Setting up a Unifi Controller is really simple and can be done in a couple of minutes with this beginner’s guide. We are going to walk through the initial setup of the controller, connecting the access points and getting the most performance out of it.
Also, I will give you some tips on choosing the right Unifi Access Point, where you should place your AP, and how to get the most performance out of your Unifi access points.
The great thing about the Unifi range is that you get enterprise-class wifi for an affordable price. What you also will discover is that they are super easy to set up and manage. And if you like statics, you will get some great insights into your network as well.
Which Unifi Access Point Should You Choose?
Ubiquiti offers a wide range of Access Points, but in this article, I will focus on the most used access points for home networks and small and medium-sized businesses. You can find a complete overview of all the models in this UniFi access point comparison.
The most used Access Point at home or at small businesses is the Unifi 6 Lite. The reason is simple, it’s small (only ∅160 mm), cheap, and powerful enough. Depending on the layout of your home or office you can better buy two smaller access points than one large one. Walls, floors, and other obstacles will lower the signal strength. If you want to know more about it, you should check this article.
The UniFi 6 Lite is a new model that supports WiFi 6, which increases the efficiency and multi-device performance of the access points. WiFi 6 still operates in the same 2.4 and 5Ghz band, but it can now transmit to multiple devices at the same time.
There are three options to choose from, the Lite, Long Range (LR), and the Pro.
|2.4 GHz speed||300Mbps||450Mbps||450Mbps|
|2.4 GHz Antennas||2x2||3x3||3x4|
|5 Ghz speed||876Mbps||876Mbps||1300Mbps|
|5 GHz Antennas||2x2||2x2||3x3|
|Range||122m (400ft)||183m (600ft)||183m (600ft)|
|Price||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon||Check on Amazon|
Unifi AC LR vs PRO
The difference between the lite and the other is obvious, but the difference between the Unifi AC-LR and the Unifi AC-PRO is a bit harder. You might be tempted to buy the faster and more expensive AC-PRO (bigger is better / more antennas is better / more expensive is better ? ). But there is a big and important difference between the two.
The AC-Pro has 3×3 MIMO antennas to get that high network speed, but to use it, your endpoint (notebook, smartphone, TV) must also be able to handle it. So if you are after maximum speed and you have a notebook that also supports a 5ghz network at 1300 Mbps, then you should go for the AC-Pro.
The AC-LR has a bigger and more sensitive antenna. This allows it to cover a bigger area, but even more importantly, pick up the weaker signal from a smartphone or tablet. Mobile devices have only a small antenna built into it due to the lack of space and aesthetics. So they can receive the signal of a powerful access point, but they can’t send it the same distance back. That is why you need a big and sensitive antenna to pick the weak signals up.
Where to place the Access Point
For in-house placements, the UniFi 6 Lite and the Long Range models are most of the time the best fit. To determine where to place the Access Point you need to keep in mind that the Unifi Access Point has a doughnut shape coverage with the Access Point in the middle.
Also, try to place the Access Point in the room where the wifi is used the most and at least 3 feet away from other appliances that send wireless signals at the same frequency (cordless phones and microwaves for example). Also, large metal objects (fireplaces, chimneys) tend to weaken the signal.
Depending on your floor type you will need one for every floor or you can do with just one Access Point on the first floor or ground floor ceiling. If you have wooden floors, you could start with just one Access Point. Place it in a central location without any obstruction for the best coverage. When you have concrete floors, you will need to install an Access Point on every floor for decent coverage. The rebar and concrete weaken the signal too much for good coverage.
Unifi Controller Setup
So we now know what to buy, and where to place it, but how do we install and manage it? To manage our access points we are going to install the Unifi Controller. With the Unifi Setup Wizard, it is done in a couple of minutes.
Step 1 – Unpack and Connect
I won’t go into detail too much about the actual placement of the Access Point, the Unifi Access Points come with perfectly clear installation instructions on how to mount the Access Point.
But before you actually place it, first just connect it to your switch or router with the supplied PoE adapter. This way you can install it, reset it, and see what happens more easily than walking upstairs to check the status light all the time 😉
Step 2 – Download the Unifi Controller Software
We are going to install the Unifi Controller to manage our access points. Now the Unifi Controller doesn’t have to be running all the time. So you can install it on your computer, configure your Access Points and they will keep working.
The only disadvantage is that you don’t have all the insights that you get when the controller is running 24/7. Another option is to use the Cloud key, a small device that is bought separately for $ 90,- and that you connect to your network. When connected you can manage your network remotely.
To install and manage the Unifi Access Point we need to download the controller. Go to the download page at ui.com/download and download the latest controller from Windows, Mac or Linux:
Make sure that you have Java11 JRE installed on your device. If you don’t have it installed, then the installation will warn you about it.
Step 3 – Install Unifi Controller
After you installed the software, start the controller and hit Launch a Browser to Manage a Network or go to https://localhost:8443 in your browser. When you get a warning just click Advanced” and Continue to…
Sign in with your Ubiquiti Account
You can create a Ubiquiti Account at account.ui.com. This way you can manage your controller from everywhere via unifi.ui.com and use the same credentials locally.
If you don’t want to use the cloud service, you will have to switch to Advanced Setup
- Disable Remote Acces
- Disable Use your Ubiquiti account for local Access
- Create a local admin user
Unifi Network Setup
In step 4 we leave Automatically optimize my network and auto backup on. The backups are stored on the controller and can be downloaded in the settings screen.
On the next page, Configure Devices, you will see the connected Access Points. Select the devices that you want to configure. If there are no discovered devices, but your Access Point is running and the light is glowing white then there is something wrong (obvious).
- Check your local firewall. If you have any internet protection software running like Norton, Avast or any other firewall software on your computer, open it and disable your firewall to see if you can find the devices.
- Download the Ubiquiti Device Discovery Tool from the Chrome App Store. With this tool, you can scan your network for Ubiquiti devices. Check if they are on the same network as you are.
- Reset the Access Point, and hold the reset button for 5 sec to set it back to factory settings.
Enter a name for your Wi-Fi network and a strong password. You can change these details later. Also adding a guest network can be done later. I recommend combining the 2Ghz en 5Ghz networks. For most devices, this is the best solution.
Review your settings
The last step is to review your settings and click finish
When done click finish and log in for the first time into the controller. You will see the dashboard with the connected devices.
Optimizing your Access Points
Out of the box, the Unifi Access Points are doing a great job. But with a few small changes, you can get more performance out of it!
Upgrading the firmware
So we are now logged in to the controller and our Access Point is running. The first thing we should do is upgrade the firmware. The upgrade contains the latest bug fixes and features for your Access Point. Go to Devices and click on Upgrade on the right side when hovering over the devices
Bandwidth steering helps dual-band clients, like laptops, mobile phones, tablets, etc. to use to less-congested and higher capacity, 5 GHz band. This will result in better WiFi performance for those devices. You can enable and configure bandwidth steering per device in the Unifi Controller.
Go to Site and enable Advanced features under the services section. Then go to devices and select the access point. Under config (on the right side) you will find bandwidth steering. Set it to Prefer 5G.
Disable the wifi on your old Router
The last step is to disable the wifi on your old router because the UAP is strong enough to cover your entire house. You can’t just unplug your router, you need it for your internet connection. To disable the wifi on your router, you need to log in to the admin interface of your router (most of the time you will find it on http://192.168.1.1 or http://192.168.1.254), find the Wireless settings, and turn it off.