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We’ve all been there — watching that spinning wheel. When Wi-Fi slows down your entire life can get frustrating very fast.
Our email and browsers stop loading. Our streaming movies freeze. Our phones revert to data plans. Everything buffers at the same time. If several family members are online at the same time then tempers can flare.
There are plenty of reasons your Wi-Fi keeps slowing down: signal congestion, router location, firmware issues, hardware limitations or even the physical size of your home.
Then again, it could just be your neighbors. They might be using the Internet on your dime, and all you get out of it is slower Internet speeds.
Here are ten ways to boost your home Wi-Fi and reduce the risk of connection failures.
Update your router’s firmware
The reason to do this step is twofold. First, you can take advantage of any additional features and improvements of the new version of the firmware. Second, updating will usually give your router any important security updates.
The administration page is where you can usually find the options to check, review, download, and install your router’s new firmware. The exact steps depend on your router’s make and model, so check the router manufacturer’s support site for detailed directions.
Look for interferences from household devices
Routers often compete for airwaves with other household devices. Rival devices such as cordless phones, Bluetooth speakers, microwave ovens, and baby monitors can impact your Wi-Fi network.
Change the channel your router is using
You can also select a different channel for your router. This is especially helpful if you’re tuned to that 2.4GHz frequency. Moving from one channel to a less crowded one may help speed things up. To check the optimum 2.4GHz channel for your area or the least used channel, try using a Wi-Fi scanner.
For Macs, Apple provides a free tool called “Wireless Diagnostics.” To access it, hold the Option key while clicking on the Wi-Fi icon on the right-hand side of the menu bar, then choose Open Wireless Diagnostics.
For Windows, download the free Wi-Fi utility, Acrylic Wi-Fi Home. Similar to the Mac’s Scan tool, this application will instantly give you information about the Wi-Fi signals in your area including the channels they utilize.
Put the kids and guests on their own network
Put the kids and guests on their own network.
You can set up a different Wi-Fi router for this, or you can simply enable your router’s “Guest Network” option if it has one. You can also set up a different network name (SSID) and password for the guest network to avoid confusion with your main network.
Guest networks are meant for visitors to your home who might need a Wi-Fi internet connection yet keeps your shared files private. This segregation will also work for your smart appliances and shield your main devices from Internet of Things attacks.
Just check your router’s support site for information on how to enable the guest network and protect it from intruders.
Get an updated router
If you’re in the market for a new router and you want improved Wi-Fi speeds and reach across your home or office, aim for at least an 802.11 N or AC router with dual or triple-band capabilities.
AC routers have a maximum spectral bandwidth of around 8 x 160 MHz, compared to the 4 x 40 MHz standard of N routers. In other words, the increased bandwidth allows more data to be transmitted without slowing down.
Additionally, by having multi-bands, you could keep older 2.4GHz devices on their own bands while keeping newer devices that support the latest Wi-Fi standards on the higher bands. This is like having multiple routers in one.
Newer AC routers also have advanced features not found in older routers. Look for specifications like beamforming, Multiple-In-Multiple-Out (MIMO), multiple USB 3.0 connectors and Gigabit Ethernet ports.
Try a mesh network
If you have a large house or office space that requires consistent network speeds, a mesh Wi-Fi network is worth the money. Unlike standard Wi-Fi routers that require extenders for added reach, next-generation mesh routers are designed to spread a Wi-Fi network’s coverage through multiple access points.
These systems usually come in sets of two or three separate units that work together to envelop your home or office with Wi-Fi coverage. As far as your gadgets are concerned, the Wi-Fi mesh is one big continuous Wi-Fi network.
If you want to know more about mesh networks, click here.
Make sure your security is properly set
When unauthorized devices mooch your Wi-Fi, it slows down your network. But even the type of wireless security you use can impact your overall speed.
First off, if your network is Open (no security) or uses WEP, change the security setting immediately. Obviously, an open network will make it easy for someone to steal your Wi-Fi, and the older WEP security is easily hacked. This leaves you with WPA, WPA2 with TKIP or WPA2 with AES. WPA and TKIP are older protocols and are now considered insecure. The way to go is WPA2 with AES.
Change your router’s location
Don’t hide your router or keep it on the floor. Elevate the router and make sure there are no obstructions.
Another important factor that affects your Wi-Fi network’s connectivity is its physical location. Try placing your router as close to the center of your home as possible. It’s also a good idea to keep it elevated and free from any physical obstructions like furniture and appliances.
This is what I did. I moved my router from the side of the room along an outer wall, to an inner wall in the center of the house. My connection speed improved dramatically. Even a move of just a few feet can make a difference if it helps get closer to the receiving device you are connecting with.
You may also avoid reflective surfaces like glass, mirrors, and metal because Wi-Fi signals tend to bounce off these types of materials. Walls, especially those made of concrete, can also severely degrade your Wi-Fi signal.
You may even adjust your router’s antennas. Your router’s antenna is omnidirectional, so the signal goes every direction equally. If you put your router along an outside wall, you’re sending half your signal outside.
If your house is too big for a single router, you may need a boost. For distance issues, try installing Wi-Fi extenders around your house to boost your network’s range. There are several types of extenders from an additional router, to a system that uses your homes electrical wiring.
Just remember that an extender will not give you the same strength as the primary router, but they are good for getting a signal elsewhere if it’s absolutely necessary. Think of an extender like an extra-long water hose. The pressure coming out a long hose is much less than a short hose.
Choose the right band
Wi-Fi bands are not created equal. If you have a newer router, check to see if it supports the 5GHz band. Newer N or AC routers typically support this band. Unlike B/G routers that only transmit on the crowded 2.4GHz spectrum, N and AC routers could transmit on 5GHz as well.
Newer routers usually have dual-band capability. By enabling dual bands, you could keep older devices that only support the slower G specification on the 2.4GHz band and newer devices on the beefier and speedier 5GHz band. This is essentially like having two routers in one.
Reboot your router
Most users have to reboot their cable or DSL modem from time to time. If your network seems sluggish, unplug both gadgets for at least 30 seconds. Plug in the modem first and wait for it to come fully online. Then turn on your router. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
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