How to Setup a Ubiquiti Unifi Access Point

Setting up a Ubiquiti Unifi Access Point is really easy and can be done in a couple of minutes. In this article, I am going to help you install the Unifi Controller and connecting the Unifi AP to your network. Also, I will give you some tips on choosing the right Access Point, where you should place you AP and how to get the most performance out of your Unifi Access point.

The great thing about the Unifi range is that you get enterprise-class wifi for an affordable price. It sounds too good to be true, but they are really good. And besides cheap, they are also easy to install and to manage with the controller.

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-medium sized businesses. The HD and EDU lines are for environments where you need to support up to 200 users on a single device.

The most used Access Point at home or at small businesses is the Unifi AC-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 then 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.

There are three options to choose from, the Lite, Long Range (LR) and the Pro.

PriceCheck on AmazonCheck on AmazonCheck on Amazon
Unifi AC-LiteUnifi AC-LRUnifi AC Pro
UAP-AC-LITEUAP-AC-LRUAP-AC-PRO
Size (diameter)160mm175mm 198mm
2.4 GHz speed 300Mbps450Mbps450Mbps
2.4 GHz Antennas2x23x33x4
5 Ghz speed876Mbps876Mbps1300Mbps
5 GHz Antennas2x22x23x3
Range122m (400ft)183m (600ft)183m (600ft)

AC-LR vs AC-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 the 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 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 important, picking up the weaker signal from a smartphone or tablet. Mobile devices have only a small antenna built-in 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 why you need a big and sensitive antenna to pick the weak signal up.


Where to place the Access Point

For in-house placements, the AC-Lite or AC-LR 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 in the same frequency (cordless phones and microwaves for example). Also, large metal objects (fireplaces, chimney) tent 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 a decent coverage. The rebar and concrete weaken the signal too much for good coverage.

You can also check out this post about the best home network setup. It has some example floorplans where you can see how important the right location is for a good wifi signal.

Installing the Unifi Access

So we now know what to buy, where to place it, but how do we install and manage it?

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 a perfectly clear installation instruction 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 time 😉

Step 2 – Manage your Unifi AC

There are multiple options to configure your Access Point, you can use a Controller (a small piece of software), cloud controller (requires Cloud Key) and a mobile app.

  • The Controller doesn’t need to be running all the time, so you can install it on your notebook, 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.
  • Cloud key is a small device that is bought separately for $ 90,- and that you connect to your network. When connected you can manage your network remotely.
  • Mobile App can be used to configure a standalone device. So if you have just one access points and no specials needs (like multiple SSIDs) then you can use the Mobile App to set it up.

Installing the Controller Software

  1. To install and manage the Unifi Access Point we need to download the controller. Go to the download page at ubnt.com and download the latest controller from Windows, Mac or Linux:
    Download Unifi Accesspoint software
  2. 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..”

    Starting the Unifi Access Point controller

  3. Select your location and timezone and continue.
  4. On the next page, Configure devices, you will the 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).
    1. 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.
    2. Download the Ubiquiti Device Discovery Tool from the Chrome App store. With this tool, you can scan your network for Ubiquiti devices. Check if there are on the same network as you are.
    3. Reset the Access Point, hold the reset button for 5 sec to set it back to factory settings.
  5. Configure your Wifi network, enter a name for your Wifi network and a strong password. You can change these details later.
  6. Next is the admin credentials for the controller and the device credentials. The latter is to manage is Access Point without a controller.
  7. When done, click finish and login in for the first time into the Controller. You will see the dashboard with the connected devices.

Unifi setup access point wizard

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 the controller and our Access Point is running you first should upgrade the firmware. This contains the latest bug fixes and features for your Access Point. Goto Devices and click on Upgrade on the right side

Unifi Access Point overview

Uplink Connectivity Monitor

If your controller is not online 24/7 you should turn off the Uplink Connectivity Monitor in SettingsSite. This will make the Access Points work better when the controller is not available.

Unifi controller site settings

Bandwidth steering

Bandwidth steering helps dual-band clients, like laptops, mobile phones, tablet etc to use to less-congested and higher capacity 5 Ghz band. This will result in a 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 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.

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