How Do I Password Protect my Wireless Network

Wondering "How do I password protect my wireless network?" While wireless network security options vary, password protection is the minimum you should use to prevent your network from being open to anyone with a wireless card. Best of all, it doesn't have to be a difficult process.

Configuring Your Router
When you configure your router for the first time, the setup typically walks you through the process of changing your network name, establishing a password, selecting a security protocol and designating a key. Following this walkthrough during network setup is the easiest way to password protect your wireless network.

You don't have to worry about how to get into your router and select the right options when you do it during install; you simply follow the on-screen prompts. If you didn't get to it during install, though, all is not lost; you can simply login to your router's control panel and set up password protection at a later time.

Accesing Your Router's Control Panel
Different routers have different procedures for logging into the control panel. Consult your user manual to find out how to login on your specific model. Typically you can do this by connecting to your router with a wired connection and typing the following IP address into your Web browser: http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.0.1. The specific IP address varies, depending on your device and configuration.

Once you get the control panel dialogue, enter your username and password; again, consult your router documentation if you didn't change the username and password and it's still set for the default. Once you're in, go to the Security feature under Wireless Network Settings to configure your security and set up password protection.

Choose a Security Protocol
The degree of wireless network protection you enjoy depends largely on the security protocol you select. Most wireless protocols require you to enter a key from your computer or wireless device in order to connect to the network. You only have to enter this key into your wireless device once. After that,  your computer typically saves it and remembers it when you attempt to connect to the network in the future. When you select a wireless network security protocol that requires a key, you're prompted to complete the key field in order to finish the setup.

Many people get this far, and then make a vital mistake at this step: not selecting a key that's strong enough. Your wireless network key should be at least 14 characters, and some routers accept keys up to 127 characters in length. Always use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols when it's allowed. Avoid using personal information, such as your name, date of birth, address, phone number or anything that people who know you could guess easily.

The best key is an absolutely random set of letters, numbers and symbols, but keep in mind that you do need to record this key so you can enter it from your wireless devices to connect to the network. Once you've set up the key and saved your changes, simply select your wireless network from your wireless device, enter the key and you're now using a password-protected network.

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