How to Set Up Internet at Your New Home

At a glance

A big step toward feeling settled in your new place is using all your old devices on Wi-Fi again. But first you need to set up your internet connection. Fortunately, it’s never been easier to get a home Wi-Fi network up and running. There are four main steps to getting your new home online:

  1. Find an internet service provider (ISP)
  2. Install your equipment
  3. Set up your wireless network
  4. Connect your devices

These steps are pretty straightforward, but each one has its potential pitfalls. Let’s take a closer look to make sure you check all the boxes.

4 steps to set up your new internet connection

1. Find an internet service provider

The most important factors in choosing your internet provider are the following:

  • Availability
  • Speed
  • Reliability
  • Price
  • Customer service

Availability can narrow down your choices pretty fast. While some cities have a wide selection of ISPs to choose from, smaller towns and rural areas may have only one or two providers.

There are always other options like satellite internet, which can be used anywhere in the US. Using a cell phone as a mobile hotspot is also an alternative option, although we wouldn’t recommend it for most people. Phone plans have much lower data caps and slower speeds than most traditional internet plans. For example, if you like bingeing Netfilx after work, a hotspot plan is not the plan for you.

Want to know which internet providers are available in your area?

Enter your zip code to get a complete list.

 

Speed is the factor that most people think of when choosing an internet plan, though it’s a good idea to consider how much speed you actually need rather than going for the fastest, most expensive plan.

Reliability is often just as important as speed. Certain types of connections, like fiber, are inherently more reliable than others. Cable and DSL often deliver slower speeds than advertised in certain situations, while satellite internet can be disrupted by the weather.

Price seems pretty straightforward, but there are a lot of things that can be overlooked. Make sure to consider upfront costs like installation and equipment fees, which can be a big deal during an expensive move. Also, be wary of plans with hidden fees and price hikes. We like internet plans with simple, transparent pricing.

Finally, consider customer service. When there’s a problem, you want it resolved fast. This is especially important with less reliable types of connections. If you’re considering DSL, for example, make sure that the ISP offering the plan is known for fixing problems quickly and not letting their network fall into disrepair.1

2. Install your equipment

Once you’ve signed up for an internet plan, you need to install the equipment necessary to get your house connected to your provider’s network. There are two ways to do this. You can either pay for a professional technician to install your equipment, or you can install it yourself. There are good arguments for both choices, so let’s take a look at them.

Orange exclamation mark

COVID-19 notice:

COVID-19 notice:

Due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, many ISPs have temporarily paused in-home installation. Technicians will still install new lines to the home but will not set up other equipment like modems and routers. Contact your ISP to find out more about their policy for professional installation in your area.

Before we get started, it’s important to note that if connecting your home to the internet requires burying new cable or connecting to utility poles, you’re going to need a professional installation. Additionally some ISPs require professional installation for some of their top-tier plans to make sure the equipment is installed properly. Be sure to check if self-installation is an option before you get started.

Professional installation

PROS
  • Lets you focus on moving in
  • Doesn’t require technical skill
  • Will handle unexpected problems
CONS
  • Can be expensive
  • Can get in the way of moving in
  • Must be scheduled in advance

Professional installation is definitely the easier of the two solutions. This can be especially helpful if you’re eager to get unpacked or dealing with other important issues with your new home.

The downside is that professional installation can be expensive, especially if your house isn’t already wired for internet, as is the case in many older homes. This does, however, give you the advantage of deciding where the connection enters your home. This means that you can have your modem and router in your office, as opposed to a bedroom or basement.

Professional installation usually takes a few hours, especially if the technicians are wiring your house for the first time. The process is generally pretty smooth, but there are a few things you can do to speed it up:

  • Make sure that your computers, laptops, and smart TVs are unpacked and ready to be connected to your network.
  • Don’t place boxes or furniture in front of outlets.
  • If you have devices on large desks or entertainment centers, make sure they’re pulled out 3–5 feet away from the wall.
  • Keep your pets secured in areas away from where the technicians are working. This can include backyards if the technicians are installing new cables.
  • Make sure that you or another adult can be present in the home throughout the installation.

It’s also a good idea to plan extra time around the installation in case the technicians encounter any problems or show up late. Internet installation is not something you want to squeeze into a particularly busy day.

Self-installation

PROS
  • Usually requires no additional fees
  • Works around your moving schedule
CONS
  • Requires basic technical skills
  • Forces you to resolve problems yourself

Self-installation can seem daunting, especially for those without a technical background, but it’s usually pretty straightforward. It can also save you a lot of money, which can be a big relief after dealing with moving costs.

There are a few steps to self-installation:

  1. Order your self-installation kit.
  2. Set up your modem and plug it in to your internet connection.
  3. Connect your power cable.

Your self-installation kit typically includes your modem and router (often one device, also known as a “wireless gateway”), a power cable, an Ethernet cable, and a cable to connect to the outlet (the type of cable depends on the type of connection you have). Make sure that your kit has all the necessary parts before starting installation.

Most ISPs give you a single device to serve as both modem and router, but if you have a separate router, connect it to your modem with an Ethernet cable.

After you plug it in, the online connection lights should turn on one by one. This usually takes less than a minute with most devices, though in some cases it can take up to twenty minutes.

Once the lights stop flashing, congratulations! Your home now has an internet connection. Now you just have to make it usable.

3. Set up your wireless network

Most devices in your home, from your laptop to your smart TV to your thermostat, connect to your home network wirelessly. Many of these devices don’t even have the connection to plug in a physical cable, so setting up a wireless network has become an essential step in getting your devices running.

Setting up your network can be divided into two parts: connecting to your router and setting up your network security.

Connecting to your router

Many modern routers have apps that allow you to control them from your phone. If your router doesn’t have an app, you can still set it up the old-fashioned way. All you need is a normal web browser and your router’s IP address. Often, it’s provided in your user manual or printed on a sticker stuck to the router itself. If not, you can always find it yourself.

Connecting your router on a Windows machine:

  1. Open up the Command Prompt and type in IPCONFIG.
  2. The address you’re looking for will be listed as the “default gateway” and will consist of four numbers separated by periods.

Connecting your router on a Mac:

  1. Open your network settings.
  2. Select the “TCP/IP” tab
  3. The IP address will be listed under “router.”

Once you have the IP address of your router, plug a device directly into your router using an Ethernet cable, then type that number into your browser to get to your router’s security settings.

Set up your network security

Before you log in to your router, you will need your username and password. If you brought your router with you from your old home, this will be the same username and password you set up previously. If this is a new router, the default username and password will either be printed on the router (often on a sticker on the bottom of the box) or in the user manual.

Once you have the necessary information, setting up your network security is easy:

  1. Log in using your username and password.
  2. Change your network name (SSID).
  3. Set your security protocol to WPA2.
  4. Set your new password.

Although you can simply use the defaults, we highly recommend changing both, as it makes your home network much more secure.

Your network name, often called its SSID, is what you and other people will see when searching for Wi-Fi networks in your area. Set it to something that you will instantly recognize when it pops up in the list.

WPA2 is the strongest type of security used on Wi-Fi networks, and it’s sometimes labeled WPA2-PSK or AES. When setting your password, make sure that it’s strong and memorable. It’s also a good idea to make it a password that you don’t mind giving out to guests that might want to use your Wi-Fi, so don’t make it a password you’ve used elsewhere.

4. Connect your devices

If you’ve made it this far, you’re in the home stretch! Your wireless network is up and running, and it’s time to start connecting your devices.

Before you get started, grab a phone or laptop to test your connection. Your wireless network should appear with the name you set and you should be able to log on with your new password. If everything’s working, it’s time to connect your other devices.

Remember that all the devices that were connected to your Wi-Fi in your old home will need their network information updated to connect. This includes not only computers and laptops but also any smart devices you might own.

Recommended resources

Sources

Jon Brodnin, Ars Technica. “Verizon Won’t Fix Copper Lines When Customers Refuse Switch to Fiber.” April 12, 2016. Accessed September 3, 2020.

About Peter Christiansen

Peter Christiansen
Peter Christiansen has been working in tech for over 15 years, working as a computer programmer, game developer, filmmaker, and writer. His writing has been praised by outlets like Wired, Digital Humanities Now, and the New Statesman. He is currently finishing his PhD at the University of Utah.