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How to get started with any wireless home router

Want to set up your wireless router, but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. The assortment of cables, ports, and other components stashed in your router leaves most people scratching their heads. Every router is different, and the specific steps for setting them up depend on your model. In most cases, the easiest thing to do is to follow the instructions that come with the device. But if you can’t find those instructions, or just don’t understand them, these general steps should help. They apply to most routers on the market today, and can also help if you’re trying to set up a used router.

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This tutorial assumes you’re setting up a router to be the primary router in your home. We’re going to assume you have a modem — be it cable, fiber, or DSL — that is already set up and working properly. Finally, we’re going to assume you have a laptop with an Ethernet port, though a desktop computer that’s near your router could also work. With these caveats in mind, let’s get started.

Step 1: Connect your router to your modem and laptop

Don’t plug your router into the power outlet just yet. Instead, the first thing you’re going to do is connect your modem to the WAN port, with an Ethernet cable.

Netgear Nighthawk AC2600 router
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Not sure what the WAN port is? Most consumer routers feature five Ethernet ports, four of which are called the LAN ports (local area network) and another called the WAN (wide area network) port. The WAN port looks the same as the LAN ports, but it’s often a different color and spaced apart from them. In the above photo, for instance, the WAN port is yellow and labeled “Internet.” Sometimes it will be labeled “WAN.” This port is intended to connect your router to the modem, and the outside world from there. The LAN ports are intended for connecting to local devices.

Plug one Ethernet cable into your modem, and the other end into your router’s WAN port. Then plug another Ethernet cable into a LAN port, using it to connect your laptop. With that done, you can now plug your router’s power adapter into the wall.

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