When you’re trying to figure out how to speed up your WiFi, we always suggest starting with this oh-so-timeless IT advice:
Try turning it off, waiting 10 seconds or so, and then turning it back on again.
Believe it or not, this simple reboot is often enough to considerably improve WiFi speeds. Reboots don’t need to happen often, but if you’re having issues with connection it can get you back up and running! A reboot will clear the router’s memory and it will also give it a chance to install updates if settings allow for it to do so automatically.
Tried that? Already rebooted it a couple of times?
Don’t throw your router out the window just yet.
There are still some other steps you can take that may resolve your WiFi speed concerns!
**Note to business owners and IT managers: Hopefully your technology advisor is already addressing this as a way to improve your operations, but if not then we strongly encourage you to put it on the priority list to be addressed!**
Move the router
Before tackling some possible technical solutions, try playing around with the location of your router. There are so many things in your home that can actually have a significant impact on your signal, believe it or not!
Don’t just shove it in a cabinet in the corner. That’ll definitely mess with your coverage and service since it immediately impedes the signal. You should find a centralized area in your home or office that’s away from other deices like appliance and metal objects because those emit electromagnetic waves that could also interfere with the signal! Sometimes even the material used to construct your home or building could be messing with your signal! So, experiment and find a spot where there are less studs (especially if those studs are metal!) in the walls and away from places like your kitchen where you may have a handful of your appliances.
Some light bulbs and even an electric razor in your bathroom could be emitting waves to mess with signals, but this is about finding the areas with least resistance to give your WiFi router the best chance of keeping a signal going for you.
Update the software (“firmware”)
Most of the routers out there, including those you might be renting from your service provider, have default settings that are designed for a simple “plug and play” experience. You get home, you connect the cable (and modem in the process, if yours are separate devices), and you start getting a signal. Done, right?
Well, if you are in fact using an ISP-issued router, you probably don’t have control over the software updates, but you can ask them for help in ensuring you’re getting the most out of the device! Be the squeaky wheel!
If you own or rent your device and you want to get your router to really work for you, it’s worth taking a few minutes to ensure first and foremost that it is running on the most current firmware. They call this process “flashing the firmware”.
Just like the software on your smartphone or computer, your router’s software those updates to carry out security fixes, resolve bugs, and enhance performance as the manufacturer comes up with better efficiencies and features.
If you’re managing your own router, here’s a quick step-by-step guide. Every router’s different, but the process is pretty similar so these basic steps should send you in the right direction; otherwise, we recommend heading to the user manual, which will have specific steps for your device!
- On a laptop or PC (can be done via mobile if you have cellular data available), connect to the router via wired connection. You won’t be able to speed up your WiFi while still being connected to said WiFi!
- In a browser, connect to your router’s network by entering the IP address of the router.
**If you’re not sure what that is you can look for a sticker on the router or the box it came in
- User the admin assigned username and password. That’s another thing that the info sticker on either the router or its packaging would have on it.
- There should be a “Router Update” or “Firmware Update” option. If there isn’t, that’s where you may have to dig a bit to find what you need to update the software.
**You might actually need to download the firmware file from a trusted source before attempting this. This would come directly from the manufacturer’s website. If it isn’t, ensure that you check for malware before downloading (even before loading it to your router!).
- Once you’re able to initiate the updates your router will have you wait until the updates are found and installed. Do NOT interrupt the updates!
If it seems unresponsive, be as patient as you possibly can.
- Reboot once firmware is all updated, which should actually happen automatically during the process anyway.
We hope this step will speed up your WiFi by improving your connection. If not, read on!
Change frequency bands and channels
Routers use either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. If you’re using a single-band, you have to choose one or the other. Dual-band routers let you choose which you want to use. The main differences are a) range and b) bandwidth.
Put simply: The higher the signal frequency, the shorter the range.
5 GHz frequency provides faster rates at short distances. It can’t carry through solid objects like walls and floors, but it will allow for faster uploading and downloading.
2.4 GHz will cover more area with a lower signal. It may be slower, but it is actually better at being able to carry through solid objects. That’s why it is better to use with things like household devices. 2.4 GHz is also home to things like microwaves and Bluetooth connections.
Since 2.4GHz band is used by more devices, it is more prone to interference as a result. It is important to keep in mind that you might be overloading the frequency band if too many devices in your home or office are connected to one frequency at the same time. That’s where channels come into play as well. If you’re looking to speed up your wifi you may need to evaluate what is using bandwidth and how it is using it.
Within each of the 2 primary frequency bands we mentioned above are smaller bands, which we refer to as channels. Just like lanes on a highway, each of the bands have a certain amount of lanes (“channels”) to utilize.
In the United States our 2.4 GHz bands have 11 channels and 5 GHz bands have 45 channels each total.
In the case of 2.4 GHz the entire “highway” is 100 MHz wide. Each channel is 20 MHz wide, and each channel’s center is separated 5 MHz from the next. That means that there is a whole bunch of overlap, except for 3 channels: 1, 6, and 11. That’s why these channels are most commonly used!
So, which channels should you use?
Well, your router may not ask you since it likely has an Auto feature. That, or it has default channels it will use.
Unfortunately your router isn’t always making sure that channels are not overlapping signal within the band you choose. That means that you’ll see some slowdown or other problems come up. Traffic jam!
To address this, go into the settings by following steps 2 and 3 from the above “Update the software” section of this post to enter your device admin dashboard. Once you’re there, the goal is to find out which channel or channels not being used much and are more available as a result.
Once you identify which channel you want to switch to, change the Channel choice from “Auto” to the desired channel and save that if you want to override the router’s Auto efforts going forward. Then, your router will restart and you can try things out to see if that helps to speed up your wifi.
Still experiencing poor WiFi connectivity?
Change the antenna(s)
Whether you replace, upgrade, or add to your existing antenna, paying attention to it can really improve your router’s performance.
Check your router manufacturer’s website to see if there are any enhanced replacements available. There are also many universal ones online that are likely to be plenty compatible with your router. Make sure you don’t buy anything, though, without knowing your networking “standard” – Are you using wireless N, wireless AC, or something else? Look at your router dashboard (again) to figure that out if you’re unsure.
Many home routers have small antennas, which doesn’t necessarily denote whether the antenna is good or bad. The problem is when those antennas are weak.
Secure your network
If you’ve got your WiFi set up with no password for security, STOP HERE AND FIX THAT IMMEDIATELY!
Unwanted visitors can hop right onto your network. Again, go to your router’s admin page and ensure that you have WPA2 set as the security and that you have a password (or passwords!) in place.
Why is it a problem that people you don’t know and trust can get on your WiFi? First of all, it can slow down your connection when someone else is using up your bandwidth. That’s how this relates to our post here. Otherwise, though, there are some HUGE implications in terms of the ways you are putting yourself and your entire network at risk, depending on how the hacker chooses to approach your network and devices.
When it comes to locking down your connections, just any password won’t do unfortunately. You really need to have a more complex password to have it be effective! Here are some tips for coming up with strong passwords if you need help!
Control bandwidth-sucking apps and devices
Even just one super needy app or user device can make everybody in your home or office suffer thanks to decreased download and upload speeds. When you’re facing that issue, there are services that can help your router actually prioritize connections and applications according to your preferences or needs. It’s called QoS, or Quality of Service, and its purpose is to help you make the most of what you’ve got available for bandwidth. You can, again, manage this partly through your router settings when you’re logged in as the admin. Look for that term “QoS” and you can set rules if you’d like. Things can be a little tricker when it comes to these sorts of rules, though, depending on your router and your technology comfort levels. Ask for help, or at least consult a manual, before trying at home if you don’t know what to do!
WiFi Extender, WiFi Booster, or WiFi Repeater?
WiFi extenders, WiFi boosters, and WiFi repeaters are all trying to do one main thing for you, but they achieve it in different ways.
Whether you need better WiFi service across your house, or your office only gets decent service when you’re in the main lobby and you need it to be better in your office or conference room, how can one of these devices help?
There isn’t a super clear delineation between these different devices as far as manufacturers’ naming conventions, but here’s a rough set of definitions to help you tell between the functions of what you might see out there.
These simply take the signal they get from your WiFi and, well, repeat it. It does this on the same exact channel as the original signal sent from the router, on the same frequency, so unfortunately this will slow down both signals even though you might get the reach you were looking for. It won’t help if you’re looking to stream multiple devices all over your home or office, but if you’re just looking for a quick picker-upper to catch up on email or check out a website you should be OK with one of these.
These go in between your router and wherever you’re looking for better WiFi reach. It grabs the signal like a repeater does, but this is different because it rebroadcasts the repeated signal using a different channel. Since there’s less (if any) overlap, you’ll get a stronger WiFi connection.
Keep in mind with this method that there actually might not be enough WiFi signal coming from your router to actually rebroadcast this way. That’s why we recommend finding one you can set up using a coaxial cable or Ethernet cord; otherwise, you’re going to run into issues.
This is really just another name for repeaters and extenders. You can not only speed up your wifi but extend the range of your network in the process if this is done in a way that is uniquely suited for your environment! It all depends on the hardware and services you have and where you have those!
We recommend testing out your network to get a full “lay of the land” and figure out exactly what you need and where before finding a solution. This way, you’ll know where you need to have your network extended and how strong you need the signal to be in areas of your home or office that need it!
Next generation routers
If all else fails, or if you just don’t have the propensity to take remediation steps and you want to spend the money either way, get yourself a good router! AC wireless technology (IEEE 802.11ac) will give you the best speeds and range as opposed to what you could get with other wireless technologies that came before it that are still available out there. If you’re wanting to speed up your WiFi you will want to make sure that the router and your devices are all compatible, though, before changing the technology you use.
Not sure where to start, but you know you’ve got an issue with WiFi or other wired and wireless connections in your office? Ready to speed up your WiFi or just take control of your business connectivity?
Get in touch and we can help you assess your situation and evaluate your options!