10 Ways to Boost Your Wi-Fi Signal
1. Update Your Router Firmware
Perhaps your router just needs an update. Router manufacturers are always tweaking software to eke out a bit more speed. Most current routers have the update process built right into the administration interface, so it’s just a matter of hitting a firmware upgrade button. Other models, particularly if they’re older, still require you to go to the manufacturer’s website, download a firmware file from your router’s support page, and upload it to the administration interface. It’s tedious, but still a good thing to do since it would be such a simple fix. In fact, even if your wireless network isn’t ailing, you should make it a point to update your firmware on a regular basis for performance improvements, better features, and security updates.
2. Achieve Optimal Router Placement
Not all rooms and spaces are created equal. The fact is, where you place the router can affect your wireless coverage. It may seem logical to have the router inside a cabinet and out of the way, or right by the window where the cable comes in, but that’s not always the case. Rather than relegating it to a far end of your home, the router should be in the center of your house, if possible, so its signal can reach as far as possible.In addition, wireless routers need open spaces, away from walls and obstructions. So while it’s tempting to put that ugly black box in a cabinet or behind a bunch of books, you’ll get better signal if it’s surrounded by open air Keep it away from heavy-duty appliances or electronics as well, since running those in close proximity can impact Wi-Fi performance.
3. What’s Your Frequency?
Take a look at your network’s administrator interface, and make sure you have it configured for optimum performance. If you have a dual-band router, you’ll likely get better throughput by switching to the 5GHz band instead of using the more common 2.4GHz band.Not only does 5GHz offer faster speeds, but you’ll likely encounter less interference from other wireless networks and devices, because the 5GHz frequency is not as commonly used. Most modern dual-band routers should offer you the option to use the same network name, or SSID, on both bands. Check your router’s administration interface, look for the 5GHz network option, and give it the same SSID and password as your 2.4GHz network. That way, your devices will automatically choose the best signal whenever they can.
4. Change That Channel
Interference is a big issue, especially for those who live in densely populated areas. Signals from other wireless networks can impact speeds, not to mention some cordless phone systems, microwaves, and other electronic devices. All modern routers can switch across different channels when communicating with your devices. Most routers will choose the channel for you, but if neighboring wireless networks are also using the same channel, then you are going to encounter signal congestion.
5. Control Quality
Most modern routers come with Quality of Service (QoS) tools to limit the amount of bandwidth that apps use. QoS settings can typically be found under advanced settings in the network’s administrator interface. Some routers may even make it easier by offering a one-click multimedia or gaming setting, so you know those applications will be prioritized.
6. Don’t Rely on Obsolete Hardware
All the tweaking we’ve outlined above will only get you so far—the maximum throughput for 802.11g is 54Mbps, while 802.11n caps out at 300Mbps. The latest 802.11ac supports 1Gbps, while next-gen Wi-Fi 6 routers can theoretically hit 10Gbps, but it’s early days. Our list of the best wireless routers is a good place to start the search for a faster router. A higher-quality router won’t just support those faster standards—it’ll also do all the things we’ve outlined above better. It’ll perform better channel selection, band steering for 5GHz devices, and have better QoS features.Others may have features like Multi User-Multiple Input Multiple Output (MU-MIMO), like the Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart WiFi Router. MU-MIMO routers can send and receive multiple data streams simultaneously to multiple devices without bandwidth degradation and require specialized testing with multiple clients, but the clients need to be MU-MIMO compatible.
7. Replace Your Antenna
router uses an internal antenna, adding an external one would be a good idea, as the latter tends to send a stronger signal. In many cases, you can choose between omnidirectional antennas, which send a signal to all directions, or directional ones, which send a signal in one specific direction. Most built-in antennas tend to be omnidirectional, so if you are buying an external one, it should be marked “high-gain” to actually make a difference.Point your external antenna in the direction of your weak spot, and it will broadcast the signal accordingly.
8. Set Up a Wireless Range Extender
Distance is one of the more obvious problems—there is a certain optimal range that the wireless signal can travel. If the network has to cover an area larger than the router is capable of transmitting to, or if there are lots of corners to go around and walls to penetrate, performance will take a hit. It’s possible that your house is just too big for a single router to send a good signal everywhere. All routers are only capable of broadcasting reliably up to a certain distance before the signal gets weak.Range extenders looks similar to standard routers, but work differently. For starters, they pick up the existing Wi-Fi signal from your wireless router and simply rebroadcast it. As far as your network router is concerned, the range extender is just another client with an IP address, much like a laptop.
9. Upgrade to a Mesh-Based Wi-Fi System
Range extenders help bring connectivity to dead zones, but wireless range extenders usually provide about half the bandwidth you’ll get from your primary router. They often require separate management from two different administration pages, and can even force you to use two different SSIDs, which is a huge pain. If you want seamless connectivity everywhere in your home, manageable from a simple smartphone app, consider upgrading your whole network a mesh Wi-Fi system instead. Designed to cover every corner of your home, mesh Wi-Fi systems aim to replace your router rather than just extend it. You’ll connect one node directly to your modem, then place one or more satellite nodes around your house. The included app will walk you through the setup, ensuring each node is placed in the ideal spot for the best signal.The downside mesh Wi-Fi Systems aren’t cheap, especially if you have a large home, which will require multiple nodes. But if you’re in the market for a new router anyway, they might be worth considering as an alternative.
10. Get Into the Guts of Your Router
the adventurous should look at the open-source DD-WRT router operating system. Many major router manufacturers, such as Linksys, Netgear, and TrendNET offer routers that can run DD-WRT. Or you can simply download DD-WRT and install it on any compatible router you have lying around. DD-WRT can ramp up performance and give you access to more advanced networking features including virtual private networking (VPN), security, and granular customization.