How to Monitor Internet Activity on Your Router
While there are plenty of ways to monitor website activity on a computer, if you don't have access to a computer or Wi-Fi device, you can monitor traffic from your Wi-Fi router. Most routers today can give you detailed reports that show which devices accessed the Internet, what websites were visited, when they were connected and when they logged off. To get reports when you're not at home, have the router email them to you,.
Advanced Router Logs
Most Wi-Fi routers on the market today have the ability to monitor Internet traffic. On a Netgear router, for example, log into your admin panel using a Web browser, select, "Administration," then "Logs." On a Linksys router, go to "Router Settings," click "Troubleshooting" and click the "Logs" tab. The log shows you the IP address of the device accessing the Internet, the Web address or IP address of the Internet site, the time and whether or not the connection to the site was successful. This last part is helpful if you have blocked specific websites from being visited. Some routers may show you the computer's MAC address instead of its IP address.
Knowing Which Computer Is Which
Since routers don't tell you computer names, you will need to look them up if you want to know whose computer is whose in your home. To do this on a Windows computer, go to that computer and type "cmd" in Windows Search. This opens the Command Prompt window. Type "ipconfig /all" and press enter. This shows you that computer's IP address. You'll find the MAC address there as well if your router uses MAC addresses to identify computers instead of IP addresses. If you can't access a computer or device, identify the computers you can access and use the process of elimination to identify that computer.
Monitoring Traffic Volume
For some households, knowing which websites family members are visiting isn't as important as making sure bandwidth is kept below the monthly limit. In this case, you can configure most routers to monitor traffic instead of websites. To find this option on a Netgear router, click "Advanced," then "Advanced Setup" and then "Traffic Meter." On a D-Link router, go to the Traffic Statistics screen of the Advanced functions to see how much data has passed through your Internet connection in the WAN section.
Email and Apps
If you aren't home, or if you just don't want to log in to your router every day, most routers have options for sending reports as email notifications. You can specify how often a traffic log should be sent to you, as well as have the router notify you when specific events are triggered -- like when someone tries to access a website you blocked. Manufacturers like D-Link and Linksys now have remote monitoring apps for your smartphone or tablet. When you launch the app, you can see the websites that have been accessed by devices on your network, as well as set parental controls and change other settings on the router.
References & Resources
- Netgear: Nighthawk AC1900 Smart WiFi Router User Manual
- Linksys: User Guide EA6900
- D-Link: Wireless AC750 Dual Band Cloud Router User Manual
- University of Wisconsin: Windows 8 - Finding the IP Number and MAC Address of a Network Card
- D-Link: Wireless AC750 Dual Band Gigabit Cloud Router
- D-Link: Mydlink SharePort
- Linksys: Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Apps