Dropped Wi-Fi signals, inability to stream videos, and turtle-like speed are some of the frustrations in this era where Wi-Fi connection has become somewhat necessary. You’d think with the technological advances happening, they’d have solved the problem of weak Wi-Fi signals. But there are still situations that may prevent optimal performance of your Wi-Fi.
Some of these circumstances include:
Distance – there is a certain optimal range that the wireless signal can travel. If it has to cover a larger area that its router is capable of transmitting to, or there are walls it needs to penetrate, or corners to go around, that’ll certainly affect the connection.
Interference – this is a popular cause for obstruction especially in largely populated areas. Other wireless network and electronic signals can affect its speed.
Piggybacking users – If you have guests or other unknown devices connected and using your internet, that will greatly impact performance. Immediately remove access to those unknown devices and enhance your router security.
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Though there will be other reasons for connections to act up, these are the troubleshooting tips to help boost Wi-Fi signal.
1. Update your router’s firmware
As with other software updates, your router also needs updates. The router market is so competitive that manufacturers are always looking for ways to enhance their product’s performance and speed. It’s a simple process of hitting that update firmware button on your administration interface or for older routers, downloading the update from the manufacturer’s website then installing it. Make it a habit to regularly check for updates to always get the most out of your routers.
2. Optimal router placement
We’ve mentioned before that distance play a key role on performance so it only follows that your router should be placed in an area where its signals won’t be obstructed. Wireless routers, in particular, thrive well in open spaces, away from walls and big furniture or appliances. If yours come with antenna, always orient them vertically to bump up coverage and it helps to put them on top of shelf or table to get a better signal.
3. Check your frequency
Make sure that you have your router configured for optimum performance. If you have a dual-band router, you’ll most likely get better results by switching to the 5GHz band instead of the more common 2.4GHz band. By doing this, you will encounter less interference from other wireless networks and devices as the 5GHz frequency is not commonly used.
4. Change the channel
All modern routers are multi-channel, so they have the ability to switch across different channels when communicating to your devices. Most commonly used channel is the router default channels but if neighboring wireless networks also use the same channel, you’re going to experience signal congestion. On PCs using Windows, you can see what channels your neighboring Wi-Fi networks are using. Simply type in netsh wlan show all from the command prompt (in Windows 7) and it will show a list of all wireless networks in your vicinity and what channels they’re using. From this, you can pick the channels that’s less congested and manually switch your router to broadcast on that channel. You should be able to find this setting in your router’s administrator interface.
5. Control quality
Modern routers usually come with Quality-of-Service (QoS) tools to limit the amount of bandwidth that apps use. You can specify which applications and services get priority, and set downloaders as lower priority at certain times of the day. This is very handy if you do a lot of video streaming or use Voice over IP (VoIP) often. This means you won’t be experiencing your video or call quality degrade just because someone is downloading a large video file. This setting is typically found in advanced settings in your administrator interface. Some routers may even have multimedia or gaming setting so these applications will be prioritized.
6. Don’t rely on obsolete hardware
You will notice that a lot of the tips that have been shared so far have been about getting the most out of existing equipment, particularly helpful if you have the modern routers. But if your network is still running on older harder, you can’t expect the best performance. We all have a tendency to follow the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality with our devices. But if you’ve bought your router years ago, you are likely still on the 802.11g standard. There are still even 802.11b routers in the wild. All three wireless standards cap at fairly low bandwidths. Thus, all the tweaking we've outlined above won't get you far, when you consider the maximum thoughput for 802.11g is 54Mbps. Compare that with the more modern 802.11n at 300Mbps, and the latest 802.11ac at 1Gbps.
7. Replace your router antenna
If the router has an internal antenna, adding an external one would be a good idea as it tends to send a stronger signal. Most built-in antennas tend to be ominidirectional (sends signals to all directions) so if you’re buying an external one, make sure it’s marked “high-gain” to actually make a difference. A directional antenna (one that sends signal in one direction) tends to be a better option, since odds are that you aren't experiencing weak spots in your network in every direction. Point your external antenna in the direction of your weak spot, and it will broadcast the signal accordingly. Check your router manufacturer's website for details on how to buy them.
8. Set up a wireless range extender
If your wireless network covers a large area, you’ll need a wireless range extender, aka wireless repeater or Wi-Fi expander, to help boost your signal. As mentioned before, cause for weakening signal may just be a matter of room size which this Wi-Fi repeater can solve.
The range extender looks similar to a router, but it works differently. For starters, it picks up the existing Wi-Fi signal from your wireless router and just rebroadcasts it. As far as your network router is concerned, the range extender is just another client with an IP address, much like your laptop. Even though it's not a router, you should still use the same rules when figuring out where to put the extender. It should be close enough to your main network router to pick up a good signal—80 percent or more is a good rule of thumb—but close enough to the weak spots of the network so that the repeater actually can do its job.
9. Add access points
For an alternative to extenders, consider access points (APs). These can get really expensive, but they work together to create a mesh network, in which each unit transmit signals to each other, creating a strong and stable wireless network. APs are ideal if you are covering a large space, like multiple floors or even a campus with different buildings.
10. Get into the guts of your router
The adventurous should look at the open-source DD-WRT router operating system. Belkin maintains a line of DD-WRT-equipped routers in its Linksys lineup, as do other major router manufacturers, such as Buffalo, Netgear, D-Link, and TrendNET. Or you can just download DD-WRT and install it on any router you have lying around. DD-WRT can ramp up performance and give you access to more advanced networking features. This isn't a project to embark on lightly, however, as it's not easy to remove DD-WRT from some routers. Be prepared to sweat and toil, but the rewards may be worth it.
Most of the tips mentioned here are free or low-cost and utilize the features already built into your router. Just make sure to get to know the capabilities of your wireless network through its administrator interface and you may discover how much you faster and reliable your network can be.