For the most part you shouldn't ever need to log in to your wireless router, but some software - even hardware - won't work until you've forwarded ports. Here we'll explain exactly what that means and how to port forward on just about any .

Most companies have their own servers so gadgets in your home can connect to the internet using a standard router. They can also allow you to remotely access them with little more than an email address, password and ID code. Virtually all IoT - internet of things - devices work like this. Smart thermostats, security cameras - you name it - work like this.

Plus, the advent of UPnP - Universal Plug and Play - should have put an end to manual port forwarding but unfortunately there are still scenarios when you'll need to delve into your router's settings and search for the port forwarding page.

How to port forward: what are ports?

Your router is the middle man between any device with Wi-Fi or a wired network connection and the internet. It's a little like a postal system, ensuring that data coming in and going out is directed to the appropriate place.

Ports are a bit like numbered doors - they can be open or shut to data. Most data uses a few universally agreed doors (port 80, for example), but certain applications or devices are awkward and need to use other ports which are closed by default. That's bad design for the most part, but if you have some software or a gadget which uses ports that are closed by default, you'll need to follow the steps below to forward ports.

How to set up port forwarding

1. In a web browser, type your router's IP address number into the address bar, and press Enter. If you don't know its IP address, see: How to connect to your router.

2. Enter your username and password when your router's web page appears. The default username and password should be in the manual, on a sticker on router itself, or written down somewhere if you changed them from their defaults. You can use Google to find the defaults for most routers. If you don’t remember what you changed them to, or can't find the defaults, you’ll need to reset your router using the pin-hole reset button.

3. To forward ports, look for a tab or menu called applications, port forwarding, port triggering, NAT, advanced or something similar.

4. Although the interface will vary from router to router, you’ll need to enter the same information. The application or gadget should tell you, but if it simply doesn't work, try Googling to see which settings you need.

How to port forward: open ports on a router

You may be able to select the application from a list, but if your game or app isn't there, create a new entry (name it) and enter the port number you want to open, or enter a range of ports to open.

If you aren’t sure what port(s) you need to open for an application, consult this Port Forward list. Some common ports are 25565 (Minecraft), 6881–6887 (BitTorrent clients), and 3724 (World of Warcraft).

5. Choose the protocol (TCP, UDP, or both). Again, search online if you don't know which to choose.

 How to port forward: open ports on a router

6. Now choose which device on the network the rule should apply to. Your router might let you choose a friendly name from a list, or you may have to do it by IP address (in the image above the address has to be entered under Private IP). Regardless of the method, you will probably need to assign a static IP address to that computer or other piece of networking kit. This means telling your router to always give the same IP address when that computer connects to it, this way the port forward rule will always work, and your router will recognise your computer by the MAC address of its Wi-Fi or Ethernet adaptor.

As with port forwarding, you'll have to search your router's menus to find static IP settings, but Google is again your friend if you don't have a manual for your router.

Make sure you save any changes you makes. Most routers have a 'save changes' button on every page and you need to click it before going to a different page.

7. Returning to the port forwarding instructions, after choosing which device the rule should apply to, ensure the rule is enabled. In the image above, this means ticking the Active box next to the rule. Sometimes there is no option: the rule is active if it's in the list. On other routers you can enable and disable rules without deleting them. Bear in mind that a game, service or gadget may need more than one port open, and this may require creating multiple rules.

8. When you've enabled your rule(s) and saved all changes, use this online port forward checker to find out if you have been successful.