Apple has published a document detailing the best settings to use on your router and highlighting some of the security weaknesses you might encounter if you had the wrong settings.
Luckily most routers will be preset with the optimum settings, but it's wise to check.
To access your router software you will need to do the following:
- Find out the IP address of your router. On your Mac you'll find this in System Preferences > Network then click on Advanced > TCP/IP and find the Router IP.
- Having found your Router IP address cut and paste this into a web browser.
This will open the software interface for your router.
- You will probably need to log on to the admin account - you should find the password on the card that came with your router.
In the document Apple advises that you update the software on your devices so that you can take advantage of the latest security updates. So make sure that your router firmware - and the software on your iPhone, Mac, iPad - is up to date.
In our case we can see at the bottom of the page that our BT Home Hub 5 is running Software version 126.96.36.199.83.8.264 and that it was last update on 27/02/19. Our router has an automatic update feature. You should be able to set your router to automatically install software and firmware updates. (We have a round up of the Best Mac Routers here)
Apple also advises that you back up your router settings before you begin in case you need to reset - your router software should give you the option to do this (if it doesn't maybe take some screen grabs as you go so you can return it to how it was).
Now you can check that the following settings are selected, as advised by Apple.
Choose a unique network name (SSID)
You need to use a unique case-sensitive name for your Wi-Fi network (also known as a SSID - service set identifier). This is so that there won't be clashes with other routers in your neighbourhood. All routers on your network should also use that same name for every band they support - don't give 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands different names.
Don't hide your network name
Beware that while you can set your router to hid its network name this doesn't necessarily conceal it from detection and unauthorised access. Apple says "using a hidden network might expose information that can be used to identify you and the hidden networks you use, such as your home network. When connected to a hidden network, your device might show a privacy warning because of this privacy risk." If you want to make sure your network is secure we recommend reading this: Mac Security Tips.
Use WPA3 Personal if you can
Apple recommends WPA3 Personal for better security, although you can use WPA2/WPA3 Transitional with older devices (we don't have WPA3 on our router).
Don't turn off any security settings
Apple discourages people from using any settings that turn off security, such as None, Open, or Unsecured. Doing so would disable authentication and encryption and allows anyone to join your network.
Don't restrict MAC addresses
You can set up your router to allow only devices with specified MAC (media access control) addresses to join your network, which you might think would stop unknown devices from joining your network. However there are a few reasons why doing so would be a bad idea, one disadvantage is that some Apple devices will periodically change their MAC address. Apple also indicates that limiting MAC addresses wouldn't prevent unauthorised access to your network and notes that MAC addresses can easily be copied, spoofed (impersonated), or changed.
Choose all the radio modes available to you
Apple recommends that you select all the radio modes available to you: Wi-Fi 2 through Wi-Fi 6 (that's 802.11a/g/n/ac/ax). In our case we only have 802.11 b/g/n. By selecting all you ensure that your devices will always connect using the fastest radio mode they can use.
Enable all Bands
Similarly you should enable all bands - the more bands you have the greater the data capacity and performance for your network.
If the bands represented a railway, each channel would be an individual track. Each band of your router is divided into multiple, independent communication channels. As before, you should set channel selection to automatic so that your router selects the best Wi-Fi channel for you.
Then there's the channel width, which is how large the pipe is for transferring data. Wider channels are faster but more susceptible to interference and more likely to interfere with other devices. The channel width depends on which band - 2.4GHz or 5GHz - you are using:
2.4GHz band (20MHz channel width) - helps to avoid performance and reliability issues, especially near other Wi-Fi networks and other 2.4GHz devices, including Bluetooth devices.
5GHz band (includes all widths 20MHz, 40MHz and 80MHz channel width) - ensures the best performance and compatibility with all devices. Wireless interference is less of a concern in the 5GHz band.
DHCP (dynamic host configuration protocol) assigns IP addresses to devices on your network. This should be enabled if otherwise address conflicts might prevent some devices from connecting to the internet. (Your network should have only one DHCP server).
Beware the double NAT
NAT (network address translation) should only be enabled if your router is the only device providing NAT on the network. A 'double NAT' might cause devices to lose access to certain resources on the network or internet.
WMM (Wi-Fi multimedia) should be enabled as it prioritises network traffic to improve the performance of a variety of network applications, such as video and voice. WMM is probably enabled on your router by default.
Along with the above tips, Apple also makes a few suggestions about other things that might affect Wi-Fi connections.
Enable location services
Apple emphasises that regulations in different countries and regions will define the Wi-Fi channels and wireless signal strength allowed in that location.
In order to make sure you are getting the best performance where you are based you should ensure that Location Services is turned on for Wi-Fi networking. Here's how:
- Go to System Preferences on your Mac.
- Click Security & Privacy
- Click Location Services
- Make sure you have Enable Location Services selected.
- Scroll to the bottom of the list of apps and services and click on Details beside System Services.
- Make sure that Wi-Fi Networking is selected.
- Click Done.
On an iPhone you should follow these steps:
- Go to Settings.
- Tap Privacy.
- Tap Location Services.
- Location Services should be on - if it isn't tap the slider so that it is green.
- Swipe down to the bottom of the page and tap System Services.
- Make sure that you have Networking & Wireless (or Wi-Fi Networking) selected.
We have these tips for How to improve Wi-Fi signal and speed up slow internet.
And if you are experiencing problems with your Wi-Fi read: How to fix WiFi on a Mac.