Is your WiFi connection a bit on the sluggish side? Before you run out to purchase a new router, try these mostly free solutions first.
10. Update Your Software
According to tech expert Kim Komando, this is the first thing you should do. “The reason for this is two-fold. First, you can take advantage of all the new features and improvements of the new version of the firmware. Second, your system is updated for security,” Komando said on her website.
Depending on your device, updating your router’s software may be as simple as going to your administration page and following the instructions. Older models will likely require you to download the firmware from your router’s manufacturer’s website.
9. Pick the Right Location
When it comes to WiFi performance, location is everything. “Placement of a router or access point is key,” Kevin Robinson, vice president of marketing at the nonprofit Wi-Fi Alliance, said in a Consumer Reports article. So, where exactly is the best place for your router? In the center of your home, Consumer Reports says. This location will maximize your router’s effectiveness.
Depending on where your connection is running into your home, you may have to run ethernet cable from your current connection to the center of your house. You could also get powerline adapters, Consumer Reports notes. They use your home’s existing electrical outlets. You can get them for $100 or less, the magazine said on its website.
8. Change the Channel
If your neighbors are all using the same channel, you’re likely to run into signal congestion. Picking a channel that’s less congested will boost your home WiFi’s performance, PC Magazine says. You can do this by seeing what channels neighboring WiFi networks are using. If you’re using Windows 7, simply type “netsh wlan show all” in the command prompt to see a list of all wireless networks in your vicinity and the channels they’re using. After you pick a channel, manually switch your router to broadcast on that channel via the network’s administrator interface.
7. Get a Range Extender
To help boost your signal, you may need to invest in a wireless range extender, also known as a WiFi expander or a wireless repeater. Range extenders help eliminate WiFi dead zones. Purchasing a range extender is an especially good idea if your home has thick walls, as they could possibly block signals.
PC Magazine offers this advice on their website for choosing the right extender: “You don’t need an extender that is the same brand or model as your existing router, but you should pick one capable of broadcasting your signal. For example, don’t buy an 802.11n extender if your router is on 802.11ac.” To make it easier for you, PC Magazine has compiled a list of the best wireless range extenders.
NOTE: Range extenders typically provide only half the bandwidth of your router.
6. Keep Hackers at Bay
An unexpectedly slow WiFi may be a sign that someone close by is mooching off your connection. According to DigitalTrends.com, when neighbors tap into your connection, it will cause performance issues. But, just how do you know if your neighbors are stealing your WiFi? DigitalTrends.com suggests trying the following methods to locate the thieves and then lock them out:
-Use an app to search for unusual devices logged into your network.
-Check administrator logs for a listing of all Media Access Control (MAC) addresses connected to your computer. Take it as a red flag if you see several addresses yet you only have one or two devices in your home.
-Beef up security. Add a password on your network, or change the default router name and password if you haven’t already. Changing your password will block access to all current devices. Also, make sure you’re using WPA2. This is the strongest wireless network encryption available to consumers.
5. Add an External Antenna
Even if your router has an internal antenna, you may still want to add an external one since they tend to send stronger signals, PC Magazine said on its website. There are two types of external antennas: directional (an antenna that sends a signal in one specific direction) and omnidirectional (an antenna that sends a signal in all directions). PC Magazine recommends purchasing a directional antenna because it’s highly unlikely you’d be experiencing weak spots in every direction. If, however, you do opt for the omnidirectional antenna, make sure you get one marked “high-gain” for maximum effectiveness, PC Magazine notes.
4. Look for Obstructions and Any Interference
Doors, walls, floors, microwaves, cordless phones, Bluetooth speakers and even water can slow down your network’s signal. “The construction of the walls and how dense those walls are all factor into the propagation of the signal,” Robinson says on ConsumerReports.org. “For example, drywall impedes the signal less than concrete or cinder block.” As for water blocking the signal, Robinson advises against putting an access point behind a fish tank.
TIP: Use a free tool like HeatMapper to identify where the signals are the strongest in your home.
3. Reboot Your Modem and Router
Sometimes boosting your wireless signal is as simple as rebooting your modem and router. If your connection is slow, or if you’re having trouble connecting altogether, “rebooting your cable or DSL modem and router can help get your network back on track,” Komando says on her website. “Unplug both gadgets for 15 seconds, then plug in the modem first and wait for it to come fully online. Then turn on your router. You might find that problems you were having are gone.”
2. Set Up a Guest Network with QoS Enabled
To speed up your connection, Komando suggests setting up a QoS-enabled guest network for the kids. QoS, or Quality of Service, is a router feature that lets you control the amount of bandwidth each device and service on your network consumes. “The devices connected to your router battle for bandwidth like thirst-crazed beasts jostling for access to a receding watering hole,” PCWorld magazine said in an article on its website. “A router with good Quality of Service (QoS) technology can prevent… unequal distribution.”
1. Use Aluminum Foil
Remember the days of attaching aluminum foil to rabbit ears to get better reception on your TV set? Well, that same methodology works for WiFi signals, too. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill tin foil, however. It’s 3D reflectors that rely on “3-D printing to produce a cheap, customized reflector that directs wireless signals to where users need them most”, a press release from Dartmouth College said.
“Through this single solution, we address a number of challenges that plague wireless users,” computer scientist Xia Zhou from Dartmouth College, said in the press release. “Not only do we strengthen wireless signals, we make those same signals more secure.”
You can get a 3D reflector for about $35.
FUN FACT: The idea of using 3D reflectors was inspired by a wikiHow article that teaches you how to use an empty aluminum can to provide a slight boost to your home’s WiFi range.
Now that you know how to boost your WiFi signal, you can give these methods a try. They just may be the solution to your problem. If all else fails, it just may be time to buy a new router. Good luck!