How to Schedule Network Shutdowns with Access Controls

Parents (and prankster roommates) take note: Booting housemates offline when Internet time is done for the day is easy. Just walk on over to the router, unplug it from the wall, bring the router into your room, lock the door, and hope nobody breaks through.

But let’s be honest: This nightly ritual to prevent others in your home from watching Hulu into the wee hours of the morning is a tad extreme. That’s where the power of your router’s Access Controls comes into play. It couldn’t be any easier to set up an automated schedule for restricting network use to any connected device on your network.

On a typical D-link router, navigate to the device’s Web-based configuration screen by typing its IP address into the address bar of your Web browser. Click on the “Advanced” tab and select the “Access Control” option on the left. Check the box next to “Enable Access Control” on the following screen, then click “Add Policy.”

Once you’ve thought of a good name for your access rules (I suggest: “GoToBed”), you’ll be asked to set a schedule: Do you always want your restrictions to run or should they only switch on during a particular time period? You can create a schedule for your network shutdown by selecting the “Define a new schedule” option and clicking the “Next” button. You’re going to jump out of the Access Control configuration screen to create this access schedule, so don’t forget to head back once you’ve set up your time restrictions.

Now comes the important part — picking which systems these restrictions should apply to, which you’ll do on the “Select Machine” screen. I recommend that you select network devices using their MAC address because your router could be assigning different IP addresses to different devices over time. A MAC address serves as a permanent unique identifier that differentiates one desktop PC from another, from a laptop, from a smartphone, etc. To find out how to locate a device’s MAC address, refer to it’s user manual.

The “Select Machine” screen is also where you’ll go to permanently banish particular devices from your network: Just set a rule that denies forbidden devices (selected by their MAC addresses) access to your network.

Now that you’ve picked the network devices you’ll be restricting, you have to define what the restrictions entail. You can set a filtering method that blocks all network access at once. But if you’re feeling lenient, you can also just blacklist particular sites via the “Website Filter” option on the left-hand sidebar of your router’s Advanced Configuration menu. You can even block the specific ports that your housemates’ computers use to send and receive requests — a useful approach if you’ve determined that their BitTorrent requests always transmit over the same port, for example.

While using Access Control settings to limit network connections might not have the same satisfying feeling as pulling cords on your router at 11 o’clock each night, it’s a lot more convenient. And it ensures that you and other trusted users on your network can keep on surfing and downloading while others sit in the Internet equivalent of time-out.

[ This sponsored article was written by IDG Creative Lab, a partner of PCWorld. ]

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