Monday, November 23, 2020

How to set up a separate network for your kids that uses the Circle by Disney or Circle Home Plus

Update: Several of the features of Circle, such as filtering, usage tracking and time limits are not working.  As many others have reported similar issues, I don't know if this is a result of me setting it up as a second router or not. 

Update:  Circle has now "forgotten" my premium subscription three times.  Again, I don't know if this is related to my setup or not.

Update: Router was not picking up time server. Steps below have been updated.

Given these issues, I don't recommend trying the setup below unless you are willing to take a lot of time to troubleshoot it.

I bought a used router that - unexpectedly - had the Circle parental control functions built-in.  I wanted Circle anyway, so it was a bit of luck.  But it wasn't exactly obvious how to set it up.


Problem:  You want to set up a Circle network without having all your devices on it.  Or: you want a separate network for your kids, managed by Circle.


•  You're worried about the Circle slowing down your network.  

•  The Circle is easier to set up with only a few devices connected to it.

•  You just don't like the idea of ARP spoofing your entire network. 

•  You have extra hardware lying around, may as well use it.

•  You want a hardware off button for your kids internet access.

•  It just seems easier.

Easy options:

1.  Router with Circle (Gen 1) built-in.

Pros:  Cheap, easy setup, only one additional device.

Cons:  Off-network / location app discontinued, so no management off-network and no location function; at-home management only.  Gen 1 may not be supported for too much longer (although Netgear seems to think it will stick around).

2.  Second router with stand-alone Circle device.

Pros:  Supports Circle Home Plus (Gen 2), meaning newer features (off-network / roaming device control, location) work. 

Cons:  You need to buy a stand-alone Circle device, at additional cost.  Using two routers in sequence is very much not recommended, meaning you will not find any support.


Note that (1), above, seemed an easy and obvious solution at the time, but it's not.  It is actually really hard to get a second router to play nice with the first router.

For these reasons, I actually recommend you go with either (2), above, or a "standard" single router with an attached Circle Home Plus, rather than trying to set up a second router for Circle functions.

However, this might be useful for someone wanting to try out Circle, or for those that want Circle separate from their "regular" network.

Circle-Enabled Router

The below is only a summary, and assumes you know how to access/configure a router.   

Unfortunately, you do need to leave the Circle router in "router mode".  Setting it to be an access point, bridge or repeater will disable the parental controls, making it a pointless exercise.  

This leaves us with cascading two routers, which is (again) not recommended.



a.  Go buy a second-hand Netgear router with Circle (1st Gen) built in.  (An R7000 / AC1900 should cost around $40.)

b.   IP address:  this is a tough one.

All internet advice says to set it to a unique static IP address on the same network (i.e.  However, there have been reports that Netgear routers not accept an address intended for internal LAN (such as 192.168.x.x, 10.0.x.x, and 169.254.x.x) as a static WAN address, so this may not work.

From this, if in doubt, use a dynamic IP for the second router.  The Circle router should accept whatever address is handed out via DHCP.

If you try a static IP and it doesn't work, reset the router by holding the reset button for 7 seconds, then start over.

c.  DHCP: also a tough one.

All internet advice says to turn off DHCP on your second router.  But this doesn't seem to work in this scenario.  So you may need to leave DHCP on.

d.  Assign the Wi-Fi network(s) unique SSIDs.

e.  Plug the WAN port of the Circle router into a LAN port on the old router.

f.  Access the new router from a mobile device:

  •  Connect the mobile to the Wi-Fi SSID of the new router

  •  Access it using

ff.  Go to Administration/ NTP Settings and set a time server. Don't use Netgear default.  Use an IP address (i.e. and not a domain name (such as  

fff. VERIFY TIME SETTINGS WORK SURVIVES AFTER REBOOT.  If it doesn't, your premium features will repeatedly disappear.

g.  Enable "Parental Controls".  (The top one, not the bottom one.)

h.  Hit "Apply".

i.  Hit the link for app download / account setup.  (Note: this will NOT work from a PC, hence the need to do steps (e) onward from a mobile.)

j.  Install the Circle (Gen 1 / First Gen) app.

k.  Run the app, sign up.  

l.  Sign up for the free plan.

m.  Connect a device to the new router wifi and make sure it all works.

The above worked for me on a Nighthawk R7000 with Circle built-in.  



•  I did have problems accessing the router consistently.  Changing the IP address made it inaccessible a couple of times.

•  My router appears to be weird, in that I (usually ) can't log in to the router via the direct IP address (i.e.  Instead, I have to connect to the router Wi-Fi, then go to

•   Part of the access problem is that when you plug the Circle router into your old router, you are using the WAN port.  

This means access requests come from the WAN side. not the LAN side.  This falls under "Remote Management" (i.e. access by the outside world), which is disabled by default.

To enable, go to Advanced / Advanced Setup / Web Services Management.  The correct access URL will be, or something like that.  The correct port will be shown on the router page.

•  If you leave DHCP on, the router should start issuing new IP addresses for a different network (i.e. 10.0.0.x).  

This seems to work fine, but will mean devices in the original network space (i.e. 192.168.x.x) will no longer be visible >by name< to the Circle-managed devices.  They should still be accessible by IP address.

•  You can also (obviously) turn off the built-in Circle (Gen 1) hardware and plug in a Circle Home Plus (Gen 2) device any time you want to. So there is an upgrade path.

The below steps I've not personally tried, but hopefully they will work. You may need to adopt steps above as well.


Circle by Disney or Circle Home Plus (stand-alone devices)

a.  Buy or use any compatible router (list is here), provided it has an access point (AP) mode built-in.

b.  Set up the router as a wireless access point (WAP), with a unique SSID.  (Do not use the existing SSID from your existing router!)

c.  Optionally, configure the router with a unique IP address (i.e.

d.  Plug the WAN port of the new router into a LAN port of your existing router.  Make sure it works.

e.  Set up the Circle Home Plus per the manufacturer's instructions.  Associate it with the new SSID from the new router.

This setup should set up the Circle to manage only devices connected to the SSID of the second router.

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