Router Admin Basics

FOR~GO
(For Geeks Only)
By Joe Callison
23 May 2020

What we refer to as a router is typically a multi-function device that performs more tasks than just routing communications among multiple Ethernet connected devices on your home network and to your internet service provider’s network. It is also a gateway to remote networks through the internet, and usually includes a wireless access point and a firewall. It is sometimes incorporated into a cable, fiber or DSL modem rather than being a separate unit.  

A separate modem is a device that converts signals from the internet service provider to a Wide Area Network (WAN) or Internet port for connection with an Ethernet cable to a WAN or Internet port on a separate router for routing to your devices connected to your home Local Area Network (LAN). Routers typically have 3 or 4 ports marked as LAN for Ethernet wired devices. If you need more, you can add a simple “unmanaged” Ethernet switch with the number of additional ports needed. It will use one of the router LAN ports for its input and provide multiple LAN ports for connection to devices.

The typical stand-alone consumer purchased router network address and default user name/password is:

  • URL: 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1
  • User name: admin or [none]
  • Password: password or admin or [none]

Recent routers often also have a program or app for easy configuration or a simple web name for access instead of numbers. The defaults for access are typically printed somewhere on the router. If not, it can be found by an internet search for the user manual for the specific brand and model. If the router is provided and managed by the internet service provider, then you may not have access to it and must go through their technical support for changes, that they can usually do remotely. If there is an administrator name and password printed on the provided router then you should be able to access either all or some of the settings. If there is an SSID and password printed on the router, that is for the wi-fi access only, not the router administrator settings. The SSID and password for wi-fi can also be changed in the router settings if you have access. There is often also a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button on the router to automatically transmit the connection credentials for a brief period to devices equipped to receive it.

Lists of defaults for some popular brands/models:

For a router that you purchased or can manage, you should always change the admin password from the manufacturer’s default for security of your network and to avoid becoming a participant in an internet bot that can take over your router to attack others. If you lose the password, you can press a reset button on the router while it is powered, usually for several seconds, which will change it back to the default settings. You can then access the administrator settings and change the password, reconfigure the wi-fi SSID and password, etc.

Recent routers often have multiple wi-fi radios, with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The SSID is usually made unique to identify which frequency you are connecting to but the password can be the same or different for each frequency. Often a separate network with Guest SSID and password can also be created to prevent access to your private home network by guests. The SSIDs can be set to broadcast so that anyone within range can see them, or not broadcast so you would have to know what they are to connect for an extra layer of security.

Routers have a lot of other features. One very useful example is the ability to set static IP assignments, meaning that instead of the router automatically assigning a dynamic IP address from a range of numbers to a device each time it powers up and is connected to the router. A static or reserved IP address outside of that range of dynamic numbers can be set in the router for a device such as a printer so that it never changes and can be found more reliably from other devices by referencing a static IP address in the printer network settings configuration.

Other features available in the more expensive routers are for better performance for serious gamers or managing lots of simultaneous streaming of video data for large families or other groups of people. They can cost over $300 and are overkill if you do not need it. On the other hand, the really cheap ones under $100 are not as likely to be well supported with available firmware updates as new vulnerabilities in routers are discovered. They are more of a throw away design good for maybe 4 or 5 years of use before becoming obsolete or unreliable, in my opinion.

There are many more technically complicated features of routers that most people never use, but are available to lockdown the router for even more security. Disabling unused ports, MAC address filtering, website blocking, scheduling access, etc. can often be configured.

For some basic and useful router features, the best source is the user manual for your router. For general information you can also find many internet articles such as the following:

 

Posted by Joe Callison

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.