Getting the right router setup in your home is crucial to getting a high quality internet connection. Depending on the internet provider you’re with, the likelihood is that you’re going to have a different style of router based on your service.
A wireless router or home hub tends to be a pretty simple device. However, on all of these routers you’re likely to find different buttons and functions, which are necessary if you’re ever going to reset it or reconnect a device. Amongst these, you’re going to find the WPS button on there too.
Not just on your router, but you also might see it on various other tech products around your house (like a printer). But what exactly does the WPS button do, and what even is WPS anyway? That’s what we’re going to dive a little deeper into today.
What is the WPS button on a router?
Essentially, the WPS button is on the side of your router for the sole purpose of making it easier to connect to your devices. It will allow you to connect your device to your home internet without having to worry about entering your SSID and password.
The truth is that the WPS push button comes with its fair share of critics. Using a wireless network is never going to be as secure as opting for a wired connection, and using WPS is considered to be less safe than other protocols like WPA2.
And although nowadays more and more people are aware of what the WPS button does, not everyone knows. So, it’s important to understand how the WPS button works, and whether you should choose to use it or not.
What is WPS? (Wireless/Wi-Fi Protected Setup)
So, let’s start with what exactly WPS is. It stands for Wireless Protected Setup, and it’s been around for more than a decade now. It was introduced by tech conglomerate Cisco to Wi-fi Alliance standards.
The whole point of WPS in the first place was to make it simpler to connect your devices to your home router. Why? Well, whilst it’s pretty simple to connect your devices together nowadays, it was a little more difficult and time consuming back in the day.
We still have the need to enter in the password for our routers, and for some people, that can be arduous and time consuming. This is especially true if you don’t know how to change your wifi password. Many routers out there will have this Wi-fi protected setup button to use.
And whilst it was introduced to make things easier to connect together, it also came under a lot of criticism. It’s said that having a WPS push button on your router can leave you vulnerable when it comes to security.
Not only because someone can use the push button on your wireless router to connect to it, but the whole WPS protocol is insecure.
You can usually disable WPS on your home network by going into your router settings, which you can find by entering its IP address into a URL bar in your browser. It’s typically 192.168.0.1 for most people, but it may be different depending on your provider.
The way that most of us connect to our router – by entering a pin or a password into our device – is part of the WPS standard that was introduced back in 2006.
It’s fair to say that for the majority of us, entering a password is the best method to use to connect your device to your router. It’s very easy to do so, and you can change your pin to whatever you need it to be.
Setting up a long password (12 characters+) and using WPA2 or WPA3 protocols to connect to your home network is the safest way to ensure no-one gains access to it.
Now we come onto the WPS button that most people have a question about. You can usually find this on the front of most wireless routers.
Most of the time, you can simply press the button, and this will give you 2 minutes to connect your device to the router without having to worry about entering a password in.
In some cases, the WPS button itself might actually be used for more than this. There are some models out there that actually use the WPS button to reset the device as well, so when you hold the button down, your router would reset to factory settings.
Do all routers have a WPS button?
The truth is that whilst not all routers out there will have a WPS button, many of them will. Nowadays, whilst not everyone wants to use a WPS button, you can still find it on some routers (for example, the Virgin media hub has a “Pair WPS” button on the front.
Having a WPS feature integrated into your router is commonplace, and many of them with be WPS enabled. And whilst the majority of routers out there will have a WPS button, they aren’t without their critics. Let’s look at some of the potental downsides of WPS.
Criticisms of WPS
One criticism of the WPS button specifically is that it doesn’t give the option to choose which wifi band you want to connect to. Remember – the button was introduced in 2006, when the 5.0 GHz band wasn’t readily available on home routers.
Fast forward to the present and we have dual band routers at home, which have two different wifi bands that you can connect to. But when you press the button, you might not get the opportunity to pick between the two.
This can leave you connecting to the 2.4 GHz band, which is the slower and less useful of the two. Pretty much everyone prefers to connect to the 5.0 GHz band if you’re looking for fast internet.
This might come into play in the future where there will be an easier way to connect to the right wireless network band. So, that’s one criticism about the fundamental use of the WPS button.
Another pretty common criticism that you might hear about the WPS button is that it’s too easy for someone to access. It’s right on the side of your router, so it can be very easy for pretty much anyone that can get physically close enough to use it if they want to.
It’s frustrating if you have kids, as all they need to do is press the WPS button to connect to your wifi. This is why it’s probably a good idea to have some kind of security or parental control settings in place if you have younger children.
This makes sense, but it’s also worth noting that most of us have the password we use printed on the side of our router too – and, we probably never bother to change it either. If you do want more security, then changing the password of your router is the best way to do this.
Finally, probably the most prominent reason why people are dubious of WPS in the first place is that it might leave you liable to being hacked.
Essentially, WPS is vulnerable to what’s known as a brute force attack. As it sounds, this is quite simple an attempt to try every possible combination for your password to try and work it out. Now, this isn’t with the button, but the WPS password itself.
With a WPS password, it’s only actually 8 characters long, and even then it works by checking four digits at a time, twice over. This means that if someone is trying to brute force your password, they only need to get two sets of four combinations, and there’s only a limited combination of them possible (10,000, to be exact).
One potential solution to this is by using WPA2 instead of WPS, which is a more secure and encrypted form of password. It is pretty much immune to being hacked if you pick a long enough password, unlike a wifi protected setup, which isn’t encrypted at all.
It’s a good idea to use WPA2 and disable the WPS function, which makes for a more secure connection all-round. Most people don’t really need the WPS security protocols in the modern day, as generally we don’t use the push button method to connect to the internet.
So, doing this will give you more security on any wireless networks that you may own. You could also consider upgrading to WPA3 too, which was released back in 2018 as an upgrade on WPA2. It’s essentially the next generation and all-round a more secure encryption to choose.
All in all, the WPS button is pretty easy to understand, and it’s clear why it was introduced in the first place too. However with many folks now taking their online security more seriously, it might not be long before we see the button option phased out from the sides and front of our home hubs and routers.
Because of its simple use that has an easy workaround (simply entering your password), many folks choose to disable the WPS button on their home device. Although you’re unlikely to ever be hacked, it can add another level of security to your home internet.