It’s not uncommon to plug in a router and start using it without changing much in the settings. Many people never even reset the default username and password, despite many customization options in the router’s settings. One of these enables you to grant access to your network through a specific port. It benefits many networking options, from file hosting to website management to gaming.
What Are Ports?
Think of ports as dots on a line. Each one is where a network connection begins or ends. A program attempting to connect to a device or another program needs a place to gain access. Ports are these endpoints and can be used to allow or forbid access to your network.
Don’t think of ports are physical locations. They’re managed by different programs and can be opened or closed in various ways. One of the ways you can adjust your port access is with your router.
What Does It Mean to Forward or Open a Port?
To understand port forwarding and opening, you first must understand precisely how a port works for your router and computer.
Every connection made to your network has to find a way into it so it can appear on your devices. Think of the ports as a long series of doors each connection can walk through. Some programs use specific ports by default. Thousands of them are available, and likely more than most users would ever need.
However, sometimes you want your traffic to enter through a particular port. When you create a port forwarding or opening rule, it pushes the traffic through the door you’ve selected. In this way, you’re able to control what is or isn’t allowed access to your network, as well as how they’re able to gain that access.
Are Opening and Forwarding Interchangeable?
People generally use port forward and port open to mean the same thing. In most applications, there’s no real difference. A port is forwarded so that it is open. Once the process is complete, you can say either and be correct.
However, people in different disciplines might use the terms differently.
Is Port Triggering the Same as Opening and Forwarding?
Not exactly. The process of directing traffic to a certain port is the same, but it’s functionally different. When you set up port triggering, it’s designed to turn on and off when specific actions occur. Once ports are forwarded, though, they’re always open and accessible.
Can All Routers Open or Forward Ports?
It’s very common for people to need to forward ports on their network. Most modern routers should be able to handle this kind of application.
Why Do I Need to Forward Ports?
There are many reasons to forward ports. It’s a handy skill because you can allow specific programs or devices access to your home network even when you’re away.
- Some people forward ports because they host media servers with images, video, or music they want to be able to access outside the house. You can designate a specific internal IP with the router and assign it to a particular port. This identifies it as separate from other devices and gives them a direct route to the server.
- Using port forwarding lets you keep your network secure. Since you can set up access as you choose, you can create openings for programs to communicate through. This means your firewall and virus protection can still be fully active without preventing desirable incoming connections.
- Many people use port forwarding as part of their security software. You can monitor an area with private video feeds and access them when you’re away via a specified port.
- One of the most common uses is for those who want to host game servers. Once you’ve assigned your host computer a static IP, you must forward the connection requests to the opened port. When people try to connect to the server, they’re directed to the right place on your network to start playing.
With so many benefits to port management, there’s no reason not to learn how to do it. While it isn’t something you’ll have to do regularly, it comes in handy when you need to adjust access.
How to Forward Ports on a Router?
Each router will have its own different method. However, most of them are very similar, and it’s easy to do on most compatible devices.
Accessing Your Router
If you haven’t accessed your router before, check the documentation with it to see where you sign in. Routers can be accessed via a specific IP address on a web browser or a website.
Once you’ve reached the correct area, you’ll be greeted with a request for a username and password. When the router is new and hasn’t been set with personal options, the entries should be the default for your device. Check the manual and the labels on the router itself to get more information about the login.
You’re greeted with many options when you reach your router’s administration panel. Depending on the model, you might immediately see an option for port forwarding. However, it’s generally in the advanced settings for users who are more comfortable customizing their networking devices.
Setting Up Port Forwarding
These steps will vary depending on what device you use. However, the basic principles are the same, and finding the same settings in any router you use should be easy.
- Sign in to your router and choose the Advanced tab. You want to look for an option for users that want to set up things themselves rather than using the smart setup.
- Look for Administration Options or another Advanced Setup option. You should be greeted with a list of many functions available.
- Choose the Port Forwarding or Port Forward Section.
- Select Port Forwarding if there is an option for triggering or forwarding. Some routers will offer to do both, but more users will need port forwarding.
- Choose Add Custom Service, if desired. You can also start by choosing the type of service and adding it directly if you’d rather.
- Choose the type of service. For example, if you’re using FTP, HTTP, or VPN-PPTP.
- Put in the Static IP Address of the device you want to connect to.
- Click Add.
- Select the service you’ve added and choose Edit Service.
- Enter the ports you want to open. You can choose almost any that you wish to, but it’s a good idea to look at recommended ports if you’re using a specific program or service. You can specify a single port like 29337 or a range of ports like 75-85. The external port range is the important one to determine. Most of the time, you can use the same range for the internal port range.
- Choose Apply.
The port should be open and usable. Many routers also let you select a device from a list rather than choosing a specific IP address, as long as the device is attached to your router.
Should I Use TCP or UDP?
If there’s an option for both, select that option. However, TCP is better for most applications. Check its documentation if you’re setting up port forwarding for a specific program. Some require UDP.
While UDP is a much faster protocol than TCP, it still isn’t useful for most applications. It can’t sequence data or guarantee data delivery. That’s why it’s only for certain programs.
Most routers will give you the option to use both. That’s almost always the best selection.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I Don’t See an Option for Port Forwarding?
Most routers should have it. Check a few more locations in your settings to see whether it’s offered under a different heading or tab.
Will Port Forwarding Reduce Ping?
Port forwarding won’t necessarily reduce ping, but there are some circumstances where it might help. By connecting directly to a network, you can possibly reduce the amount of latency between you and the content or server you’re accessing. Some people have had luck with a lower ping when port forwarding is set up correctly.
How Hard is Port Forwarding?
Port forwarding is not hard at all. Once you’ve accessed your router, changing the settings is straightforward. One of the most complex parts is identifying the IP address you’re using for the port forwarding – and the router usually shows you the devices on your network and what their IPs are directly in the same area.
Do I Need to Restart the Router After Port Forwarding?
After adding a new port forwarding rule, you do not need to restart the router. You can just save it and go on as usual. It will be applied once the rule is saved in the router.
Does Port Forwarding Cost Extra?
No, it doesn’t cost anything to use port forwarding. It should be included as a feature on most routers.