You probably don’t pay much attention to that little blinking box that sits in the corner of your home office, but chances are it's a lot more versatile than you realize. Here are five ways you can soften life's little edges by coaxing your router to do more for you.
Set up a guest network
Many routers let you set up two wireless networks that can run simultaneously: one for you and the other for guests in your home. The benefit of this is that you can use a security password to protect the primary network and all household devices that connect to it, while still offering visitors Internet access via the second—a guest network that doesn't require a password. (Some routers also let you set a password for the guest network if you want to restrict access to it.)
Depending on your router, this feature may be turned on right out of the box, or you may have to read the instructions to turn it on yourself. Here's how to tell whether this feature is enabled: Using a Wi-Fi capable phone, tablet, or laptop, search for the list of active wireless networks in your home. If you see two similar names, but one of them ends with the word "guest," the feature is enabled and anyone can connect to that network without a password.
Be careful, though: Your neighbors may have routers with the same feature enabled. Before connecting to a "guest" network, check the network's full name and signal strength to make sure the one you're connecting to is yours, not a neighbor's.
Use a repeater to expand your router's range
In large homes, obstacles such as walls can keep a router's signals from reaching distant rooms or patios. A repeater (sometimes known as a range expander or signal booster) is a device that brings the router’s Wi-Fi signal to hard-to-reach places in the home.
After you set the repeater up to communicate with your existing router, you place it in a favorable location between the router and the rooms that need coverage. In other words, find a spot where there aren't many thick walls between the router and repeater or between the repeater and the rooms that need service.
To do so, you may need to move the repeater a few times, each time checking the signal in the target room. (A repeater typically reduces the transmission speed of a wireless Internet connection by about half to the rooms it services.) Repeaters typically cost less than $100.