A Hidden Wi-Fi network is helpful for a few reasons. The first is for businesses. A Hidden corporate network can allow company devices to connect to it, and then by setting up a visible guest network, you can unambiguously provide free W-Fi to customers. This is helpful for any shop looking to provide Wi-Fi. For home use, it can be used in a similar way. By setting up a hidden home network, your devices such as smart TVs, smart Thermostats, and other internet-connected devices can be connected to a network with a high-security password on it. Then, by setting up a guest network, you can freely give out your Wi-Fi password without worrying about your friend's devices being hacked and spreading to any devices on your network.
1. Wireless Access Point or Router capable of making a Wi-Fi Network. (Referred to in this guide as the AP)
Both of these devices can perform the same purpose, but some Routers are unable to create Wi-Fi networks. Make sure your chosen device is able to create a Wi-Fi network by consulting its manual. In this guide I will be using a Trendnet TEW-814DAP. This will be referred as the AP for the rest of the guide.
2. Computer with Ethernet Port.
If the AP supports setup with Wi-Fi, a Cell Phone may be used in place of a computer, or a computer without an ethernet port. If the AP must be set up with a wired connection, a computer with an Ethernet cable is required. This will be determined in a later step.
3. Ethernet Cable
As with step 2, determine whether Ethernet setup is required. If Wifi setup is an option, an Ethernet cable is not necessary.
Step 1: Initializing Your AP
If you have a new access point or router from the box, you may skip this step.
If you are using an old AP, we will reset it to default settings.
Almost Every AP has a reset button. With the AP unplugged, hold the reset button, plug in the AP, and continue holding the reset button for 15 seconds. Then release the button. If you do not have a reset button, consult the manual for your AP.
Now, your AP should be reset to its default factory settings.
Step 2: Physically Connecting to Your AP
Depending on your AP, you will have the option to connect via ethernet cable (a wired connection) or to a temporary network (a wireless connection). Consult the User Manual for your router if it is not easily seen.
For example, on the example Trendnet Access Point, there is a sticker (shown above) shows a Wi-Fi Name and Wi-Fi Key. If you see this information, it means you can connect to your AP wirelessly.
If you have a Wired Connection:
Connect your computer to the Access Point with the Ethernet cable.
If you have a Wireless Connection:
Connect your computer to the Access Point through the wireless connection it creates. For example, the Trendnet Access Point I am using creates the network TRENDnet814_2.4GHz_9N33, which is visible from my laptop when looking for Wi-Fi connections. You can see this in the picture attached to this step.
Step 3: Basic AP Setup
Some Access Points contain a Wizard. By following the wizard, you may discover that many if not all of these steps are covered by the wizard.
Step 1. Give a new password to the Access Point.
Under Most Access Points, there is a section for Administration where you can change the password for the AP. On my example, it is under Main->Password.
Step 2. Give your network a new SSID
The SSID is the name of your network. You want this to be unique, so your devices don't get confused by another Access Point with the same name.
Step 3. Give your network Encryption and a Password
For every network, you want a password an encryption to keep unwanted users off the network. Choose WPA2 unless you have additional infrastructure, as WPA Enterprise requires additional servers, and WEP is trivial to hack into.
After making these changes, DO NOT FORGET TO HIT SAVE! If you don't hit save, the AP will remain at its default values.
Step 4: Make the Network Hidden
In some Access Points, this is under the basic section, in others, it is under the advanced section.
What you are looking for is a box either labeled Hidden Network, or Visible/Invisible.
In the example AP, it is under a label of Visibility Status, with the options of Visible and Invisible. To make my network hidden, I chose the Invisible option.
Once again, DO NOT FORGET TO HIT SAVE!
Step 5: Connect to Your Hidden Network
To connect to your network, almost all devices have an obvious Hidden network button.
The screenshot in this step shows how to connect on a Windows 10 Computer.
There is an option to automatically connect on both connection windows. I recommend checking this box so you do not have to manually connect to the network every time you wish to connect to the hidden network.
Step 6: Final Tips and Tricks
If you have used your laptop to connect to other nearby networks, and you wish to automatically connect to the hidden network, I recommend removing the other networks from memory.
You may not be able to connect to a hidden network with all smart devices. Some manufacturers do not give the capability to their users, and others hide it behind menus.