Google Wifi Setup Tips & Tricks

Google Wifi
Google Wifi (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

Google Wifi is really easy to set up. That's what impressed me the most about it when I was reviewing it, and the easy setup combined with quick updates when the tech inside needs them makes it a product I recommend to most anyone who needs a new router. But it can also be a nightmare if something goes wrong.

Sometimes problems are difficult to track down — those modem/router combos can be such a headache — while other times all you need to do is step back and see what how you can keep things simple while you're getting it all in place. That's what this guide is for.

I've walked several people through issues with their Google Wifi set up process, since I had a few issues myself while moving everything around and testing.

1. Have a phone with a data connection handy

The help documents for Google Wifi are pretty awesome. Many of the common scenarios of converting your existing network to Google Wifi are covered and well worth a quick look before or during installation.

They're also online, so you need a network connection to read them. There are also plenty of people who are super enthusiastic about Google Wifi and have an answer for most any issue that can help.

Both are tough to do if you don't have a way to get to the internet while your home network is down.

2. Write down the setup codes

On the bottom of every Google Wifi unit there are two codes: Setup network and Setup code.

The first (Setup network) is the SSID the hardware creates for you to connect to and start the setup process. The second (Setup code) is the ID of the unit you might need to enter if it can't be found automatically. Write them down on a piece of scrap paper in case you need to refer to them. That's easier than scanning a barcode (which is also on the bottom of the unit) especially if there is an issue and you need to try things more than once. If you don't end up needing them, you only spent a few seconds of your life jotting them down. (You can also take a photo on your phone, which is hopefully connected to the internet so it can be uploaded to Google Photos!)

This is especially important if you're setting things up with an iOS device (I've noticed Wi-Fi gets finicky and you might need to manually connect to the SSID) or in Bridge mode. When it tells you it needs a code, you'll have it.

3. Follow directions exactly

During portions of the setup process, you'll be plugging things in. Don't be like me and think you can place and power all of your units while the first one is saving its data and rebooting.

This is a good way to need to start all over again, which also requires you to unplug your modem for 90 seconds. Watching the screen and waiting those 90 seconds feels like an eternity.

Wait until it says to plug something in, then commence to plugging.

4. Go in order

You begin by setting up your main unit. It's the one that connects to the modem or ethernet outlet in the wall.

When that's done, make sure the next one you're setting up will be the closest of the two to the main unit. The network itself doesn't care, but this makes sure you'll have an awesome Wi-Fi signal while you're working and that the unit will be able to find the network and set itself up faster.

5. Don't plug in your extra stuff

This one kicked me right in the pants!

I've been fiddling with Google Wifi since I first got it (because I like to fiddle with things) so I've been through the setup routine plenty of times.

I tried it with my Philips Hue bridge plugged in one of those times. It was a mess. I have no idea why it was a mess. I'm not sure how it was interfering or why.

I only know I tried over and over to add a node to my setup while my Hue bridge was plugged in and it only worked once it unplugged it. On the first try.

These are simple no-brainers tips. But it's easy to get excited and just start plugging in cables and downloading apps when you get cool new gear, so this is my reminder. Spend less time troubleshooting and more time playing with the Google Wifi app and the settings.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I have a comcast wifi modem/router. I was about to separate the two for improved performance. I see that this is just wifi without the modem. Should I just wait for next year and hope they come out with something to fit?
  • Nope, Google will probably never make any sort of modem. Go on Amazon or Best Buy and find an Arris modem (DOCSIS 3.0) that works with Comcast and you'll be set. Then buy whatever router you want, like this Google one. Then return the POS Comcast parts and stop paying their rental fee.
  • I have Comcast internet. We bought this last spring: (just the modem, not the combo on the same page). Setup was a painless 5-minute call and it supports their business class package with a dedicated IP as well as the regular packages. So far, it's been working great.
  • I've been thinking about ordering Google WiFi, but I have a specific configuration question. My office is on 1 end of the house. That is where the router is. At the other end of the house some 80 feet and 6 rooms away is a hardwired access point where I spend most of my time. In between I have an extender. The problem is my mobile devices are not great at switching to the strongest signal. So my question is if I connect the 1st unit as my main router, can another node on the far side of the house be hardwired as well, and only the node in the middle be wireless?
  • Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing with it. Setup everything wirelessly first (in the same room) and then move the pucks where you need them. For wired back-haul plug Ethernet into WAN port.
  • Thanks Jerry, the how to article is great. I'm looking forward to setting mine up.
  • Do the secondary devices connect to the first via WiFi only, or can all the devices be hard wired and still distribute the same SSID?
  • Yes, same SSID. Setup via wireless first and then plug in other pucks to Ethernet WAN port. No extra config required.
  • I have 9 units. One is the main router connected to my Internet connection service. The rest communicate with each other like a chain link. As long as one can communicate with another you can chain link them along in a line. I have 4 in my main house scattered out. 2 in the guest house that connects via one of the nodes in the living room of the main house and 3 in an office that is .6 miles away thru a P2P dish relay. They all show up on the app and connect to the same network with the same SSID. They do not all need to "see" the main unit.
  • Is there option for secured guest network that is separated from wired and main wireless network?
  • Yep. It actually bugs you until you set one up.
  • Can you use both wired ports on the extender units for devices or is one only for uplink? If so, I think this is the way to go if I upgrade. My ASUS AC66U is pretty good but have a couple trouble spots and this sounds like the best option with wired ports and a fair price.
  • Both ports act as LAN ports if you're not using a cable to network them. I have a 5 port switch and Hue bridge wired into the one behind my TV because Hue bridge isn't wireless (soooo stupid) and some home made Christmas lights run from a raspberry Pi with no wifi card/plug. Works just fine
  • I'm sold. Reviews show good performance. Unfortunately a little late to add it to the Christmas list, but I think it would help my house a lot. Is there any significant better performance if they are wired together? I don't think anything on my network is going to saturate their capacity, but I stream fairly heavy bitrate video from my network connected cable tuner and that is the main thing I have limitations with when getting to the far reaches of the house.
  • having them wired together helps if you really need low latency. search for "wired backhaul". Mostly if you're a gamer, or pushing massive amounts of data and want to eliminate the hops to the modem. Otherwise no, you dont need to wire them and "significant" means different things to you and I because my house is built differently.
  • I'm sure it's technically better. It has to be, because copper is faster both ways than wireless. But The way I use them in my house there is no noticeable difference. The wireless is already fast enough that I never have issues, even when streaming (only 1080p though). I have tried with one unit wired (200-foot Cat-6 capable cable) in anticipation for springtime when I move it out to the patio and pool. Worked just fine.
  • Also want to add to some enthusiasts I see here with questions. Google Wifi is not going to have the range of your existing high-end 1200ac router. It's more of a shift to the "wireless where you need it" idea versus the long-range conical pattern we all have been using. Each Google Wifi unit has a sphere with a radius of about 40-ish feet where the signal is awesome, then it starts to dwindle. Where we used to position the antennas to get a good signal as far as we could, now we can just drop a bubble of signal where it's needed. As a plus, this cuts way back on interference with your neighbors when they eventually move to this type of gear :)
  • So each additional puck can either be wired, let's say from a PowerLine ethernet to it or wireless? I have a router that wires to a PowerLine and upstairs I have an airport express on it. I am thinking of using gwifi to act similarly as well as provide extra WiFi can this be done?
  • It will work thru any switch, dish relay or power line extender. I actually use 3 of my pucks in an office thats .6 miles away and it all works fine. One SSID, one network and all shown on the app.
  • How many "pucks" can you mesh together in one network?
  • I have 9 in a working mesh. I see no limits on how many you can use.