Poor Wi-Fi performance is a frustrating thing, and while you can always upgrade your equipment by buying a better router or Wi-Fi card, there are ways in which you can improve your wireless network by making some easy tweaks to your set-up.
Move your router
Chances are, your Wi-Fi router is situated where your Internet Service Provider (ISP) installed the connection in your home. Typically, the line comes from a utility pole and connects to the nearest corner of your house, where the equipment is set up.
Relocating your router is a simple solution to improve Wi-Fi performance. This is due to the router’s signal emitting in a roughly doughnut-shaped pattern. If your router is positioned against an exterior wall in a remote corner of your home, approximately half of that doughnut shape (or even less if it’s in a corner) is covering your home’s interior, while the remaining signal extends outdoors or into your neighbor’s space.
By shifting your router from an external wall to a central position, you can significantly enhance your Wi-Fi experience, as the router’s “canopy” now covers the most frequented areas of your home. The impact of this move will be even more noticeable in a sprawling residence, such as a ranch-style home with a utility connection at one end.
Check if any items are blocking your Wi-Fi signal
Whether you can effortlessly relocate your Wi-Fi router or not, it’s essential to consider the objects in your home that may obstruct Wi-Fi signals, including decorations.
It’s likely you’ve already realized that your refrigerator or other sizable metal appliances can impede your Wi-Fi signal. However, you may not have thought about the fact that a large fish tank is highly effective at blocking Wi-Fi, or that your weak signal across your open-concept living and dining area might be due to your Wi-Fi router being positioned behind your TV—where the massive metal RF shield interferes with the signal.
You could choose to move the router or perhaps reposition the large mirror or metal wall art that’s disrupting your Wi-Fi coverage. In any case, always stay mindful of potential obstacles between you and the router that may cause interference.
Update Your Router’s Firmware
It’s crucial to keep your router’s firmware up to date to protect it from known (and already fixed) security vulnerabilities.
Moreover, staying current with firmware updates is beneficial because, aside from patching zero-day exploits, most updates focus on enhancing performance. If you examine the release notes for your router, you’ll find that for every entry addressing a critical vulnerability, there are numerous others like “Resolved bug affecting iPhone Wi-Fi disconnects” etc.
Updating your router’s firmware offers a cost-free method to improve the performance of your existing hardware.
Change Wi-Fi Channel and Band
In apartment buildings or densely populated neighborhoods, your router’s Wi-Fi channel allocation might clash with those of nearby routers.
By examining both your Wi-Fi channel settings and those of surrounding routers, you can manually adjust your router’s channel allocation to utilize the least occupied space. In this regard, you can use a phone app such as WiFi Analyzer (Android only) or NetSpot for iPhone to check channel allocation for all nearby routers.
This is particularly beneficial for devices on the 2.4GHz band, as it is more susceptible to congestion than the 5GHz band. However, exploring both bands and making necessary adjustments is advisable.
Most routers utilize the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands (although the latest Wi-Fi 6E and Wi-Fi 7 routers use 6GHz).
While your router should ideally manage the bands used by devices for optimal performance, this isn’t always the case. You might want to experiment with manually controlling the bands your router uses.
For example, some users find that disabling the 2.4GHz band entirely improves their experience. However, since 2.4GHz offers a greater range than 5GHz, relying solely on 5GHz may not suit everyone.
With the 5GHz band, you’ll experience faster speeds closer to the router due to increased bandwidth capacity but a shorter range (as 2.4GHz travels farther). If your priority is not a faster connection but rather the ability to use your phone in remote areas of your home or yard, this may not be a suitable tradeoff.
Replace your router’s antennas (not free)
While using any of the above solutions might offer you a better Wi-Fi experience overall, replacing your router’s antennas will extend your wireless signal further, ensuring you have a good connection anywhere in the house. While not free, this solution will set you back a small amount (10-20$) and, as we said, can boost your signal significantly.