How to Set Up a Dorm WiFi Network

Building a dorm WiFi network is easy. All you need is a router/access point. Most dorms will give you an Ethernet connection to your room. Many will not provide WiFi connections. If you need a WiFi connection here’s how you do it.

Configuring Your Router

Your router needs to be configured much the same way as a home router. For the most part you need to:

  • Connect your to one of the router Ethernet ports to your PC
  • Assign the router a WiFi SSID, which is the Name of your WiFi network. Best not to use your name or the number of your room. You want to be as inconspicuous as possible.
  • Assign your WiFi network a password, longer more cryptic passwords are best.
  • Make sure you change the default admin password and, if possible, change the admin name as well.
  • Aside from that you can use mostly the default settings:
    1. leave the subnet, IP address, DNS, mask as is
    2. leave “enable DHCP” turned on.

At this point you should be able to configure your PC and connect it to the to your dorm WiFi network. But you won’t be able to get out to the Internet.

Student needs dorm WiFi Network

Connecting Your Dorm WiFi Network to the Campus Network

There are 2 ways to do this. You can simply connect one of the regular Ethernet ports on your router to the campus Ethernet. This is the no fuss approach but has two issues.

  1. It will not work on all campus networks because some of them may have limits to the number of devices you can connect.
  2. Also, this method is much less secure and easier to hack.  MAKE SURE YOU ARE USING FIREWALL SOFTWARE ON YOUR PC if you choose this method. We all know that campuses are prime territory for hackers.

The safer approach is to connect the Internet port on your router to the campus network. This hides your PC from hackers and lets you connect multiple devices (such as a gaming console) to the same router and still look like only one device to the campus administrator. This also protects you quite a bit from hackers. It is still better to use firewall software.

Read more on routing and bridging here and here.

MAC Address Limitations

I have heard that some campuses require you to register your PC’s MAC address and that they will only allow 1 registered MAC address per student. Your router and your PC will have different IP addresses and so you will have to choose which one of the two you want on the network.

There are 2 ways around this problem:

  1. You can use bridging (as described above), or
  2. Change the MAC address on your router to the same MAC address as your PC. Pretty much all routers let you do this.

Once your WiFi is set up you may also want to use your PC as a media server. Read this article to see how its done.

Or you may be more interested in setting up a file server and using it as a media server. This is a great idea if you have PC with an SSD drive which will fill up pretty fast with media files. See this article to learn how to set up a NAS.

If you want to check the speed of your dorm network to see if it is fast enough to stream video content, read this article.

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