Speed is the game these days. As apps and features like artificial intelligence become increasingly powerful, it’s important to have a strong Wi-Fi signal.
1. Update Your Router’s Firmware
The first step to boosting your Wi-Fi signal is to upgrade the router’s firmware. Firmware is a little different than regular software. As defined by Wikipedia, firmware “is a type of software that provides control, monitoring and data manipulation of engineered products and systems.”
How easy or hard it is to update router’s firmware depends on the model and manufacturer. Check for an update every time you access the router’s web interface; there is likely an upgrade option in the admin section. You can either manually update it, or wait for the manufacturer to automatically update it, if at all. In order to get the latest updates with the newest security patches, it’s important to update your router frequently.
If you’re an advanced user, you can even try installing custom firmware. You can find an excellent guide for doing so here.
2. Most Efficient Router Location
A wireless device receives and emits radio waves through the air. Some types of building material can affect how the signal bounces, and how much is reflected/absorbed. For example, if you live in a metal house, like a trailer home, the radio waves should be okay inside the house. But metal blocks the radio waves to some degree. A person outside of your home will have a hard time picking up the signal.
It depends on the router as well. Some are stronger than others. A wired router is excellent and can be tucked away behind a bookcase or your computer. A completely wireless router, though, needs to be in an open area without anything covering it.
If your router has antennas you should turn both of them so they point up. This can extend the range of the Wi-Fi signal a little bit. If you can, put the router someplace high. On top of a shelf or bookcase is good. You can use several tools to help you see the network coverage better, like Heatmapper by Ekahau.
3. Find the Frequency
Changing the router’s frequency can also speed the signal up. If you have a dual-band router, you’ll probably get faster speeds by switching to the 5GHz frequency instead of the 2.4GHz one. This can also help if you have a lot of close neighbors, like in an apartment complex. If everyone uses the 2.4GHz band, then it can get congested and slow down everyone’s network.
Switching is pretty easy. You can either look in your user manual, or access the web interface. Open a browser, and in the URL field, type:
4. Change the Channel
Remember: your router sends and receives radio waves. Just like a radio, your router has frequencies and channels. In the previous step, we said that if your neighbors use the same frequency for their router, it can cause everyone’s speed to slow down. The same goes for router channels.
All modern routers can access multiple channels to talk to your devices. Usually, everyone just uses the router’s default settings. But you can change the channel, like on a TV. By going into the previously mentioned web interface for your router, you can modify the channel.
Routers on the 5GHz will have less interference than those on the 2.4GHz band. You can manually switch the channel in the admin control panel. Then, use a tool like Speedtest to see how your network speed differs on each channel.
5. Quality Control
Most routers come with special tools, called Quality of Service (QoS) tools. This feature limits the amount of bandwidth that apps use. This is important if you use tools like FaceTime a lot. You wouldn’t want your video call to break up because your roommate downloads a game on their laptop.
You can pick which apps and services get the fastest speed, or set downloading as a lower priority at certain times of the day. The QoS settings are under the advanced menu in your router’s web interface. Some routers even have a movie or game setting, to make it easier to set those media options as high priority.
6. Don’t Use Old Hardware
Just like an old computer, your router also slows down with age. Getting a new router not only solves the speed problem, it also makes you more secure. As routers get old and become out of date, the manufacturer isn’t likely to send it security updates anymore. The new devices get all the updates, therefore using a newer router gives you access to the latest updates.
When you buy a new router, look for one with a label like 802.11/n or 802.11/ac. These are the newest and fastest types of router. The fastest possible speed for an 802.11n router is 300Mbps, while the fastest speed that an 802.11ac router can achieve is 1Gbps. But this requires you to have a phone and computer that can connect to “N” and “AC” routers.
If your device is more than 5 years old, it might be time to upgrade. The person who created the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” surely didn’t have access to modern technology.
7. Find a New Antenna
Some routers have internal antennas; other routers have external ones. If your router only has an internal antenna, then you can pick up an external antenna and hook it up. Antennas usually come in two types: directional and omnidirectional. An omnidirectional router can send a signal in all directions, but a directional one and only send a signal in one direction.
Most internal antennas are omnidirectional. A directional antenna might be a good choice for an external antenna. Due to the layout of your home, it’s likely that you have a weak signal in a particular place, instead of a weak signal in every direction. If you can figure out where the weak spot is, you can fix it as easily as pointing the antenna in that direction.
8. Get a Wireless Range Extender
A wireless range extender (also called a repeater) is a device that boosts the range of your router’s Wi-Fi signal. It receives the signal, amplifies it, then transmits the stronger signal. Buying an extender is great if you have a big house and only one router.
An extender looks similar to a router, but it acts differently. The extender doesn’t give off a signal of its own. It just picks up the router’s signal and makes it stronger. You should treat it similar to a router when you decide where to put it. You don’t need an extender with the same brand or model as the router. It also needs to be at the greatest strength has your router can transmit.
For example, if your router is branded as 802.11/ac, don’t buy an 802.11/n extender. The network is only as strong as the weakest link. Since an AC router is faster than an N router, an N extender can only transmit at N speeds and not AC speeds.
9. Access Points
An access point is an alternative to an extender. Buying these can get expensive, but basically it creates a mesh network. In this type of network, each access point transmits/receives a signal to each other. Access Points are useful for large homes, apartments with multiple floors or even a college campus.
*From the CEO*
I recently setup Ubiquiti Unifi throughout my home and could not be happier with it. The system is seamlessly hands off your device to the closest radio and the access points are all POE. It took me a weekend to set up the complete system. Before my Wifi would slow down drastically after leaving the main floor of the house, it would disconnect completely from the deck. Now I am able to get a signal from anywhere on my property. It has really been a fantastic solution and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an upgrade. If you have any experience with WiFi solutions let us know in the comments.