How to boost your WiFi signal

Reading time: 6 minutes

6 minutes read

Last updated: 09/09/2020
How to boost your WiFi signal

Reposition your router

If your router isnt correctly positioned, its signal could be blocked, deflected, or misdirected, so youll 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
  • DONT 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

DONT 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 havent 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. Its bad enough sharing bandwidth with your Fortnite addicted husband. Dont share it with local WiFi leeches. 

To secure your WiFi network:

  • DO lock your WiFi network with a password
  • DONT 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 youll 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 (itll be displayed somewhere on the device). Youll 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. Youll then see an option called Firmware Update or Router Update for your specific router. If theres an update available, download it.
  • DO optimize your router settings. You dont have to be a tech wizard to reconfigure your router so its 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 youre engaged in those activities but can drag down speeds if youre 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.
  • DONT turn your router off at night. While its a good idea to turn your devices off when theyre not in use, to give them a break and also save electricity, if you turn your router off, your internet will look like its 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 isnt as crowded, has less interference, and has non-overlapping channels.

DONuse 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, youll 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 youll 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 youre 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 youve made these changes and upgraded your router and you still cant 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.
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