What is WPS on a Router?


While setting up your wireless router, you’ll most likely find some strange buttons and icons that may boggle your mind. You will come across a ‘WPS’ feature on the configuration menu, or a button with the letters’ WPS’ on the back of your router.

You might be wondering, “What does this acronym stand for? And what does it do if I press on it?” To put your mind at ease and answer all these questions about WPS, we will need to start from the beginning…

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The mysterious ‘WPS’ button that appears on your router stands for ‘Wi-Fi Protected Setup.’ This button allows you to connect your device to a network with ease.

If you’re connecting your device to a router for the first time, or you have recently just installed a new router, you will more than likely experience the daunting task of filling in the default router passwords.

These passwords are often printed on a hard-to-read, thin strip of paper, pasted underneath your router. Some default user passwords will be enclosed in the router’s user guide manual.

This default password is set by the manufacturer of the router and usually contains a list of three characters. These characters usually include letters (upper and/ or lower case), numbers, and symbols, in a seemingly endless array of combinations.

This is where WPS simplifies the process of connecting devices to a wireless network; it helps users add devices to their Wi-Fi networks by skipping the need to enter long, complex passwords.

The ‘WPS’ button creates a shortcut for users to avoid filling in the lengthy password that can take time to locate. If you have forgotten the Wi-Fi password and you’re within touching distance of the router, you will be able to connect.

Connecting any device to a Wi-Fi network will require the user to know the specific name of the network and its password; this is commonly referred to as the ‘WPA-PSK’ key. Unfortunately, if you do not enter the correct password, you will not be able to connect your device to the network.

Although finding the correct network and filling in the correct password isn’t the most difficult process, it does waste your time, especially if you have forgotten the correct password.

With the help of WPS, you are able to connect your devices to a wireless network at the click of a button. Simply press the WPS button on the router to activate the router’s discovery mode, which will prompt it to search for compatible devices.

Once the network that you would like to connect to has successfully discovered the device, it will connect automatically. WPS will send the network’s password to your device, and in the future, it will automatically reconnect to the network.

Some devices have their own WPS button, which will allow you to connect to your router in seconds. Simply press the WPS button on your router and then on your device. The two devices will then pair and share a connection.

There is another WPS method that allows devices to connect once you have inserted a PIN that has been automatically generated by the router. The PIN is eight digits long and can be found on the WPS configuration page. Enter the 8-digit code that is under the configuration menu, and you’ll be connected to the network.

Routers are manufactured by different companies, and each has its own design. Therefore, the WPS button may look a little bit different, depending on the router model.

For some models, it’s really easy to spot; just look for the button labeled WPS. It should be located somewhere around the back of the unit.

It may prove useful to look for the WPS icon. It is similar in design to a recycling symbol if it were circular. It’s an oval-shaped icon with two arrows that are directed at each other. This icon is used in replacement of the WPS label on certain routers.

For your convenience, below is a list of some of the most popular router brands and where their WPS button can be found on them:

  • TP-Link routers have their own unique WPS button on the back of the router. The button that appears at the back of their router has two purposes. Pressing the button for a quick second will activate the WPS feature.

Be Careful not to hold the button in for too long, as the same button is used to turn the Wi-Fi on and off. This feature is applicable to most TP-Link routers that have been released in the past several years.

  • Netgear routers have a clearly marked WPS button on the back of their routers, next to the Ethernet port. Some Netgear routers will differ and use the WPS icon instead.

  • D-Link routers follow the trend with their WPS button located at the back of the router, next to the port for the power cables.

Xfinity routers have a WPS button that may be difficult to find; it’s located on the top of the router. Pressing the WPS button will enable the discovery mode and a light will flicker until your device has connected to the router.

Linksys routers are more creative and have clearly marked their WPS button in blue. It appears on the back of the router, next to the Ethernet ports.

Unfortunately, not all routers are designed with a WPS button on them, but this doesn’t mean that you won’t have access to the WPS feature. You may simply have to use the router’s configuration menu in order to connect to the network.

You can alternatively make use of the WPS feature by connecting to a web-based setup with your internet browser. If your router has WPS, there should be instructions on how to set up your WPS contained within your router’s instruction manual.

WPS can be accessed by anyone who is within the vicinity of your router, they simply need to press a button and they will be able to connect to your network. The safety of your network is basically dependent on where your router is situated.

You can always set up a guest network that your friends and family can connect to with WPS if you are concerned about safety. If the router is in a public space, with easy access by anyone, you can switch WPS off and disable the feature.

WPS was considerately designed with user-friendliness in mind. Below are some additional benefits of using WPS:

  • Extremely fast- it connects you to the network by simply clicking a button on your router and then on your device; what a timesaver!
  • Anyone can use it- there is absolutely no skill needed to connect when all you need to do is push a button; even grandpa will love this feature.
  • Compatibility- most routers these days have adopted the WPS feature. WPS is compatible with operating systems such as Windows, Android, and Linux.

Below is a list of some of the disadvantages of WPS:

  • Security is a major concern. WPS that uses the PIN-based system is vulnerable to being hacked.
  • People that are in close contact with your router can access your Wi-Fi connection without your permission. The simplicity of pressing a button makes your network vulnerable for anyone to access.
  • WPS is unfortunately not supported by Apple and a few other devices. WPS has received some criticism for its lack of security which has led to devices using alternative features.

WPS was released in 2006, and since then has received some criticism about the safety and security of the feature. WPS has since lost momentum, and certain devices such as Apple no longer support this feature. An alternative to WPS is ‘Wi-Fi Easy Connect.’

Wi-Fi Easy Connect works with a QR code. This QR code is printed on a piece of paper or, usually, in a box. Devices can connect to the Wi-Fi Easy Connect by scanning the QR code using Bluetooth or NFC tags.

Wi-Fi Easy Connect offers more control over your network than the WPS feature. The greatest advantage of using Wi-Fi Easy Connect is that you can manage your network from a device. Your device is then required to grant permission to other devices before they can share your internet connection.

Press a button and connect to an internet network. Why not? It’s convenient for friends and family that simply want to connect to your network. They can avoid the tedious process of finding and entering long passwords, not to mention connections not working!

The harsh reality is that your network can be hacked regardless of whether or not you use WPS. However, if you are really not comfortable with the WPS feature, you can easily just turn it off.

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It is no secret that WiFi routers have hardly appealing designs.