Technology Explained

7 Essential Wireless Router Features You Should Be Using

Joel Lee 30-04-2018

If you think a wireless router’s only job is to connect you to the world of the Internet, you’re missing out on a lot of its awesome goodness. Sure, maybe all you need is Internet access. In that case, you don’t really have to worry about all the tricks your router can do. But for those of you that want to maximize your experience, there are some advanced wireless router features that will make your life much easier.


Logging into your router’s administration panel can be daunting. Some panels, like my own Linksys router, are relatively simple and clean. Others, like the open-source powerhouse known as DD-WRT, can be nothing short of overwhelming. There are just so many pages and options–and fiddling with the wrong one can leave you stranded without Internet.

In this article, I’m going to walk you through some of the most common yet useful features available in most routers these days. These features are safe to play around with as long as you exercise caution. But I must say that if you happen to render your router useless, MakeUseOf does not claim any responsibility. Be careful and be smart!

Security Encryption

wireless router featuresWireless security is the most important feature you could have. It almost seems like common sense–so much so that it probably doesn’t require much attention given that. However, for the wireless neophytes reading this, you should know that not all encryption was made equal.

Digging through your router settings, you’ve probably encountered a wireless security setting that let you choose between WEP, WPA, and WPA-2. WEP is the weakest of them all while WPA-2 is the strongest, but WPA-2 is slower and more resource intensive than WPA. Play around with WPA or WPA-2 on your network to see which one works best. For most homes, WPA-2 is the way to go.

Always keep tabs on your wireless router’s security. You wouldn’t want someone to hijack it, nor would you want strangers leeching your bandwidth or performing illegal activities by means of your network.


Filtering by MAC Address

features of wireless routerEvery device that can be networked in some way will have a unique identifier known as a MAC address (Media Access Control address). Your computers, your iPhones, your Xboxes and Playstation 3s–anything that can connect to the Internet will have a unique MAC address.

MAC filtering, then, is a feature that allows you to allow and deny specific devices from connecting to your router. Some routers let you allow/deny MAC addresses on an individual basis, while older firmware only lets you set a list of MAC addresses that are all allowed or all denied.

If you want maximum security, you should only allow your own MAC addresses to access the router, but this can be an inconvenience when friends and relatives want access to the Internet. Instead, if you only want to ban a certain someone, then the deny feature is what you’ll want.

Port Forwarding

features of wireless routerThe way the Internet works, every piece of data that travels through the Internet has a destination IP address and a particular port. This port is what differentiates, say, an instant message data packet from a World of Warcraft data packet. Both have the same destination IP (same computer) but different ports (different programs).


When you use a router, the IP address of that router is the one being broadcast to the Internet. Therefore, when you receive data packets, they’re arriving at the router, which must then forward that data packet to a specific device. Routers are usually smart enough to do this on their own, but certain situations require ports to be forwarded manually.

Programs that utilize uncommon port ranges (video games are a big culprit here) often require port forwarding. Server hosts also need to forward their ports. Just be aware that if some of your connections are failing, you may need to forward some of your router ports to the right device.

Quality of Service & Wi-Fi Multimedia

features of wireless routerThroughout your time on the Internet, your router will be bombarded with hundreds of different types of data, including: instant messages, video streams, websites, torrents, software updates, video games, and more. When your network activity is at a high point, you may want to prioritize certain data packets over others. That’s what Quality of Service does.

With Quality of Service, you can grant greater bandwidth priority to, say, World of Warcraft packets over instant messenger packets. What does this mean? Well, if your router has a bunch of packets waiting to be sorted and sent out to the right devices, it will send out all World of Warcraft packets before sending out any instant messenger packets.


Wi-Fi Multimedia is actually a specialized form of Quality of Service that’s much easier to use. The option is either enabled or disabled–and that’s it.

Wi-Fi Multimedia works to improve reliability and performance for all data packets related to multimedia: audio, video, and voice. However, the technology is still pretty new, so there’s no real guarantee that you’ll see extreme improvements. But it’s worth testing if you use a lot of online multimedia and your network seems to be having performance problems.

Guest Access

important features of wireless routersWhen your friends come over and ask to use your Internet, do you just hand out your router password to them? If so, you better hope they’re very trustworthy because you’re letting them connect directly to the router and to all other devices connected to that router as well. There is a safer and easier alternative that doesn’t require you to give away your main router password.

Guest Access is a feature that lets users connect to your router in a guest capacity. Guest users gain Internet access but not access to other devices on the network, thus improving your security just a bit.


Factory Defaults

wireless router featuresThe last feature is one that I’ve used on numerous occasions: reset to factory default settings. As a tinkerer, I like to play around with my devices and routers are no exception. There are times, however, when I’ll mess with the wrong setting and render my router broken or seriously hindered. For those times, the factory reset is invaluable.

As the name implies, resetting to factory defaults will return all of the router firmware to the exact state that it left the factory. Think of it as erasing a slate and starting over fresh. Most routers will return to factory settings when you hold the back button for 15-30 seconds. Consult your router manual for specifics.

Routers are simple devices that can really unlock a lot of potential when utilized properly. These are just some of the great features you’ll find in most, if not all, routers manufactured nowadays. What other awesome wireless router features do you use on a regular basis? Share them with us in the comments!

Image Credit: Router Image Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Router, Wi-Fi.

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  1. Bulilit Toralballa
    October 11, 2012 at 3:09 am

    Thanks for this!

  2. raga16
    September 13, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    One can disable SSID broadcast and manually configure the right SSID on the WiFi devices.

  3. Nikhil Pandey
    September 13, 2012 at 3:01 am

    I have used all of them except QoS. I will try it today :D

  4. Millie
    September 13, 2012 at 12:50 am

    Implying MAC filtering will help you at all if you are being targetted?

    I was half expecting to see you advocating WPS after I read that.

  5. Alex Perkins
    September 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Nice article! Some routers have USB ports on the back that can be used with a USB stick as NAS, ghetto but cheap.

  6. Ray Randall
    September 12, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    need to update my router so i can use the guest feature

    • Clark
      January 21, 2013 at 10:08 am

      WHY do so many ppl waste our time with useless comments like the one above?!!! I do NOT need to read that you loved this article, or that you need to update something. I mean, REALLY. And ppllleeaaase people, use some punctuation. Run on sentences are confusing and just plain lazy. I can hardly decode the meaning intended by many of these jumbled up collections of words.

  7. john philip lucero
    September 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    DD-WRT firmware is very nice software.. Why the manufacturers of router didn't include it as options in their package.

  8. Victor Hurtado
    September 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I always change the default device name, router password, and change the encryption type. Verizon's FIOS routers are always setup with WEP encryption.

    • Joel Lee
      September 11, 2012 at 7:48 pm

      FIOS routers default to WEP? That's terrible. I wonder how many vulnerable households there are out there... yikes!

  9. sidnicide
    September 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks Joel!

  10. Anurag Shrivastav
    September 11, 2012 at 9:47 am


  11. Curtis C.
    September 11, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Awesome Article!

  12. Victor Ong
    September 10, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Great one! I'm probably goning to use some of these features.

  13. Edward Bellair
    September 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Reading the articles here and other sites tells me I work to much. I need to find a way to make money but be able to try all these different hacks and tricks.

  14. Shavenix
    September 10, 2012 at 5:42 am

    With the exception of guest access my router from my internet service provider has those things. I maintain control of those settings for the members of my house who still uses wi-fi where as I use av powerline av ethernet adapter because one too many frequent drops in signal, especially when streaming and playing an MMO when it becomes annoying.

    • Joel Lee
      September 11, 2012 at 7:47 pm

      Wi-Fi can be a pain when you need a stable, persistent connection. As a fellow MMO player, I can relate. Wired is the way to go!

  15. Slashee the Cow
    September 9, 2012 at 5:55 am

    7 important features "your" wireless router has?
    Yours might. Mine doesn't have all of them.

  16. Rich Mc.
    September 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I always change the password.... speaking of that my nieghbors who are in their sixties put in a new wireless settup and were astonished when I knocked on their door and offered to show them how to change the password after I showed them how easily I was able to use it on my laptop....they were very suprised and have been more careful....

  17. Kao Vang
    September 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I have most of these and use several. I also use DD-WRT on an older router so I get some of these functionality where I wouldn't on the stock firmware.

    • Joel Lee
      September 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      DD-WRT is fantastic. Definitely a great way to bring old routers with outdated firmware back to life.

      • dragonmouth
        September 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm

        Tomato is even better. Problem is that it is not being regularly maintained.

  18. Adjei Kofi
    September 8, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Hmm. nice

  19. Bogdan Radu
    September 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Great article! Thanks!

  20. Swaggrous Emeks
    September 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Nice Article Joel...I now have a new use for my router

  21. Craig Snyder
    September 8, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Really good tips here, Joel. Always use MAC filtering over here!

  22. lance burn
    September 8, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I need to look into connecting my camera and printer to me laptop, iv no idea lol

    • jayO
      September 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Please clarify - do you need to connect via your laptop or directly to the router? If both your camera/printer are wireless capable, then they should have came with a dvd/cd software that would enable you to connect to your wireless network via your laptop.

  23. Erik
    September 8, 2012 at 11:39 am

    I only counted six tips, not seven??

    • GrrGrrr
      September 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      true. the 7th one (most probably) is to buy a router ...;)

      • Ahmed Khalil
        September 8, 2012 at 7:56 pm

        or you can say the last tip is to do not follow the above 6 tips

        • Joel Lee
          September 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm

          Please elaborate.

    • Joel Lee
      September 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Hey Erik. Quality of Service and WiFi Multimedia are technically two different features. :)

      • Erik
        September 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm

        Figured i was missing one...Got it....thx

  24. Erik
    September 8, 2012 at 11:38 am

    I only counted 6 tips, not 7??

  25. Do Huy Ngoc
    September 8, 2012 at 11:31 am

    what a pity that my router does not support all those features :) Anyway, great post

    • Joel Lee
      September 8, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      If you like to poke around with software / hardware, then you may want to try installing an open source firmware called DD-WRT. Here's a MakeUseOf article on that topic:


      But if you're not exactly tech-literate, it may be more trouble than it's worth. Only you can decide that. :)

  26. Usman Mubashir
    September 8, 2012 at 7:46 am

    could use it now.

  27. Dany Bouffard
    September 8, 2012 at 4:09 am

    If you know what you are doing Mac address filtering is not really a good protection, cause you can spoof your mac address if you need its not that hard, but changing the admin password and setting encription with a really good encryption key is very good.

    • Joel Lee
      September 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      You're right. MAC filtering isn't good against the best of hackers, but it will keep out certain technology-illiterate moochers. In the end, 3 precautions are always better than 2, in my opinion. :)

    • Oron
      September 10, 2012 at 10:52 pm

      Spoofing a MAC address is indeed easy, but working out what addresses are in use on a decently encrypted network is going to take more than sniffing.

      • Millie
        September 13, 2012 at 12:54 am

        That would be... uh... incorrect.

        Getting a list of MAC addresses for a WAP, regardless of encryption, is really easy, and only involves sniffing.

        You don't need a promiscuous card to get that list, or even to inject disconnect packets, though it makes the latter faster.

        • Oron
          September 13, 2012 at 10:51 am

          OK, I stand corrected!

    • Oron
      September 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm

      Worth mentioning that on most (all?) routers you can reset the router by pressing the reset button (often by using a straightened paperclip through a tiny hole) for a couple of seconds. A longer press - around 10 seconds - will reset the router to factory settings.

  28. Rigoberto Garcia
    September 8, 2012 at 3:53 am

    Great article Joel. Thanks...

  29. Dan Johansson
    September 8, 2012 at 1:30 am

    hopefully you can point me in the right direction...i have a large house and my office is downstairs...i've run cables up to the third floor and plugged into a 16 port switch, but i'd like to connect another wireless router (i have a couple hanging around) up there to have better reception upstairs....haven't figured out how to do this yet. any ideas?

  30. xbalesx
    September 8, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Just setup a few of these options on my router. Thank you Joel.

    • Joel Lee
      September 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      You're welcome. Glad you could benefit.

  31. GrrGrrr
    September 7, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    The first thing I do for any router is to verify the admin access and change the default password.
    Then begins my configuration, etc.

    Meanwhile, I'm still struggling to find something like MAC address filter for my new Dlink router.

    • Joel Lee
      September 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      Changing the default admin password is the number one step any router owner should do. Right on.

      • Marc Chabot
        September 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm

        I will add that it may also be an idea to change the default device name as well as the default Admin password. No sense giving casual would-be hackers any more information than absolutely necessary! By changing both, you make it more difficult so why not, right?