How to See Who Is Connected to Your Wi-Fi
By Elizabeth Smith
If you run a Wi-Fi network at home or at the office, it is important to know who is connected to it. At worst, unauthorized users may be able to hack into computers on the network and gain access to sensitive information; on the less-dangerous end of the spectrum, a surplus of users can slow down the network speed, particularly if they are streaming video or downloading files. By tracking connected devices, you can keep your network safe and make it easier to troubleshoot performance issues.
Router IP Address
Before you can find the users who are on your network, you will need to find your router's IP address. The IP address is necessary to access the router console and configuration screen. On many routers, the IP address is printed on a label on the bottom of the device. It may also be printed in your manual. If you cannot find the address in either place, put your mouse pointer at the top right corner of the Windows 8 screen and move it down. In the search box, type "command prompt," click on "Apps" and click on the "Command Prompt" icon in the search results. Type "ipconfig" into the window and press the "Enter" key. Look for the Default Gateway listing; the IP address will be on the same line. On a Mac, open System Preferences, click the "Network" pane and look for the TCP/IP tab. The IP address is listed after the Router heading.
Router Administration Screen
All routers can be managed using an online interface. To access your router's administration screen, simply open a Web browser, enter the router's IP address and press the "Enter" key. Log in using your username and password. The router administration screen is different for every router, so you may need to look for headings like Network Settings, Network, or System Preferences. On a D-Link router, for example, you will need to choose Network Settings. In that section, you will find a list of the MAC addresses for devices that are connected to your router.
Depending on your router's security settings and the size of your network, you may or may not be able to identify each connected device. If you have a password-protected network with a limited number of users, you can ask each user to send you the MAC address of each device he's using to connect to the network. By comparing that data to the list of connected devices, you can see who is online and identify unauthorized devices. On larger networks or open networks, it may be impossible to identify every device that is connected to the network.
Restricting Router Access
Many routers come with built-in access control, which allows you to restrict the number of users that can connect to your Wi-Fi network. Access controls are usually found in the Advanced Settings area of your router's configuration panel. On a Netgear Genie router, the setting is found in the Wireless Settings area of the Advanced Settings tab. To activate it, you will need to turn on access control and add your devices using device names, MAC addresses, or both. Once you apply the change, only authorized devices will be able to connect to your network.
Elizabeth Smith has been a scientific and engineering writer since 2004. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, newspapers and corporate publications. A frequent traveler, she also has penned articles as a travel writer. Smith has a Bachelor of Arts in communications and writing from Michigan State University.