How to Choose the Best SSID for Your Wi-Fi

What's in a name? For a wireless network, a great deal, as its setup may even affect network performance. Here is a five-step guide to finding the best SSID setup for your network.

What is an SSID and why is it important how it is set up? This is a simple guide to choosing the best SSID for your network.

What is an SSID?

SSID is short for Service Set Identifier. All wireless networks have an SSID, in everyday speech often known only as network names or Wi-Fi names. You need to know or find this name in order to connect to a wireless network, usually in combination with a password.

You can usually change the SSID setup in the settings of your router (or other wireless access point). A network name cannot be more than 32 characters long, but other than that, there are few restrictions on what you can choose as the SSID.

1. Make the network name easily recognizable

Choose a network name that stands out in the crowd

Technically speaking, the name of your network does not need to be unique, but it is highly practical to have an SSID that will stand out on the list of available networks--unless, of course, there are no other networks around.

Usually, your router, extender, or other wireless access point comes pre-configured with one or more SSIDs. If your neighbours have equipment from the same service provider and vendor, it's easy to end up with a list of very similar-looking and sounding names.

This can be both confusing and frustrating, especially for guests and others that are connecting for the first time.

You are free to call your network whatever you want, so why leave it as an advertisement for the vendor?

2. Settle for a single SSID (network name)

Make sure all devices that support it have access to the 5 GHz frequency band

The most common reason to have more than one SSID on a single access point is using one SSID per frequency band. This may be pre-configured by your vendor or service provider. Typically, one SSID will contain the number 5, and the other the number 2, pointing to the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequency bands respectively. For example: my_wifi_2G and my_wifi_5G.

This means every use has to decide which of these networks to connect to, and in our experience, this leads to far too much usage of the older and slower 2.4 GHz band even when 5 GHz is available and would work far better for the user.

By instead having one single SSID for both frequency bands, you won't have to think about this as a user of the network, and the risks of "wrong" connections is reduced considerably. The choice is then left up to the clients or the network.

  • The vast majority of connected devices today both support 5 GHz and has their own logic for selecting the right frequency band to connect to in order to get the best performance.
  • Many wireless routers and access points also has the technology known as band steering, which pushes clients that don't direct themselves to the right frequency band.

You can read more about frequency bands and band selection in the article Why Band Steering Means Better Wi-Fi.

3. Make a Simple Guest Policy

Consider whether to have a separate network name and password for guests

Do you often have visitors that use their own devices on your wireless networks? For example your kids' friends? Then having a separate guest network with its own SSID and password is a good idea.

Remember that guest networks should be set up using the same equipment as the main network. Otherwise the networks may create interference for each other.

Note that having a large number of SSIDs on the same access point may negatively affect performance. We advise you not to overdo it by creating multiple categories of users.

4. Make Your Network Name(s) Visible

Select whether to allow the access point to broadcast its SSID.

The SSID itself is not a matter of security, but on your access point, you can configure the SSID to be visible or hidden. A hidden SSID means it will not be broadcast, and will not show up when your average Wi-Fi capable device is searching for available networks.

For convenience, guest networks should always be visible, or you will likely end up spending an inordinate amount of time on helping your guests connect to the network.

Hiding your main network's SSID is often recommended as a security measure. However, consider that:

  • A wifi scanner will still be able to detect the network.
  • Using a hidden SSID may negatively affect wifi performance, because more requests are required to establish a connection.

For performance reasons, we therefore recommend not hiding your SSID.

5. Name Any Repeaters Sensibly

When you have multiple repeaters, consider naming each network based on their location and supported technology.

If your home Wi-Fi is made up of a router and one or more repeaters or extenders, you are, in reality, dealing with multiple networks. You should carefully consider whether or not these networks are capable of sharing an SSID.

When moving around with a wireless device such as a smartphone, it will usually tend to cling to the first access point it connected to, even when there is another one that is closer and could provide better coverage and performance.

This phenomenon is known as a "sticky client", which you can read more about in Sticky Clients: When Devices Cling to a Bad Connection.

The most effective solution to the sticky client problem is client steering, a technology that ensures that multiple access points in a network work together to determine where devices should connect to get the best performance.

How to Choose the Best SSID for Your Repeater Network(s)

  • If the router and extenders support client steering, having a single network name/SSID is the most practical here as well.
  • Hvis du ikke har støtte for klientstyring på utstyret, har du to valg:
    • If you choose to go with a single SSID for multiple access points, it is up to each device to decide where it belongs. Some will do an excellent job with this, whereas others may require you to enable and disable wifi on the device for it to re-scan for the best signal.
    • Having separate names for each extender is cumbersome, but makes it easier to see where you are connected and change it manually if desired. It is a good idea to name extenders intuitively by including location/placement, so you don't have to remember that, for example, extender_2 is in the basement and extender_3 is in the attic.

Article by Jan Pedro Tumusok and Jorunn Danielsen

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