How to set up a fast 802.11ac wireless network

Make the switch from 802.11n to 802.11ac in order to turbo-boost your file transfers

How to set up an 802.11ac network

Once you've bought your new 802.11ac router, you'll need to set it up. In doing so, make sure you don't throw out any of the packaging. Most new routers on the market come with a little label in the package (or stuck on the router itself), which gives you the names and passwords of its wireless networks. Because you have this wireless information, it means that you can simply power on the router and then use a laptop or tablet to log in to its Web interface and set up your Internet connection.

But let's backtrack a little. If you've got a wireless router only, then you will have to make an extra physical connection: your modem will need to be plugged in to the router's Ethernet port that is labelled 'WAN' or 'Internet'. This is what will allow the router to communicate with your modem. If you have bought an ADSL2+ modem-router unit, then all you will have to do is plug in your telephone line to the ADSL port on the router.

To get on the Internet, you will have to log in to your wireless router's Web interface. The instructions for doing so vary depending on the router, with some having their own software for you to run, while others simply tell you to type in an IP number in a Web browser's URL bar (usually a number such as 192.168.1.1). The login details for your router should have been supplied in the box, with the username and password usually being variations of 'admin' and 'password'.

In the Web interface, look for an 'easy setup' or 'quick setup' feature and go through the steps that are available for entering your ISP details and getting connected to the Internet. For most routers, you will only need your ISP username and password details, though some routers might also ask your for the connection type (usually PPPoE), and the VPI/VCI numbers (these stand for virtual path identifier and virtual circuit identifier). You will be able to get these details either by hunting around on your ISP's Web site, or by just giving them a call.

With the Internet details out of the way, you may want to change the Wi-Fi settings to names and passwords that you will more easily remember, rather than keep the default settings that the manufacturer has given you. This can be a fiddly process if you are changing the Wi-Fi settings over the wireless network through a laptop or tablet, as it means you will have to re-connect one or two times, depending on how your router handles wireless settings.

On some routers, the Wi-Fi name and the password are on separate pages, which means you have to change the name, reconnect to the new name using the existing password, and then change the password and reconnect again using the new password. Make sure you remember to change the details for both the 2.4GHz and the 5GHz network (sometimes these are on separate pages, too), and if there is a Guest network setting, you might want to make sure it's disabled if you don't plan on using it. Guest networks allow you to share your Internet connection with visitors to your home, but they can't access any other devices that have shared folders on your home network.

An example of a Web interface in which the Wi-Fi settings for the network name, security, and band, are on different pages.
An example of a Web interface in which the Wi-Fi settings for the network name, security, and band, are on different pages.

In terms of basic set up, that's pretty much it. As long as all of your client devices (laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones and gaming consoles) all have the wireless credentials entered, then they will automatically connect to your new wireless network. Another way to connect all of your devices is to use the WPS feature. WPS stands for Wi-Fi Protected Setup, and it can be set up in a couple of ways: either by pressing physical buttons on both the wireless router and your client devices within a specific period of time, or by entering a PIN in your client devices, which is generated by the router.

You should check the speeds that are present in the wireless settings for your 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless networks. You can usually turn these values to the maximum (if they are not already), and we have run many routers at the maximum speed during our tests without noticing any problems.

Note that the speed of your network will be dependent on client devices, as we've already mentioned, and also on the distance from which they are operating. The closer your 802.11ac devices are to the router, the better the speeds will be. This means that you shouldn't set up your router too far from your main devices if you can help it. It can be difficult if your router has the modem built in and the port for your phone line is located in a spot that's distant. We'll address some of these issues in our next instalment, in which we will discuss how you can improve the coverage of your wireless network.

Next page: Which 802.11ac router should I buy?

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