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How to access router settings and change your Wi-Fi password

Changing your home's Wi-Fi password on a regular basis is one of the best ways to keep your network secure. Here's how to go about it.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

It's always been important to set a strong password for your home's Wi-Fi network, and it's a good habit to change that password on a semiregular basis, too. That said, a lot of us tend to set our routers up and then never think about them again. Perhaps you let your ISP set up your network when you first started service with them, or maybe you asked a tech-savvy friend set it up for you. Maybe it's just been a while since you've messed with your router's settings and you can't remember where to start.

Whatever the reason, I'm assuming that you're reading this because you'd like to change your home's Wi-Fi password (great!), and you aren't sure how to do it (no problem!) The good news? Changing your network password is probably a lot easier than you think -- and if it's been a while since you've messed with your router, it's probably easier than it was the last time you tried, too.

On top of that, maintaining a strong password for your home's Wi-Fi network is more important than ever as we continue working and learning from home (and filling the place with all sorts of connected gadgets and gizmos). A good password will help keep all of that secure, and it'll prevent people from using your network without you realizing it. Here's how to update yours (and if you're looking for expert guidance on how to pick and remember an appropriately strong password, check this out ).

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Most routers come with a free companion app that will guide you through setup and offer quick access to network settings. Typically, that includes the ability to update your network name and password.

Screenshots by Ry Crist/CNET

First things first: Does your router or ISP offer an app for that?

Just about every router these days comes with a companion app to help guide you through setup, and apps like those will usually also let you log in to access your router's settings -- including the network name and password. Additionally, most internet service providers (ISPs) offer an app to manage your account, and if you rent your router or gateway from your ISP, that app will likely include quick access to your network settings, too. In either case, downloading that app and logging in will be the fastest and easiest way to change your network's password.

I've included links to the most common network control apps below -- just figure out what sort of router you're using, and then tap Android or iOS depending on what sort of phone or tablet you're downloading the app on. Once it's downloaded, open the app while you're connected to your router's network, and then follow the instructions for creating an account and logging in. From there, the option to change your network's name and password should be prominently featured in the app's settings section.

No app? No problem

If your router doesn't offer an app, or if you just don't want to use it, then you'll need to access your router's settings via the web. Most manufacturers maintain a website that'll let you do exactly that -- your device just needs to be connected to whatever network your router is currently putting out (either a wired or wireless connection is fine). Here are some manufacturer-specific links to those websites:

(Note: Not all of the links above may load for you, depending on the make and model of the router you are using.)

In most cases, you can also navigate to your router's settings in a web browser by typing its IP address into the URL bar (in fact, the link from Linksys above just redirects you to the default IP address for Linksys routers). To find your router's specific IP address, connect to its network on your computer, phone or tablet, and then head to the network settings on that device. Pull up the details of the router's network, and you should be able to find the router's IP address listed next to "router" or "default gateway."

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With most routers, you can find default login info printed on the underside. If you're struggling to connect, that login info should work after a hard reset (you might need a paper clip for that).

Chris Monroe/CNET

If it's your first time logging in to adjust your router's settings, you might be asked to create an administrator password, which is a separate password from the one that lets you join the network (the one you're currently trying to change). If an administrator password like that has already been set, you'll need to enter it in order to access your router's settings. If it uses them, your router should have the default administrator username and password printed on the bottom of the device -- if those don't work, it means that the login info was already changed to something else (perhaps by you, the last time you tried logging in).

Don't remember what that administrator password is? Don't worry -- you can reset to the original administrator credentials by giving the router a hard reset, which probably requires holding a button down with a paperclip for a few seconds. Just make sure to change back to a stronger administrator password after you're in -- and this time, write it down on a sticky note and stick it to the bottom of the router. Future you will be very thankful.

Once you're logged in via the router's web portal, you should find easy access to all of your basic network settings, including the option to change the network's name (SSID) or password. After doing so, make sure to look for a button that saves your new setting -- once you click that, you should be all set.

New password -- now what?

Now comes the slightly annoying chore of reconnecting all of your home's Wi-Fi devices with the new, updated password. This wasn't such a big deal back when the only things most people were connecting to their home networks were a computer or two and maybe a printer. Now, with mobile devices for every family member, gaming consoles, security systems and streaming devices that rely on a constant connection to the web, and a smattering of smart home gadgets scattered throughout most homes these days, reconnecting everything is a whole new ballgame.

Yes, logging in to all of those devices and updating the password so that they can connect once more is a bit tedious -- but please, don't let that stop you from updating your home network's password when the time comes. Updating your Wi-Fi password actually makes for a perfect opportunity to adjust device settings and upgrade firmware for all of the tech throughout your home, which is another really good tech habit. Thinking of it all like a yearly chore akin to spring cleaning feels appropriate -- and like any good spring cleaning session, once your work is done, you should feel free to sit back, relax, and pat yourself on the back for scratching one off the list.