10 Ways to Boost Your Wi-Fi Signal

Browsing slowing to a crawl, the inability to stream, lost Wi-Fi signals, wireless dead zones—every one of these difficulties is aggravating in a world where going online has become, for some, as vital as breathing. (Well, maybe not that critical…but still essential.)

If you feel like your Wi-Fi has grown slow, there are several programs you may use to test the speed of your internet. There are also a few techniques you may try to troubleshoot your network difficulties.

However, if the only way you can get adequate coverage is by standing near to your wireless router, these easy techniques can assist improve your network.

Check Your Wired Internet Connection

Before you blame the Wi-Fi, ensure sure the internet coming into your property is working as it should. Find an Ethernet cable and plug your computer straight into your modem—you may need a USB to Ethernet converter if your laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet port.

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Run a speed test to discover your internet speed. If it doesn’t match the speed on your internet bill, you may need to call your ISP or change your modem.

If your speed test does match your internet bill, but it still appears slow, it may be time to pony up for a better plan. (My grandma was certain her Wi-Fi was broken, only for me to tell her she was subscribing to a snail’s-pace 3Mbps connection.)

If the modem appears normal, try doing the test again wirelessly, standing very close to the router. If you receive equally high speeds close to the router, but not elsewhere in the home, then your Wi-Fi coverage may be to blame. If your internet is still sluggish standing right next to the router, you may have some obsolete gear that requires an upgrade.

Update Your Router Firmware

Before you start adjusting things, it’s a good idea to update your router. Router makers are continually updating software to squeeze out a bit more speed. How easy—or how hard—it is to change your firmware relies completely on your device’s brand and model.

Most contemporary routers have the update procedure incorporated directly into the administrative interface, so it’s just a question of clicking a firmware upgrade button.

Other models, particularly if they’re older, still require you to visit the manufacturer’s website, download a firmware file from your router’s support page, and upload it to the administrator interface. It’s laborious, but still, a nice thing to accomplish since it would be such a simple repair.

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In fact, even if your wireless network isn’t ill, you should make it a point to upgrade your firmware on a regular basis for speed improvements, improved features, and security updates. For help with this, we offer a guide on accessing your router’s settings.

If you truly want to get the most out of your present router, the adventurous should look into a third-party firmware, such as the open-source DD-WRT. This can ramp up speed and offer you access to more complex networking capabilities, like the ability to install a virtual private network (VPN) straight onto your router. It’s a bit more complicated to set up, but for tech-savvy individuals, it may be beneficial.

Achieve Optimal Router Placement

Not all residences will spread Wi-Fi signals evenly. The reality is, that where you position the router may greatly influence your wifi coverage. It may seem sensible to place the router inside a cabinet and out of the way, or directly by the window where the wire comes in, but that’s not always the case.

Rather than relegating it to a remote end of your property, the router should be in the middle of your house, if feasible, so its signal can reach each corner with ease.

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In addition, wireless routers need wide places, away from walls and impediments. So while it’s tempting to hide that unsightly black box in a closet or behind a stack of books, you’ll get a stronger signal if it’s surrounded by open air (which should keep the router from overheating, too) (which should prevent the router from overheating, too).

Keep it away from heavy-duty appliances or devices as well, as operating such in close proximity might impair Wi-Fi performance. If you can eliminate even one wall between your workplace and the router, you can dramatically increase performance.

If your router has external antennas, position them vertically to bump up coverage. If you can, it even helps to raise the router—mount it high on the wall or on the top shelf to obtain a stronger signal.

There are many tools that help you visualize your network coverage. We recommend Ekahau’s Heatmapper or MetaGeek’s inSSIDer, which show you both the weak and strong locations in your Wi-Fi network. There are lots of smartphone applications, too, such as Netgear’s WiFi Analytics.

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What’s Your Frequency?

Take a look at your network’s administrator interface and make sure you have it set for maximum performance. If you have a dual-band router, you’ll likely receive greater throughput by switching to the 5GHz frequency instead of utilizing the more popular 2.4GHz channel.

Not only does 5GHz offer quicker speeds, but you’ll likely face less interference from other wireless networks and gadgets because the 5GHz band is not as widely utilized. (It doesn’t handle obstacles and distances quite as well, though, so it won’t always travel as far as a 2.4GHz signal does.)

Most current dual-band routers should provide you the option to use the same network name, or SSID, on both bands. Check your router’s administrative interface, seek the 5GHz network option, and give it the same SSID and password as your 2.4GHz network. That way, your devices will automatically select the best signal whenever they can.

(If your router doesn’t provide you the choice to use the same SSID, just give it another name—like SmithHouse-5GHz—and attempt to connect to that one manually whenever feasible.)

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Change That Channel

Interference is a major concern, particularly for people who reside in heavily populated regions. Signals from other wireless networks, as well as some cordless phone systems, microwaves, and other electrical equipment, can have an influence on speeds.

Have you ever played with walkie-talkies as a kid? You may recall that the devices had to be on the same “channel” for you to hear each other. And if you were on the same channel as your neighbors, you could listen in on their discussion even though they were using a completely different set. In the same spirit, while interacting with your devices, all contemporary routers may switch between channels.

Most routers will choose the channel for you, but if adjacent wireless networks are also utilizing the same channel, signal congestion will occur. A decent router set to Automatic will try to select the least crowded channel, while older or less expensive routers may just select a predetermined channel, even if it isn’t the optimal one. That may be an issue.

You can check what channels adjacent Wi-Fi networks are utilizing on Windows-based PCs. Type netsh WLAN show all from the command prompt to view a list of all wireless networks and channels in your area. The aforementioned network analyzers may also provide you with this information, typically in a more readable graphical manner.

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Channels 6 and 11 are used by the majority of our networks and those of our neighbors at the BestWifiRouterGuide office, for example. In general, you should adhere to 2.4GHz channels 1, 6, and 11 because these are the only ones that do not overlap with other channels (which can degrade performance). 5GHz, on the other hand, often employs non-overlapping channels, which should make choosing the correct one much easier.

If you discover that the Auto option isn’t working for you, log into your router’s administrator interface, navigate to the basic wireless category, and choose one manually (preferably, one that isn’t in use by many networks in your region). Run another speed test to determine whether it offers a better signal and quicker speeds in your issue regions than the Automatic setting.

Keep in mind that channel congestion can change over time, so if you pick a channel manually, you should check in every now and then to ensure it’s still the best one.

Kick Off Wi-Fi Intruders

It’s very conceivable that the issue is unrelated to interference or Wi-Fi range. If your network is open or has a weak password, an unwelcome visitor or two might be piggybacking on your network. Your video conversations will suffer if your neighbor is downloading several 4K movies on your Wi-Fi.

These tools can help you locate a list of devices connected to your Wi-Fi, which can assist you to detect unwelcome guests. Your router’s admin interface may also have a traffic analyzer that will show you which devices are consuming a lot of data—you may even discover that one of your own children is consuming a lot of bandwidth without your knowledge. (If so, here’s how to get them started.)

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Once you’ve identified the intruder and resolved the issue, protect your network with a strong password—preferably WPA2, as WEP is infamously simple to crack—to prevent others from joining in.

Control Quality

Most contemporary routers have Quality of Service (QoS) features to control the amount of bandwidth that apps consume, such as the Netgear menu seen above. For example, you might utilize QoS to prioritize video conversations over file downloads, so your chat with Grandma doesn’t break merely because someone else is downloading a large file from Dropbox. (Sure, their paperwork will take longer, but grandmother is more essential.) Some QoS settings even allow you to prioritize various apps at different times of the day.

QoS settings are generally accessible in the network administrator interface under advanced settings. Some routers may even make things easier by providing a one-click entertainment or gaming setting, so you know certain apps will be prioritized. There are actions you may do to improve your chances of streaming games when sharing a network.

Upgrade Your Obsolete Hardware

It’s a good idea to make the most of your existing equipment, but you can’t expect the best performance if you’re using obsolete gear. When it comes to back-end equipment, especially networking hardware, we have a propensity to follow the “if it ain’t busted, don’t change it” approach. However, if you purchased your router some years ago, it may still be utilizing the older, slower 802.11n protocol (or God forbid, 802.11g).

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Older routers may have relatively low bandwidth caps and even lower ranges. As a result, all of the aforementioned tinkerings will only go you so far—the maximum speed for 802.11g is 54Mbps, whereas 802.11n tops out at 300Mbps. The most recent 802.11ac routers support 1Gbps, but next-generation Wi-Fi 6 routers may theoretically reach 10Gbps. Our list of the best wifi routers is an excellent starting point for your quest for a speedier router.

Even if your router is relatively recent, you may have some older devices that are reverting to older, slower standards. If you bought a PC in the recent few years, it most certainly has an 802.11ac wireless adapter, or at the very least an 802.11n adapter. The older your gadgets, however, the less likely they are to have contemporary technology integrated into them. (However, you might be able to buy a USB Wi-Fi adaptor to make things a little easier on those old PCs.)

Remember that a higher-quality router will not only handle those quicker standards, but it will also perform all of the things we’ve discussed above better. It will offer improved channel selection, greater band steering for 5GHz devices, and improved QoS capabilities.

Others, such as the Editors’ Choice TP-Link Archer AX11000 tri-band gaming router, may offer capabilities such as Multi User-Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO). MU-MIMO routers may send and receive multiple data streams to numerous devices at the same time without degrading bandwidth and require specialized testing with multiple clients, but the clients must be MU-MIMO compliant.

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Reach Further With a Range Extender or Mesh Wi-Fi

Some modern routers may have a better range than your old beater, but you may still not obtain the range you want in many homes. If the network must cover a wider area than the router can broadcast to, or if there are many corners to go around and walls to penetrate, performance will surely suffer.

If none of the previous suggestions work, it’s likely that your home is too large for a single router to transmit a strong signal everywhere. In such a situation, you’d need to add another device to your setup to expand your signal.

Range extenders receive a signal from your router and relay it to your devices, and vice versa. However, while they are less expensive, they are not always as successful as mesh Wi-Fi systems, which completely replace your old router.

Rather than just replicating a router’s signal, several units collaborate to intelligently route traffic back to your modem, blanketing your home in a single Wi-Fi network that reaches anywhere you need it.

When setting up these mesh points, you should still follow the same placement rules: one node should be linked to your modem, and each of the other nodes should be close enough to pick up a good signal while yet being far enough away to spread coverage to your dead zones.

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The typical disadvantage of Wi-Fi mesh networks has been their higher cost than just adding a range extender to your current router. We anticipate that to change in the near future, thanks to Amazon’s Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6, which cost $100 to $200 less than many of their mesh competitors while having Wi-Fi 6 compatibility and even a Zigbee smart home device hub incorporated into the primary router.

Even with a mesh system, you may still see some speed loss at the far ends of your house, especially if your Wi-Fi needs to make many “hops”—again, placing the main unit in the center of your house and connecting the nodes via Ethernet will give the greatest results. Trust me: if you genuinely want trouble-free Wi-Fi, it’s worth having an electrician run a couple of Ethernet wires to each mesh device, since anything else, in my experience, is a compromise that may or may not meet your expectations.

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