How to Set Up a WiFi Mesh Network
Mesh Wi-Fi systems, which first appeared on the market a few years ago, have completely transformed the way people interact with their home networks.
When compared to traditional routers, mesh systems usually utilize smaller components known as nodes that are supposed to be more visually appealing because they are intended to be exhibited in your home rather than tucked away in a closet or someplace else out of sight.
In reality, the true appeal of mesh systems for most residential users derives from the fact that they typically come with free mobile apps that make it simple to set up and administer the network from a smartphone or tablet. Because all of the nodes share a single SSID and password, you may go from one room to another without having to log into a larger network or changing your password.
mesh systems are popular because they are designed to be easy and straightforward to use, with the most notable benefits being rapid and simple installation and a seamless house Wi-Fi coverage experience.
Although mesh networks are more user-friendly than traditional networks, there are a few points to bear in mind when selecting and establishing your mesh network. Continue reading to learn how to set up your new mesh system so that you may cover your entire home with wonderful, powerful Wi-Fi.
Read more: Best Wifi Router
What Is a Mesh Wi-Fi System?
The majority of Wi-Fi mesh systems are comprised of a single device labeled as the main router, which connects directly to your modem and is typically available in sets of two or three components. Afterward, you’ll often have one or two satellite modules, also known as nodes, that you’ll distribute around your home, with each requiring simply an electrical connection.
You may acquire more mesh devices if the original set of two or three mesh devices isn’t enough to provide a strong Wi-Fi signal throughout your home. These additional nodes will simply merge smoothly into the existing mesh.
When we say “mesh,” we’re referring to the wireless network that these nodes form among themselves, which not only allows them to transfer wireless communications amongst themselves but also allows them to keep signal strength consistent and strong throughout the network.
If everything is set up correctly, all of these devices will be connected to a single wireless network with the same SSID and password. This means that you won’t have to swap networks and passwords as you go from room to room, as you would with an older, but admittedly typically less expensive, wireless range extender.
The majority of Wi-Fi system satellites communicate with the router and with one another through the use of mesh technology. Each node in the system acts as a connection point for other nodes in the network.
It is easier for the nodes that are further away from the router to produce a robust Wi-Fi signal because they are communicating with other nodes rather than depending on one-to-one interactions with the router.
Not all Wi-Fi systems, on the other hand, employ mesh networking; some, for example, interact with the router and with one another using a specialized radiofrequency. As with mesh networks, the dedicated band frees up the standard-use 2.4GHz and 5GHz channels for usage by the clients.
How Much Coverage Do You Need?
Due to the fact that more coverage typically entails more nodes, you’ll need to determine how much wireless coverage you’ll want before you go out and buy a mesh Wi-Fi system. Begin by calculating the square footage of your home and any outside spaces that you intend to cover. Don’t forget to account for the distance between floors if your property is on more than one level.
Remember that coverage differs from system to system, so be sure to read the specifications before parting with your hard-earned money. Also, bear in mind that every home is unique. In addition to interference from other wireless equipment such as microwave ovens and portable phone systems, structures such as walls, doors, and floors will influence wireless signal propagation.
According to the previous paragraph, virtually all mesh systems are extensible, so if you discover that your system isn’t quite reaching all of the locations in your house, don’t be concerned: You can easily add another node after the first installation.
Read more: Best Mesh Router
In order to set up most Wi-Fi mesh systems, you’ll need to download a mobile app and have a functional internet connection on your smartphone or tablet. Since you’re generally setting your Wi-Fi network in order to obtain an internet connection, it may seem like an oxymoron; however, remember that your cable modem will have already been configured by your internet service provider (ISP). The cellular network of your mobile device is also taken into consideration.
The program will need you to establish an account as well as an administrator password after it has been downloaded. Please make a note of your password in order to avoid having to reset your system in the future. Unplugging the modem or router to which you will be connecting your mesh system is also a good idea (and is suggested by most vendors) since it will allow the modem or router to reset itself and issue a valid IP address to the mesh router node. In order to begin setting up your mesh router, launch the app and follow its directions for connecting it to your modem and adding satellite nodes.
When building up a mesh network, one of the most important considerations is where to put each node for the best Wi-Fi coverage, so that you don’t have any dead zones in your home anymore. Due to the fact that it will be connected to your cable modem or current router through a LAN connection, the main router node, which offers internet access to all of the other satellite nodes, should be put in close proximity to it.
In addition, the router node should be located in the open (rather than in a closet or cupboard) and within reach of an alternating current wall outlet.
The program will search for the node and notify you when it has been located, at which time the node will be assigned an IP address by the server. First, you’ll need to give your new network a name and a password that will be used by all clients that connect to it before you can proceed with the satellite node installation.
Remember that most Wi-Fi mesh systems utilize automated band steering and will establish a single SSID for both radio bands; however, some will allow you to divide the bands, in which case you’ll have to create separate names for the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, which is not recommended.
The location of satellite nodes varies from system to system: Some nodes give more square feet of coverage than others, depending on their technical specifications. It is recommended that you position the second node halfway between your router and any dead zones, much as you would with a range extender, but that the distance between them should not be greater than two rooms, or around 30 feet. If you’re utilizing more than one satellite, make sure to adhere to the two-room policy. Place each node on a bookcase or tabletop, next to a power outlet, out in the open, and off the floor to maximize airflow.
The same is true for multistory buildings: Try to keep the distance between the satellites on the second floor and the ones on the first floor to no more than 30 feet or so. Many systems, fortunately, include an in-app signal test or a physical LED on each node that will alert you if you are too far away from the main node or the node that was previously set up.
If this is the case, the node should be repositioned and another signal test should be performed. More information on how PC Labs evaluates wireless routers can be found here, which includes an explanation of both throughput and signal strength testing.
When deciding where to place your nodes, keep in mind how you’ll link them to other devices like game consoles, televisions, and other entertainment components. Due to the fact that it provides higher rates and does not cause interference with other wireless devices, these gadgets are nearly always better suited to connecting through a cable connection.
A wired LAN connection is supported by the majority of mesh nodes, which means that nodes should be placed within a 6- to 10-foot cable distance (6 to 10 feet) of any devices that would benefit from a wired LAN connection.
Parental Controls and Device Prioritization
It’s time to make use of the functionality of your Wi-Fi mesh system now that it’s been set up. Because they’re designed specifically for home users, many of these systems include parental controls that allow you to create profiles for each member of your family, restrict access to specific websites, and automatically turn off network access during specific times of the day, such as bedtime and dinner.
Almost all Wi-Fi systems include a pause button in the app, which allows you to turn off the internet connection with the push of a button.
Some systems also include age-appropriate parental controls, which are useful for children. Depending on the preset, access to social media, gambling, and adult-oriented websites will be denied to children, while access to social media, gambling, and adult-oriented websites will be allowed to teens and adults. This set of controls may be applied to a family member’s profile and then to each and every device that person uses. You can also develop custom controls to meet the specific needs of your family members.
The QoS (Quality of Service) settings should be used when there are any online gamers in the house or when your mesh system is being used to broadcast video to ensure that bandwidth is allocated where it is most required. This type of configuration typically enables you to drag and drop devices into the High, Medium, and Low priority boxes, allowing gaming consoles and devices that stream video to receive the lion’s share of available bandwidth without having to compete with other devices on the network for bandwidth.
A QoS setting for things like gaming, streaming, surfing, and chatting will be available on the more user-friendly systems, which will allow you to prioritize both devices and apps.
Direct access to smart home devices is another new feature that may become widespread as part of Wi-Fi mesh networks in 2021, and it is expected to grow more popular in the future. This will be included as a new feature in Amazon’s Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 Wi-Fi mesh systems, which will be released late in 2020.
The main routers in this series are not only significantly less expensive than many of their competitors, but they also include a Zigbee smart home device hub built into the main router, which means that items such as smart light bulbs, appliances, locks, and other similar items will be able to connect directly to your wireless network without the need for an additional device hub.
Following the installation and successful operation of your mesh Wi-Fi system, it is recommended that you do frequent checks on network use, visited websites, and client lists. Any good system will send you a push notification whenever a new client enters the network, allowing you to deal with undesirable customers as soon as they appear.
Many systems include inbuilt anti-malware programs that defend against viruses and other harmful information, so keep a watch on network attack logs and quarantine any client devices that have been identified as infected if you suspect your system has been compromised.
Finally, make sure your firmware is up to current, since newer versions of the software frequently improve speed, introduce new features, and address security vulnerabilities.
Consider our overview of the finest wireless range extenders if you live in a smaller house or apartment. They can also rapidly and simply expand your Wi-Fi coverage to extra sections of your home, albeit with a few more setting obstacles than a normal mesh system.
You may also simply update your standard Wi-Fi router, and we’ve compiled a list of the best-rated models to help you out. You may also test your internet speed using Ookla Speedtest after you have completed the setup of your system.