Most of us have a wireless router in our homes, and a majority of people never think twice about the device after they get it up and running. However, your router does run on software, commonly referred to as firmware. From time to time manufacturers offer updates to this firmware, but they have to be manually installed by users. I highly recommend you keep your router updated as not only can it improve your performance and reliability, but they sometimes include security fixes which could keep you safe.
I had a friend complaining about slow Internet connectivity, so I checked out her wireless router. It was a hand-me-down from her brother and the firmware (the software that runs the router) was over a dozen versions old, from 2005. After updating, not only did it patch some minor security issues, but her wireless Internet is now running significantly faster. If you know how to login to your router and perform a firmware update, then go do it now! If not, this tutorial will help you walk through the steps needed to do this.
Step 1: Login to the routers interface.
Most routers have a web accessible interface that you can open from your browser when connected to your home network. A few wireless routers do not have this, for example, the Apple Airport and Airport Extreme do not. Instead, you will need to use the Airport Utility to update the firmware instead of following this tutorial. If you have an Apple Airport wireless router, follow this article:
While connected to your home network, you will first need to find your routers IP address, also known as the gateway IP address.
To find your Gateway IP on Windows, follow this guide: http://m.setuprouter.com/networking/how-to-find-your-routers-internal-ip-address/
For OS X, hold the alt/option key and click on your wireless icon in the top right toolbar. You should see “Router:” followed by an IP address like: 10.0.1.1
You can also find this Gateway IP from your iPhone (and other mobile devices) under the Wifi network settings panel.
Some routers also have their default IP printed on the label on the router, so give your router a visual once over.
Common IP addresses for routers are:
If you are having trouble finding the IP, you may find this longer list along with a little trial and error helpful:
Once, you have the IP, you simply need to open your browser, type http:// followed by the IP. For example:
If successful, you should see a login page for your router.
Step 2: Login to your router
More than likely, your router will require a username and password. If you know the username and password, simply log in and skip to Step 3.
If you have no idea what the username and password is, check the label on the router. It may list the administrative password or username and password on it.
Still no luck? Your router may be using a default username and password. Go to the site below and select your router manufacturer and model number. These can both be found on the label of the router. If you can’t find your model, you may need to Google for that model’s user manual. The manual should have the default password listed.
If the default username and password gets you in, that is good news. However, you shouldn’t be using the router default password, so I highly recommend you change the password. Be sure not to forget it!
If you are unable to gain access to the administration panel, and you have tried all the above, you have a bit more work on your hands. If you are not comfortable configuring your wireless network from scratch, it would be best to ask a tech savvy friend to help with this step. You will need to reset your router back to its default, like-new state. This is usually done by pushing a paperclip into a small hole on the back of the router for 30 seconds. However, when you do this, you will lose all your wireless internet settings and will be unable to connect to the internet until it is properly configured again. Setting up your wireless network from scratch is outside of the scope of this article. I recommend you download the user manual to your computer from the manufacturers website before attempting this.
Step 3: Check firmware version & download the update
You may need to explore the administrative interface a little to find the current firmware version and firmware update section.
Some routers will tell you directly in the administration panel if your firmware is up to date or out of date. If it only shows the current version, then you will need to go to the manufacturers website to see what the most current version is. Also, even if your router tells you that your firmware is out of date, you may still need to go to the manufacturers website to download the update.
I recommend you write down the brand, model, and serial number from the router label. Then google the brand name and “support”. For example, “Netgear support” or “Belkin Support”. Once at the support page of the manufacturer, you can enter your router model or serial number to find the user manual and firmware downloads.
Once you have found the support page for your product, download the firmware if a new version is available.
Step 4: Backup your settings and download the user manual
While you are at the manufacturer’s support page for your product, also download the user manual. In case things go poorly, you may need to follow that user manual to get yourself back online.
Next, look around your routers administrative page that you logged into before. See if you can find a section that allows you to create a backup of your settings. If you can find one, be sure to do it! After updating your firmware, some routers will reset and wipe out all your settings. You will then need to reconfigure your router from scratch if you don’t have a backup of your settings that you can import.
I highly recommend you review the user manuals procedures for upgrading the firmware. This will inform you of the specific steps and issues that you may deal with while updating your particular router.
Step 5: Update the firmware!
In the administrative interface of your router, there will be a page where you can upload the firmware file that you downloaded from the manufacturer. Once uploaded, the router will install and restart itself.
If your router loses all its setting during upgrade, you will need to connect to the default, insecure, wireless network that it broadcasts in its like-new state. From there you can restore your settings or reconfigure it from scratch. Refer to the user manual for the specifics of these steps for your router.
Hopefully your router can automatically upgrade your settings during the firmware process and you will be connected back to your wireless network like normal. Note, many routers don’t recommend updating over a wireless connection but rather plugging directly into it. I personally don’t follow this but not plugging directly in could put you at risk of having a new paperweight.
Step 6: Validate
Once your router has completed upgrading, log back into the administrative interface. Check the firmware version it is running to ensure it is running the most up-to-date version. Additionally, if you were using a default administrative password from before, now would be a good time to update it. Ensure you don’t forget it!
I hope you found this helpful and are now experiencing a faster, more reliable, and more secure wireless connection. Be sure to check your router every six months for new updates, and closer to monthly if your router is relatively new. Please leave feedback, especially if you experienced trouble with any of the steps.