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What Is Guest WiFi and How to Set It Up

Learn how to set up a guest WiFi network by following the steps described in this article.
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  • Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting
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It has become a common practice for hosts to share the password to their home WiFi network with guests. This practice, however, has serious security implications. After all, you don’t just give each and every guest who enters your home their own key, don’t you?

Of course, you also don’t want your friends and family to be deprived of internet access when paying you a visit just to improve your security. The solution? Guest WiFi network!

What Is a Guest WiFi Network?

A guest WiFi network is basically a secondary network that’s intended to be used exclusively by guests and other temporary users.

Guest wireless networks are commonly created by public-facing businesses to provide customers with internet access without inviting them to the same network that connects their servers, computers, and other IT assets.

Guest networks can also be created by regular home users, and most modern routers make it very easy to do so. When used this way, guest networks prevent guests from accessing shared network resources like printers, network-attached storage, and shared folders.

To serve the intended purpose, it’s a common practice to protect a guest network with a unique password when configuring WiFi encryption and security settings, instead of reusing the one that protects the main network.

Why Set Up a Guest WiFi Network?

Even if you don’t mind sharing your WiFi password with others, there are multiple good reasons to create a guest WiFi network. Let’s explore some of them:

  • Enhanced security: Guides that explain how to stop a WiFi hacker often recommend readers to create a guest WiFi hotspot to segregate devices as a prevention mechanism against snooping. When guest devices are on their own network, any malware that infects them can’t easily spread to other devices on the same network, but the same can’t happen when they’re separated on their own network, which is one extra way how a guest WiFi network can enhance your security.
  • Improved bandwidth: Your router can provide only a limited amount of bandwidth, so it’s not a good idea to share it all with guests, especially if you often perform bandwidth-intensive tasks, such as video conferencing or running a home server. Capable routers let you limit the amount of bandwidth available to your guests, and you should even be able to reserve an entire WiFi band just for your personal devices.
  • Convenience: Even if you don’t care about security or performance, the convenience of running a guest WiFi network is hard to ignore. For example, you can print the password to the guest network on a piece of paper and have it framed so that you can hang it up on a wall like a functional and unique decoration that’s guaranteed to serve well as an ice-breaker.
  • Cost: Another thing that’s great about guest WiFi networks is the fact that they don’t cost anything to create. Most routers — not just high-end ones — support the functionality right out of the box, and enabling it is usually a matter of a single click, which certainly beats buying a new router just to set up an additional WiFi network for guests.
  • Flexibility: Just because you enable a guest WiFi network once doesn’t mean that you have to keep it enabled forever. You can just as easily turn it off — both temporarily and permanently. Your main WiFi network won’t be affected in any way.

As you can see, learning how to set up a guest WiFi network can unlock many valuable benefits, and the next section of this article explains the process step by step.

How to Set Up a Guest WiFi Network

Follow the steps below to set up a guest WiFi network:

  1. Open your router’s admin panel. Modern routers typically come with a companion smartphone app that makes this easy. Older routers can be managed from a web-based panel that can be accessed by entering the router’s IP address in your web browser (common addresses include 192.168.1.1, 192.168.0.1, and 10.0.1.1).
Router’s admin panel
  1. Log in to the admin panel as administrator. To enable a guest WiFi network, you may have to enter the administrator username and password. If you don’t remember chaining them, then you can try “admin/admin” since those are the most common default administrator login credentials.
Log in to the admin panel
  1. Locate the guest WiFi setting. The exact location of the setting will depend on your router’s brand and model, but good places where you can look for it include the Wireless Settings menu and the Extra Features menu.
Locate the guest WiFi setting
  1. Enable the guest WiFi option. In most cases, all you need to do is click the right checkbox or button.
Enable the guest WiFi option
  1. Configure basic settings. To protect the privacy of your guests and provide them with a smooth WiFi experience, you need to configure a couple of basic settings. To start with, enable password protection and use a password that can’t be easily guessed. Next, give your guest WiFi a descriptive name by changing its SSID. Depending on which WiFi standards your router supports, you may also be able to enable or disable individual bands.
Configure basic settings

That’s how easy it is to set up a guest WiFi network from scratch. As you can see, you don’t need to be an expert to complete the above-described steps.

Should you encounter any issues with the performance of your newly created WiFi network, you can use a network analyzer like NetSpot to perform a wireless site survey and analysis to troubleshoot the problem.

NetSpot

NetSpot can collect detailed information about all WiFi networks in your real area and visualize coverage on a map to reveal all signal dead zones, among other things.

Can Your Router Create a Guest Network?

While the guest WiFi functionality is becoming more and more common, there are still some routers that don’t support it. To find out if your router can create a guest network:

  1. Find out exactly which router you have. The information should be written on a sticker located somewhere on your router.
Find out exactly which router you have
  1. Look up the router on its manufacturer’s website. Most manufacturers advertise the guest WiFi functionality as a useful extra feature.
Look up the router on its manufacturer’s website
  1. If you’re still not sure if the router can create a guest WiFi, then don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer directly.
Contact the manufacturer directly

Keep in mind that not all manufacturers call the guest WiFi functionality the same. For example, D-Link refers to it as the Guest Zone.

Guest Wireless Network Can Stop IoT Threats

As we’ve explained earlier in this article, guest WiFi security benefits stem from the separation a guest WiFi creates between guests and devices on the main network.

This separation can also be used to stop Internet of Things (IoT) threats, such as hacking and malware. That way, you don’t have to constantly ask yourself the question, “Who's on my WiFi?” just because you don’t trust your smart home devices to be as secure as their manufacturers claim they are (the reality of IoT security can be alarming).

Instead, you can rest assured, knowing that even the most skilled hacker can’t jump from your guest network to the main network and breach your personal devices.

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If you want to dive deeper into this Wi-Fi thing, check out the following articles about Wi-Fi security, the best apps for wireless networking, inflight WiFi, etc.
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Wi-Fi Site Surveys, Analysis, Troubleshooting runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapter.