When a friend asks for your Wi-Fi password, how long is your explanation? Saying “Oh, it’s a mess of letters and numbers taped to the router behind the refrigerator in the rental unit upstairs” doesn’t make things easy for them. There are better ways to share your Wi-Fi.
First: create a guest network
Ideally, you don’t want to give people access to your main Wi-Fi network. This will give their laptop or phone access to all the devices in your home, which means they—or any malware installed on their system—can compromise sensitive data on your personal devices. Instead, you should create a separate guest network that will allow them to access the internet but keep them separate them from the other devices in your home.
Most routers have this ability built in. Head to your router’s administrator page by typing 192.168.1.1 (or something similar) in your address bar. If you aren’t sure of the correct numbers, check the sticker on the bottom of your router, or open up its user manual. Look for an option in the settings called “Guest Network,” and set it up with a WPA2 password if you can. Some routers only allow open guest networks, which I’d recommend against, since they allow good-for-nothing rogues to snoop on your guests’ traffic. You should also make sure you block guest access to local network devices and prevent them from accessing your router’s settings, if those options exist.
I recommend giving your guest network an easy-to-remember name and at least a somewhat easy-to-remember password. Note that simpler passwords are inherently less secure, but for this specific use case, I’d argue the popular “four random words” method is secure enough—you can use a password generator like Correct Horse Battery Staple to make one for you. That way, you can easily remember the password, and your grandma will have no problem typing it in when she visits.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though, and in many cases, you can avoid having your guests type in a password at all.
For Android phones and iPhones: create a QR code
Instead of watching your friends hunt and peck on their phone keyboards, you can let them scan a QR code, which will instantly connect their phone to your network. There are plenty of tools out there that’ll create one of these codes, but I like QiFi.org. It’s incredibly straightforward: just type in your network’s name, select the encryption type (check your router’s administration page if you aren’t sure), then type the your network’s password in the “Key” box. Click the Generate button, then choose Print or Export for a copy you can stick just about anywhere. QiFi does the heavy lifting offline, too, so you won’t have to worry about giving a random website your Wi-Fi information.
The next version of Android, currently codenamed “Q,” will have this functionality built right in. Just head to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi, tap your current network, and choose Share to generate a QR code. Android Q is still in beta, but will start rolling out to phones later this year.
Once you have a code, any iPhone or iPad running iOS 11 or later should be able to scan it with the regular camera app, allowing them to instantly join the network. Some Android phones have barcode scanners built into their camera, but if your friend doesn’t have one of these, they can grab the Barcode Scanner app from the Play Store, which has become the go-to software for these types of things.
For iPhones and Macs: use Apple’s built-in Wi-Fi sharing
If someone in your home has an iPhone, iPad, or Mac connected to the network, you might be able to get by with even less work. If your friend uses an Apple device, is in your contacts, and has Bluetooth turned on, tell them to tap on the network—it should prompt you to grant them access from your phone. You’ll need to be somewhat near their device, and in my experience the process can be a little finicky, but it’s something to consider. If the prompt doesn’t come up, you can point them to the QR code instead.
And sure, each of these tips requires some minimal hoop-jumping, but it’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to dictate a password like “dD^#i16HJ9vD” to someone while they fumble with the password field.