Does your Wi-Fi signal need a boost?
These days, most of us are using Wi-Fi in our homes to access the internet, stream our favorite movies and television shows, and connect our smart devices. In fact, according to a recent study 76% of North Americans who access broadband use Wi-Fi as their primary connection technology.
9 tips for getting a stronger Wi-Fi signal
While it’s tough to beat the convenience of Wi-Fi for staying connected, it can be frustrating when the signal is lacking. And the more devices we connect, the bigger that issue becomes. In this article, we’ll go over some ways you might be able to improve the Wi-Fi signal in your home.
- Try rebooting your router
- Find the best place for your router
- Make sure your router is updated
- Make sure your signal is locked down
- Make sure you’re on a clear channel
- See if there are apps hogging your bandwidth
- Use 5GHz at short ranges
- Get a repeater/booster/extender
- Consider a mesh-based system
1. Try rebooting your modem and router
Let’s start with perhaps the simplest thing you can do to try to improve your Wi-Fi signal strength. In the same way that restarting your computer can clear up issues with its performance, rebooting your modem and wireless router could be the remedy for a weak Wi-Fi signal.
As with anything technical, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it, so make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and check the tips here.
2. Find the best spot for your router
The next thing to consider when you’re trying to optimize your Wi-Fi signal is where you place your router. In general, the further your router is away from the devices that are connected to its signal, the weaker that signal is going to be.
Ideally, you’ll want to place your router in a central location in your home so you’re never too far from it even if you’re moving about with your mobile devices. If you primarily using Wi-Fi for streaming to televisions in your home, you’ll benefit from the router being closer to those TVs.
Other things that can help are making sure the router is elevated and that it’s not surrounded by other electronic devices.
3. Make sure your router is updated
Most people know that when a new version of their computer’s operating system is released, it’s wise to update the computer in order to patch security holes and get the best performance. The same goes for your router.
If you’ve never updated your router’s firmware, that might explain issues you’re having with your Wi-Fi signal. The process for doing the update will vary from router to router, but in general you should be able to visit the website of the manufacturer of your router and get instructions for updating there. This article goes into a bit more detail about what the process involves.
4. Make sure your signal is locked down
Making sure your wireless network is secure is not only crucial to protecting yourself from malicious activity, it can also ensure that no one is stealing your precious bandwidth. If neighbors or even just passersby are using your signal, that means there’s less there for you.
5. Make sure you’re on a clear channel
If you live in a densely populated area, your Wi-Fi signal could be suffering from congestion. Much like radios and televisions, routers operate on channels. If you and your neighbors are trying to use the same channel, everyone’s performance can suffer.
Most routers are set up to automatically use the clearest channel available, but not all. Check your router’s administration interface to see if yours is on automatic. If it’s not and that option is available, select it. If your router doesn’t have that option, you’ll need to change the channel manually. PCMag has more information on how to do that.
6. See if there are apps hogging your bandwidth
Different applications use different amounts of bandwidth, and if you’ve got multiple apps running that are bandwidth hogs your overall performance is going to suffer.
Most routers come with something called Quality of Service (QoS) tools that can help you limit the amount of bandwidth different apps use. You can use these tools to prioritize certain apps over others. So, for example, if you want to make sure your streaming of the big game isn’t interrupted because your kids are playing games online you would give your streaming service a higher priority than their device’s browser.
7. Use 5GHz at short ranges
If you have a “dual band” router, you have the option of using either the 2.4GHz band or the 5GHz band. In general, you will get better performance if you select 5GHz because it’s less commonly used and there will be less interference.
The caveat here is that the 5GHz signal doesn’t travel as far and doesn’t fare as well with obstructions as the 2.4GHz band does, so it isn’t a great option for devices that are located far away (or many walls away) from the router. You can learn more about the differences between the 2.4 and 5GHz bands here.
8. Get a repeater/booster/extender
Another thing to consider if you find yourself with a consistently weak Wi-Fi signal is buying a product that will give that signal a leg up. These devices go by the names “repeater,” “booster” or “extender” but they all basically do the same thing: take your Wi-Fi signal, amplify it and then send it out again from a different location.
These are relatively inexpensive and can be particularly useful in larger homes or places where there are a lot of obstructions. This site has a good roundup of the best ones available right now.
9. Consider a mesh-based system
Finally, a more expensive but more thorough option is to invest in a wireless mesh router system. Money expert Clark Howard is a big proponent of these sets of devices that you place throughout your home, essentially ensuring that your Wi-Fi signal is that same strength no matter what room you’re in.
Luma and eero are a couple of the big players in this market, but be prepared to shell out $200-$300 for a system that will cover a larger home. Of course, that’s money well spent if you never want to worry about having a weak Wi-Fi signal again.
Everyone’s Wi-Fi situation is different, so there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with a weak signal. If you’re having issues, start with some of the free solutions above to see if they lead to improvement. If nothing seems to work, only then should you consider shelling out more money for a repeater or mesh system.
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