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Should I turn off my wireless access point if I don't use it?

I followed your suggestion and purchased a router (Netgear 3400 N600), even
though I only have one computer. See? Some people actually take your advice. My
question is, not having any wireless equipment to use with this router, should
I deactivate the wireless radio options or just leave it running? Also, is
there any other feature that I should shut down that one computer doesn’t use? The
manual for this unit just makes me realize how ignorant I am about computer
science. I will take your word that I am now getting the benefit of a remote
firewall for my system.

Good on you for taking the steps to make your computer more secure. A router as
a firewall is usually the first one I list.

That you happened to get a router than included a wireless access point is
probably common, and that’s what leads to your question. There are actually
three ways to proceed … although to be honest, you’ve already progressed beyond
one alternative.

It’s not really a problem, though.

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Set up a wireless password

Because your router includes a wireless access point, it’s important that it be secure. Most access points come pre-configured to be open and unsecured. Just like the coffee shop down the street that offers free WiFi, anyone with a wireless laptop or other device can connect to your router if they’re within range.

“Routers and wireless access points are actually two separate things.”

That’s incredibly easy to fix. Simply go into your router’s configuration and change the WiFi mode to be WPA2 (or WPA). A quick look at the setup manual for your router took me to this quote from Netgear:

The wireless Security Options are set to None by default. NETGEAR strongly recommends that you use wireless security. You can select a different Security Option and a different passphrase for each wireless network. For the highest performance of the 2.4GHz wireless network and the most secure encryption, NETGEAR recommends that you use WPA2-PSK as your security option.

I agree. The setup manual will show you how to get access to the configuration options and walk you through the settings. Be sure to select a passphrase that is both secure and something that you’ll remember. Someday, you might find yourself with a wireless device, and you’ll be all ready to go.

Disable Wireless

Turning off the wireless is often another option. I couldn’t quickly find it in the manual for your device, so I’m not 100% certain that it can be turned off.

The process to do so is similar to setting up wireless security – connect to your router’s configuration interface and locate the settings for the wireless access point. There may be an option to enable/disable or turn on/off the access point entirely.

If not, then I recommend sticking with the first option and simply setting a wireless password.

Heck, I recommend that anyway, because with the way that the industry is going, it’s likely that you’ll end up with a wireless device at some point in the future. That way, you’ll be ready.

Get a router without an access point

This is the step that you’ve already passed by, but I want to mention it for completeness.

Routers and wireless access points are actually two separate things. There are most definitely routers available that don’t have any wireless capability at all; they simply act as routers on completely wired networks.

With wireless devices becoming so common (my television set connects to my network wirelessly!), router manufacturers simply combined the functions of a router and a wireless access point into a single box, the wireless router.

You don’t necessarily need to have a combined device. Separate routers and access points work great. For various reasons, that’s exactly what I have here at Ask Leo! world headquarters.

Wireless access points can be added to your wired network as you need them. Once again, they are then separate devices that connect via a network cable to your router and provide wireless access to the network.

That way, if you don’t have a need for wireless capability, you don’t need to even have the hardware.

All of that being said, if you’re ever in doubt about what to purchase – it’s safe to get a combined device, a wireless router, as long as you take steps to secure the wireless network.

Next steps

Wired or wireless? There are definitely additional steps to securing your router. How do I secure my router? lists the steps.

Follow those steps and you’ll be much more secure whether you use the wireless or not or whether you leave wireless enabled or not.

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7 comments on “Should I turn off my wireless access point if I don't use it?”

  1. Check out the User’s Manual on page 2-16 under “Configuring Advanced WPS Settings”. There are checkboxes you can de-select to disable either/both 2.4GHz or 5GHz radios…

    Reply
  2. If you have the option, I would definitely recommend turning off the wireless if you are not using it. You will save quite a bit on electricity over the life of the router and it’s a greener option.

    Some routers now come with options to turn off the wireless functionality at a set schedule (say, 12AM to 8AM) with the same purpose in mind – green computing.

    Reply
  3. “Wrap the router in aluminum foil.”
    I love it. Low-tech still has a place in this high-tech world. One note though, I sure you didn’t mean wrap the “WHOLE ROUTER” because of the heat build up due to restricted ventilation. Perhaps just the antenna’s, yes?

    Reply
  4. I use another low-tech solution. Switch off the router when finished computing for the day. Switch on again when next firing up the computer. The router takes about the same time to fire up as whichever computer I happen to be using at the time.

    Reply
  5. I’d set up the wireless router as Leo suggested. Make sure that password is REALLY strong. But then just plug the device in when you need it … I too am sure that fairly soon you will be tempted by something that will use the wireless option, and you will be ready to go.

    Leo…thanks for this great info … as always.

    Reply

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