Reposition your router
If your router isn’t correctly positioned, its signal could be blocked, deflected, or misdirected, so you’ll struggle to pick it up in the far corners of your home and the speeds you do get will suffer.
When positioning your route:
- DO place your router in a central location in your home, in sight and off the ground
- DON’T hide your router in a closet or cupboard or place it near a window
- DO keep your router away from sources of electromagnetic interference, such as microwaves and Bluetooth speakers
DON’T place your router near thick walls, heavy doors, large appliances, metal pipes, and fish tanks. Heavy objects block the signal, metal scatters it and water will swallow it.
Improve your WiFi security
If you haven’t adequately locked down your WiFi network, it could be playing host to half the neighborhood. For every additional user on your network, the less bandwidth is available to you, slowing your speeds. It’s bad enough sharing bandwidth with your Fortnite addicted husband. Don’t share it with local WiFi leeches.
To secure your WiFi network:
- DO lock your WiFi network with a password
- DON’T use a simple, common, or easily guessed password, including those with personal information, such as your name, the name of your pet, your address, or phone number.
- DO use a unique, complex password with at least eight characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers.
Not to mention you’ll be securing your devices and smart appliances against intrusions by hackers and snoops
Keep your router updated
Not all bandwidth leeches are as obvious as your neighbor holding his tablet out the window to pick up your WiFi. Malware infecting your router can also steal bandwidth, as your internet connection is hijacked to perform nefarious, data-heavy deeds.
Keeping your router up to date with the latest firmware will guard against viruses and malware. An update or reconfiguration can also boost the performance of an older router, improving its signal.
To update your router:
- DO check if your router is running the latest firmware available. To do this, connect to its network, launch a web browser on your computer, and enter the IP address of the router into the browser (it’ll be displayed somewhere on the device). You’ll be prompted to login with an admin username and a password—again displayed on the device, usually on a sticker on the back or bottom. You’ll then see an option called Firmware Update or Router Update for your specific router. If there’s an update available, download it.
- DO optimize your router settings. You don’t have to be a tech wizard to reconfigure your router so it’s working for you. For example, some routers have entertainment settings that prioritize video streaming and gaming when allocating bandwidth. This is a good option if you’re engaged in those activities but can drag down speeds if you’re sharing a connection with a large household.
- DO reboot your router. It sounds as silly as blowing on Nintendo cartridges but simply rebooting your router can resolve many internet connection problems, as if by magic.
- DON’T turn your router off at night. While it’s a good idea to turn your devices off when they’re not in use, to give them a break and also save electricity, if you turn your router off, your internet will look like it’s going down. The connection will then seem unstable and speeds may slow in the future.
Switch to a different WiFi frequency or channel
Most routers today are dual-band, meaning they broadcast on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. The most advanced routers throw in a second 5 GHz band too.
Each of these frequencies offers multiple internet transmission channels. But while the 2.4 GHz band has 14 overlapping channels, 5 GHz has 23 non-overlapping channels. Channel overlap can slow down your connection.
To optimize your WiFi performance:
- DO toggle to the 5 GHz band, which isn’t as crowded, has less interference, and has non-overlapping channels.
DON’T use a heavily-trafficked channel. Most people leave their routers set on the default channel—usually 1 or 6. If you switch to 11 or 14, you’ll see less traffic and receive a stronger WiFi signal.
Buy a new router
Many people rent a router from their ISP. Not only is this an expensive option over time but the gear could also be outdated or not suited to your home. You can buy a more advanced third-party router for around the amount you’ll pay to rent a router from your ISP for a year.
When buying a new router:
- DO choose a router with a fast throughput speed, especially if you’re signed up to a fast fiber or cable plan. Throughput speed is linked to wireless protocol. Look for a router with the 802.11ac protocol or one supporting WiFi 6 (also called 802.11ax), the latest wireless protocol.
- DO choose a dual-band or tri-band router. We covered the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies above. Older routers support only 2.4 GHz, which is slower and more heavily trafficked.
- DO count the antennas. Antennas are what projects WiFi signal around your home. The more, the merrier and the more likely your signal can reach your attic.
Explore WiFi extenders and mesh networks
If you’ve made these changes and upgraded your router and you still can’t beam signal into all the corners of your home, consider investing in some additional tech.
- DO consider WiFi extenders. Also called repeaters, these devices relay signal from your router, ensuring it reaches all the nooks and crannies of your home. They range in price from $30 to over $100.
- DO consider a mesh network. For larger homes, mesh networks are a better option. They operate through a network of nodes set up around your house--all communicating with each other, so even the furthest node receives a strong signal and you can get fast WiFi even in your upstairs walk-in closet. They start at around $150, with the price increasing as you add nodes.