How Dumpster Diving for Wi-Fi Routers Can Save You Money

How Dumpster Diving for Wi-Fi Routers Can Save You Money

So you found yourself a used Wi-Fi router while out dumpster diving,eh? Social stigma aside,you might have just saved yourself $30. Good for you. Here is the DIY rebel's guide setting up a used Wi-Fi router. Power to you!

Updated 02/17/2020

February 17, 2020

You’ve heard the old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So it is. Especially when that trash is a $30 Wi-Fi router that you found in a dumpster. Don’t toss it back just yet. Chances are that Wi-Fi router still works. Think about it: why would a Wi-Fi router break? You don’t carry it around with you daily. There’s no real wear-and-tear. It just sits there in your home, nice and perky.  Why, then, did someone dump it? Approximately 94% of consumers toss out their used Wi-Fi routers for no other reason than that they just upgraded to a new one. Okay fine, I made that up, but still, it might work, and if it does, then I just saved you from having to plop down thirty bucks at Best Buy. You’re welcome.

Figuring It All Out (Sans User Manual)

The way I see it, you can be real by-the-book about this whole process and search online for that particular router model. You may even find a PDF of the user manual or, even better, a YouTube tutorial on how to set it up. But, something tells me that since you were out dumpster diving in the first place, you’re not really a by-the-book kind of person, and that you’re probably just reading this article for the snarky bits. That’s okay. I personally hate user manuals. Actually, mine usually end up in the dumpster. We will figure this out together.

First Things First - Disinfection

The first order of business is to wipe that thing down good. Use disinfectant wipes. Be thorough. I mean, you did find it in a dumpster. While you’re at it, wipe yourself down, too. Take a shower. You just went dumpster diving. After you’ve disinfected and deodorized, try plugging the router into a wall socket and see what happens. Beeps and blinking lights are both really good things. It means we are in business!

Basics of Wi-Fi Routers

Wi-Fi routers are really simple, and if you know the basics, you can figure them all out pretty much. There are three pieces of hardware. The router. The modem. And your device. The modem is where the Internet comes from. Seriously, that’s all you need to know. It’s a box with Internet inside. Your goal is to get some of that Internet into the router, and then from the router into your device. Easy peasy.

How to Set Up Your Used Wi-Fi Router

First, reset your new router to factory settings. Most routers have a little reset button on the back. Use a paperclip to press it (while the router is turned on) for about thirty seconds. Look for the lights on the front to do a funky bit of flashing. That means you’re doing something, which is good. Now turn off the router, and turn the modem off, too. Connect the modem to the WAN or Internet port on your new router using a standard Ethernet cable. Turn the modem back on and then turn the router on. You may have to wait a bit for it to boot up. You have to configure your wireless router, so take another Ethernet cable and connect it from the router to the computer. I know you hate following directions, Mr. or Ms. Dumpster Diver, but please don’t let your eyes glaze over with boredom; I need you to follow these next steps very carefully:
  1. Assuming you are using a Windows computer, go to the start menu and search for “CMD.”
  2. A black window will pop up. Type in: “ipconfig”.
  3. A bunch of text will appear. Look near the bottom of the list where it says “Default Gateway”. Take that series of numbers (probably starting with 192.168) and type them into your web browser. Press enter.
  4. This takes you to your router set up page. From here, you can rename the signal and change the password.
However, before you can access the set up page, you will need an admin user name and password. Yes, yes, I know, this sucks, but really you’re saving money here, so quit bitching and get to work. Sometimes the username and password will be on a sticker on the router. If you can’t find the information there, that’s not a problem. A quick Google search will usually do the trick.

Congratulations, Mr. or Mrs. Dumpster Diver!

Once you’re on the set up page, you can – surprise, surprise! – set up the wireless router. There are other configurations you can do, of course, but if you’ve come this far, you have already achieved something pretty spectacular and wireless Internet is right at your fingertips. Some parting advice: do not re-gift your new wireless router just because it works. That’s in bad form. Also, I wouldn’t tell anyone where you got it. Mum’s the word. Just enjoy your new wireless Internet connection. Quietly, of course. No one ever has to know the truth.  It will be our little secret. Shhh.