etc.
From an administrator's point of view, the guest network extends the reach of the network to visitors without the need to provide the main network password. Another way a guest network improves security is that the owner can limit what guests have access to (e.g. the Internet but no local resources), which means it helps stop the spread of worms that might enter the a guest's device.
Using a guest network
Joining a guest wireless network works much like connecting to a public Wi-Fi hotspot or Wi-Fi at a friend's home.
Someone who knows the password (a family member, business owner, network administrator, etc.) must provide the password and network name so they know which network to use.
However, some guest networks are fully open, which means there is no password. In fact, the network name (SSID) could also be called “Guest”, “Wifi Guest”, “CompWifi”, “Free Wifi”, “JHotels_guest”, etc.
Free and open Wi-Fi for guests is often what you'll find in malls, restaurants, parks, etc. In other businesses such as hotels, you will often receive guests' Wi-Fi passwords upon check-in. For the wifi network dedicated to guests at home, you will most likely have to ask the owner what his Wi-Fi password is.
Be polite and ask before trying to join someone's guest network. If you plan to use the internet heavily, let them know in advance. Consuming all the bandwidth might be good for you, but it will actually slow down your entire network, so it's always best to get permission first.
Does the router support the guest network?
Business-class routers are the main proponents of guest networks, but some home routers also have features dedicated to guests. You can check the manufacturer's website to be sure or do some research in the router's settings to see if there is an option for a guest network.
The guest network option in a router is generally referred to as being appropriate as a “Guest Network”, but there are some exceptions:
- D-Link routers generally call it "Guest Zone"
- Google Wifi calls this function "Guest Wi-Fi"
- Linksys supports a “Guest Access” tool through its Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Remote Management Interface
Some routers only support one guest network while others can run multiple at the same time. Dual-band wireless routers often support two: one on the 2,4GHz band and one on the 5GHz band. While there is no practical reason for a person to need more than one per band, some wireless routers Asus RT provide up to six guest networks.
When a guest network is active, its devices operate on a separate IP address range from that of other devices. Some Linksys routers, for example, reserve the address ranges 192.168.3.1–192.168.3.254 and 192.168.33.1–192.168.33.254 for guest devices.
How to set up a guest Wi-Fi network
Follow these basic steps to set up a guest Wifi network at home:
Log in to the router as an administrator. This is often done via a web browser via a specific IP address such as 192.168.1.1, but the router may be using a different IP address or using an associated mobile app for logins.
Enable the Guest Wi-Fi option. Most routers have guest networking disabled by default but provide an on / off option to control it. Define the SSID that the guest network should use. This should not be the same as the primary SSID but perhaps something similar so that visitors can understand that the network is yours.
Some routers automatically set a guest network name as the main network name with a “guest” suffix, such as “mynetwork_guest”, while others allow you to choose your own name.
Turn SSID broadcast on or off to keep the network name visible or to hide it from potential guests. Most of the time, we recommend leaving SSID broadcast on so guests can clearly see which network to use. If you disable broadcasting, you will need to provide them with the network name and security details so they can set up the network, which you may want to avoid if you have a lot of guests.
Choose a password for the guest network. This isn't required on some routers, but it may be something you want to use to prevent anyone from accessing the network.
If your router allows you to limit what guests can do, you may have the option to open the guest network for passersby because you are not worried about what they will do on your network. However, if your router simply has a secondary Wi-Fi option for guests that works much like logging into the primary network, choose a secure password.
Remember that unless you block certain types of access on the guest network, visitors will be able to do anything you can. For example, they might use your guest network to illegally download torrents, spread viruses to other devices, monitor network traffic such as passwords typed on websites, etc. In short: if they will have access to your normal network, use a password.
Enable other options as needed. If your router supports it, you might want to restrict access to everything but the internet, or you might be fine by allowing guests to access local resources like file shares.
For example, some Netgear routers provide administrators with a checkbox to allow guests to see each other and access the local network. Leaving this option disabled prevents guests from reaching local resources but allows them to go online through the shared Internet connection.
Another option you may find in your router is a way to limit how many guests can connect to your network at the same time. Choosing a reasonable number is a good way to prevent the network from overloading and slowing to a halt.
ROUTER SPECIFIC INDICATIONS
The above steps provide a general direction for finding and using the router's guest Wi-Fi capabilities. If that's not enough to help, visit the manufacturer's website for more details.
Guest networking is available from these manufacturers and others: Linksys, D-Link, Google, NETGEAR, ASUS, and Cisco.
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