I am often asked by people how they can improve the speed and range of their home and office Wi-Fi connections. So, here are 11 tips.
1. Place your router (or wireless access point) near the center of your home.
Wi-Fi signals don't travel very far before they degrade; you want to be as close to your router as possible and don't want to create "dead zones."
2. Don't place your router in a closet.
Walls degrade the signal.
3. Keep your router away from other electronic devices to prevent interference.
Microwaves have historically been especially notorious for interfering with routers communicating at 2.4GHz, but many other electronic devices also have an impact. If you have a cordless phone system that operates on the same band as your router, see if disconnecting the phone system improves Wi-Fi connections; if so, you may want to either replace the phone system with one that operates at a different band or switch your Wi-Fi network to another band.
4. Place your router high up.
This helps because the radio waves transmitted from routers spread out and down. If putting the router in a high location is not possible, at least don't place it on or near the floor as doing so can cause various problems depending on the materials used to construct the floor. Also, consider that human bodies (or anything else containing water) can inhibit the transmission of radio signals, so especially in a place that is expected to be crowded, you want the router to be higher than any people in the room.
5. Keep the firmware on your router and wireless devices up to date.
Some updates improve performance, so check the router vendor's website for updates, download them, and install them. Of course, if your router is quite old, replacing it with newer technology might also yield dramatic improvements due to better throughput and better ways of dealing with signal range. Some 802.11ac routers, for example, both improve connection speed and dynamically direct more of their signal in the direction of connected devices using a process known as "beanforming." (While you would need newer 802.11ac devices to take full advantage of beanforming, in some cases routers can use beanforming to improve connections to older devices as well.)
6. Enable security.
If someone else is "borrowing" your Wi-Fi connection, that will impact performance. (Of course, there are many other reasons to enable security as well.)
7. If your router has external antennas on it, experiment with placing some antennas vertically and some horizontally.
In general, devices with antennas that are parallel to one another communicate better, so for smartphones and tablets ideally you'd want the antennas in varying alignments since the devices are going to be held in multiple positions. That said, antennas in the vertical position generally spread their signal out better horizontally (better for covering an entire story of a house), and those that are horizontal spread our better vertically (better for multistory transmissions); the mix of all these factors is why experimenting is a good idea.
8. Experiment with changing your Wi-Fi channel.
See if performance improves if you change the channel (which can be done quite easily in your router's settings). If other homes in your immediate neighborhood are using Wi-Fi on the same channel as you, switching to another channel may improve performance. If you live in an apartment building, this type of change can often make a big difference.
9. Use a range extender.
You probably don't even have to buy one to take advantage of this benefit; many old routers can be easily set up as wireless repeaters using their standard configuration managers.
10. Use Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prevent inappropriate bandwidth distribution.
There are settings on most modern routers that allow you to prioritize certain applications over others; configuring QoS can help ensure that someone playing video games in your home does not hog all the available bandwidth and disrupt other people's ability to work efficiently or communicate with distant relatives.
11. Reboot your router regularly.
As is the case with most computers, rebooting a router can "clean things up" and make it run more efficiently.
Please feel free to discuss this article with me. I'm on Twitter at @JosephSteinberg.