WiFi is life. Our wireless network connections have become precious in this day and age of mobile devices, cloud, social connectivity, as well as games and media streaming services.
An awful lot of this invariably centers around your router. Moving away from it means that your WiFi signal begins to drop. Move far away, and you enter the dark zone, where the signal doesn’t reach at all. But even when you are in range, even when the bars are showing full strength, the connectivity of your network can suffer.
All this can be incredibly frustrating.
Not even the most expensive WiFi device can guarantee a smooth and speedy Internet connection if you have not optimized its placement to ensure that signals reach you without any issues.
Let’s take a look at ways to boost your WiFi network and extend the range of your network.
It’s a WiFi world
It’s easy to take WiFi for granted. But truth is that it’s impossible to downplay the importance of the technology in our modern computing experiences. Sure, no one wants to be chained to a desktop with wires and cables running all around.
But you only realize how much you rely on WiFi when your router goes down and your network runs into problems. Your web browsing slows to a crawl, you are unable to stream content, your WiFi signals are dropping left and right, and no matter where you take your device, you encounter dead zones.
Solid, reliable WiFi is a must for any modern household or office.
Essential to emphasize here that quality is more important than speed. While the former factor is weighty, the latter is key to a good experience. An unreliable connection with decent speeds will still suffer due to bad reception and other WiFi issues.
Steps to boost your WiFi
If you feel like your WiFi has gotten sluggish, and you can only get decent reception by standing next to your router, then it is time to optimize your network. Before you do that, though, you might want to pin down the problems with your WiFi connectivity and locate any interference from surrounding networks.
To get started, download a WiFi analyzer software that scans your spectrum and gathers information about your network, the channels, and signal strength. These applications help you map out your location and maintain connection quality.
Tools like Network Performance Monitor and NetSpot are supremely powerful, but programs like InSSIDer and Wireshark are also perfectly capable when it comes to gleaning helpful insights about your WiFi network.
On the Microsoft Store side of things, we have WiFi Analyzer, a nifty little app that lets you search for suitable channels and identify the best possible point for installing your router by using heat maps. The apps repository also houses WiFi Analyzer Tool and SpeedTest Master that make quick work of things.
Download what works for you, map out your coverage and gain insights about your network to make sense of things and find out where issues may reside.
With that done, it is time to get down to actual optimizations of your WiFi network. There are a number of different ways you can go about doing that — some simpler than others, many requiring just a few clicks, other necessitating the need of new hardware.
We’ll list different steps below:
This timeless IT advice could have been slotted right towards the end of this list, but we’ll lead with it. Often a simple reboot is enough to considerably improve your WiFi speeds, as restarting your device clears the memory of your router.
It may even allow updates to install that are ready and waiting to be deployed.
2. Update your firmware
Routers with old firmware perform worse than routers that are properly updated. Not only does fresh new software helps, but it can also go a long way in keeping your wireless network secured. If you have not checked for updates for your router in some time, then no better time than now.
Not just that, it seems that practically every day you hear news about a growing number of malware attacks that target routers, and cost users and businesses in billions in losses. Once a malware infects a router, it can not only steal bandwidth and degrade performance, but also spread itself across the network to other devices.
Most modern routers can update themselves automatically and install new firmware.
But if you are rocking older hardware, then you will need to check for it manually. Launch a web browser, connect to your router’s network, and enter the IP address of your router. Log in with the administrator user name and password, then look for options called Firmware or Update. Since there are many different makes and models of routers, you may need to dig a little and do some detective work to find the details and then check your manufacturer website.
Just be sure to never interrupt the update. Even if it takes a long time to install the new firmware and your router appears to be unresponsive, give it ample time before you disconnect the router from power and plug it again.
3. Select a good place for your router
As you can imagine, not all places are suitable for your router. That is because not all rooms and spaces are created equal. Fact is, where you place the router can have a big impact on your wireless coverage. Wireless routers need open spaces, and must be placed away from walls and obstructions.
Routers may be ugly, and you may be tempted to hide these black boxes behind your TV cabinet, behind a bunch of books, or right by the window where the cable comes in. But you will get better signals if your device is surrounded by open air. Plus, it should also prevent your router from overheating.
In addition, heavy appliances and electronics can also impact WiFi performance. If you have these in close proximity, then it may be time to move your router to an optimal location.
4. Remove blockages
There may be times when other electronic devices in your house can block the electromagnetic waves coming from your router. Even something as simple as an air conditioner can block or diminish your WiFi connection, leading to poor signal strength.
You will need to use the process of elimination by turning off or moving devices that you suspect might be causing radio interference. If turning off a particular device affects the WiFi signal strength, then see if you can turn it off permanently, or move the router itself to a different position.
5. Find your frequency
If you are the proud owner of a dual-band router, you will likely get better throughput by making the switch to the 5GHz band instead of the more common 2.4GHz frequency. Not only will you get faster speeds, but you will also encounter less interference from other wireless networks and devices.
That is because the 5GHz frequency it not as commonly used. It will probably not reach as far as a 2.4GHz signal does, though, because this band does not handle obstructions and distances quite as well.
6. Change the channel
Interreference is usually not a big issue for those that live in areas where fewer devices reside. But it can be a problem in densely populated locations. Signals from other wireless networks can impact not just your wireless network, but other hardware and electronic devices like cordless phone systems too.
Modern routers can switch across different channels when communicating with your devices. They will make this choice automatically. But if neighboring wireless networks are also using the same channel, then you are going to encounter signal congestion that will degrade performance. A good router will try to choose the least congested channel, but many cheaper routers stick with predefined channels.
Pay a visit to your router control panel, and try selecting a channel manually there if you are experiencing a conflict.
7. Improve service quality
It takes just one bandwidth-hungry application or client to bring your network to a crawl. You may be watching a 4K YouTube video, but your experience could suddenly be impacted by someone that begins downloading a Windows ISO or putting on a session of gaming.
Luckily, modern routers support features like QoS (Quality of Service) that allow you to prioritize certain applications and clients over others. You can use this to prioritize video calls over downloads for example, so that your call doesn’t drop when you start grabbing a big file off Dropbox.
The downside is that while some routers make it very easy to configure QoS settings, other models are far from intuitive in this regard. Best to consult the manufacturer of your router in this case.
8. Add an antenna
If your router houses an internal antenna, then it might be a good idea to add an external one in order to send a stronger signal. Many modern routers came with additional antennas that you can add yourself, and you can even buy them separately.
Your choice here comes between omnidirectional antennas or directional ones. The latter send signal in one specific direction, and tend to be the better option if you are experiencing weak spots in a particular location. Point your external antenna in the direction of the weak spot, and your stronger signal will be broadcast in that direction.
9. Get a wireless range extender
Since there is a certain optimal range that the wireless signal can travel, distance quickly becomes a major concern in large homes and office spaces. If the network has to cover a larger area than the router is capable of transmitting to, or it has to deal with a lot of corners and walls, then performance will obviously take a hit.
For houses and locations that are too big for a single router to send a good signal everywhere, the best bet is to invest in a range extender.
These look similar to standard routers, but work differently. Their promise is of picking up the existing WiFi signal from your wireless router and rebroadcasting it across their range. Your network router will basically see the range extender as just another client with an IP address, like say, your laptop.
And while the extended signal will never be as good as the original, and you are looking at about half the bandwidth you get from your primary routers, it’s still better than nothing.
10. Upgrade to a mesh WiFi system
A wireless mesh network system is almost a foolproof way to extend your coverage. You will trade away some speed, but these systems make up for it with their simplicity and range. Additionally, they are easy to set up and can be managed via a smartphone app.
These systems are designed to cover every corner of your home, and aim to replace your router as opposed to just extending it.
You basically connect one node directly to your modem, and will then be asked to place more satellite nodes around your house. A neatly designed app will walk you through the setup, helping ensure that each node is placed in the ideal spot for the best signal. Once done, you will blanket your house or office with a single wireless network that offers optimized performance.
Plus, lots of mesh systems even update your firmware automatically. This ensures that you have the latest performance and security enhancements available for your wireless network at all times.
WiFi signals tend to behave in mysterious ways. The signal indicator on your laptop or phone can go from full to empty really quick if you take a few steps in the wrong direction. Luckily, there are several ways you can do an analysis of your WiFi network and optimize it.
There are solutions for everyone, no matter if you are professional setting up a wireless network for a business or just building your private home network.