Wi-Fi is one of the most useful and important parts of using a computer and yet it's also one of the most frustrating. If you're plagued by slow speeds, bad reception, and other Wi-Fi issues, here are 10 ways you can power up the Wi-Fi in your home.
10. Use The Latest Wi-Fi Technologies
One of the best ways to make sure your network is as fast and reliable as possible is to use up-to-date hardware. We've gone through the basics of router hardware before, so check out the first lesson of our networking Night School for the full lowdown. The main thing you need to know: Wireless A, B, and G are old and slow, wireless N is decent, but 802.11ac will give you the fastest speeds around. Note that you'll need both a wireless AC router and compatible card in your computer if you want the full speed boost.
9. Find The Perfect Spot For Your Router
Image: Oliver Bruchez.
Routers may be ugly, but that doesn't mean you should hide them behind the TV cabinet. If you want the best signal, you'll need it out in the open, free of any walls and obstructions. Point the antennas vertically and elevate the router if you can (one reader found that his attic was the perfect spot). Lastly, make sure its in the centre of your house, so you have the best coverage possible throughout your home.
8. Find The Right Wireless Channel
If you have neighbours, their routers may be interfering with yours and causing the signal to degrade. Wireless routers can operate on a number of different channels, and you want yours on a channel with as little interference as possible. Use a tool like Wi-Fi Stumbler or Wi-Fi Analyzer to find the perfect channel in your house. We have more detailed instructions on how to do that here.
7. Get Rid Of Interference From Other Appliances
Other routers aren't the only thing that can cause interference. Cordless phones, microwaves and other appliances can muck with your signal as well. Buying a dual-band router can help with this, but you can also buy cordless phones on other bands too. If you don't want to buy new hardware, you can always try moving your router further away from interfering appliances, too.
6. Thwart Wi-Fi Thieves With Better Security
Even if your router has a password, it can be really easy to hack. There are easy ways to find out if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi, but the best thing to do is just lock them out with better security. Using a WPA password is absolutely essential, but even those can be cracked pretty easily -- so see our security recommendations here to fully protect your network from prying eyes.
5. Control Bandwidth-Hogging Applications
Image: Juan Pablo Olmo.
If someone in your house regularly video chats, plays online games, torrents files, or uses services like Netflix, they may be hogging bandwidth and making the internet slower for everyone else. Luckily, you can use something called Quality of Service -- or QoS for short -- to reign in those bandwidth hogs. With QoS, you can prioritise certain applications (say, video chat) over others (like video games) so the most important applications get the bandwidth they deserve. For more info, check out our full guide to setting up QoS on your router.
4. Increase Wi-Fi Range With DIY Tricks
If your router still won't reach far enough, you can extend its range with simple DIY tricks. Our favourite is the aluminium foil hack, though you can also use an old beer can or a cooking strainer to extend your router's range. The results won't necessarily be mind blowing, but you should be able to eke a bit more distance out of your Wi-Fi network with minimal effort.
3. Boost Your Router's Signal With A Bit Of Hacking
Another great way to extend your range is to hack your router and install the DD-WRT firmware (or one of the various alternatives). Not only will it give you a load of great security features and other enhancements, but it gives you the option to boost your transmitting power. This can be dangerous for your router, but most routers can handle an increase up to 70mW without causing any issues and you'll be able to access your network from much further away!
2. Turn An Old Router Into A Wi-Fi Repeater
If that still doesn't help, you'll need to get a range extender for your home. They aren't super expensive, but if you don't want to pay for another piece of hardware, you can actually turn an old wireless router into an extender with the aforementioned DD-WRT firmware. Note that you may not be able to get as fast of a connection through your extender, but if you just can't seem to get Wi-Fi on the edge of your house, this'll get the job done on the cheap.
1. Set Your Router To Reboot On A Schedule
If you're one of the many folks that has to reboot their router every so often so it doesn't drop out, there is a solution. You can run a few tests to make sure the problem isn't caused by heat, old firmware, or excess downloading, but an easy way to solve the problem is just automatically reboot it once a day or so. You can do this with DD-WRT or just a regular old outlet timer. When you're done, you shouldn't have to reboot your router so often (which is great if your router's all the way up in the attic).
After going through these tweaks, you should find that your home Wi-Fi is faster, more reliable and more secure than ever. When you're done, make sure you check out our favourite clever uses for Wi-Fi, too -- after all, it isn't just for connecting to the internet.
This article has been updated since its original publication.