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Occasionally your wireless router doesn’t quite broadcast its WiFi signal into the furthest nooks and crannies of your home. If your device is having trouble maintaining a strong connection to your router it can make things feel slow, or even cause you to drop the connection completely. Here are a few suggestions for extending your WiFi and generally increasing the performance of your home network.
When possible use an Ethernet cable to connect. All devices connected to your WiFi compete for your router’s attention and available broadcast spectrum. If you have a TV or game console just a few feet away use an Ethernet cable to patch in and free up some valuable airwaves.
Position your router better, ideally up high in a central location. Every wall or piece of furniture the signal has to travel through degrades it. Tossing your router behind a desk or bookcase will keep it out of sight but it will also severely hamstring its broadcast and receiving capabilities.
When possible, use an Ethernet cable to connect. I know I just said that. Do it already. Especially for high need devices such as your smart TV or your gaming console.
Do some sleuthing! Many smartphones are all you need to test what sort of signal your router is putting out. Simply download a WiFi sniffer app and check the signal in the places you’re experiencing issues. Signal strength is expressed as a negative number. -1 is the unattainable goal we’re shooting for. Generally speaking -40 to -60 is excellent. Signals in the -60 to -75 range are acceptable. Anything -80 or above is pretty bad, nearing the point of unusable. If a signal is poor, take a couple steps left or right and see if it gets any better. It could just be a dead spot. If you happen to have x-ray vision, you can stare through the walls towards where your router is and see what obstructions (full closets, brick fireplaces, kitchen appliances, gun safes, etc.) are in between you and it. Failing x-ray vision, you may just have to guess.
Keep in mind the router is only half of a wireless connection. The other half is handled by the wireless card in your device. Laptops (generally) have more powerful wireless cards than the smaller cards built into smartphones or tablets. If your desktop has an internal wireless card (and the Ethternet cable is not plugged in already!!!) try to position it so it doesn’t have to shoot a signal through its own case.
Many WiFi sniffers also will tell you which channels are noisy and which are clear. This is good information to note in case you need to change to a different channel later.
WARNING: Changing settings incorrectly in your router may cause it to need a complete reconfiguration. Do not attempt any of the following unless you know how to return your router to its prior settings (not to factory defaults.)
Most routers operate in the 2.4GHz frequency. Unfortunately, so do many other consumer grade products such as bluetooth, cordless phones, baby monitors and even microwaves. If you’re in a noisy environment you can change the channel on your router to a less congested one. Moving conflicting devices away from each other can also reduce interference.
If you’re using a dual band router, shut off the 5GHz band. Currently many devices do not support 5GHz. It also has a shorter range and is not as effective at penetrating walls as the 2.4GHz band. The 5GHz band would be most useful in extremely noisy 2.4GHz environments such as massive apartment complexes where you would overlap with many other wireless networks. If this is not the case, it’s better to shut it off and clear the airwaves.
Make sure your router’s firmware is up to date. Usually this can be found on the manufacturer of your router’s website, or simply by searching your router’s model number with the word “firmware” after it. Be very careful to get the firmware for your exact model number or there may be compatibility issues. Occasionally a firmware update will require you to reconfigure your router completely, so heads up.
A wireless repeater can extend the range of your home network. Alternately, in some cases a second router can be configured as an additional access point. As a general rule greater success is achieved when your main router and repeater/secondary router are the same brand.