The Best Place For Your Wireless Router

It's All About Signal Strength

Wireless Router Showing Signal Beams
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The performance of a Wi-Fi home network greatly depends on signal strength of the wireless router (or wireless access point, base station).

When a given wireless client falls out of range of the base station signal, that network connection will fail (drop out). Clients positioned near the boundary of the network's range will likely experience intermittent dropped connections. Even when a wireless client stays within range, its network performance can still be adversely affected by distance, obstructions, or interference.

Finding the Best Place for a Your Wireless Router

To position your wireless equipment for optimal network performance, follow these guidelines:

  1. Don't settle prematurely on a location for the wireless access point or router. Experiment; try placing the device in several different promising locations. While trial-and-error may not be the most scientific way to find a good spot for your equipment, it is often the only practical way to assure the best possible Wi-Fi performance.
  2. Strive to install the wireless access point or router in a central location. If you have only one wireless client, installing the base station near this client is best. For WLANs with multiple wireless clients, find a good compromise position. Clients too far away from the router will obtain only 10% to 50% the network bandwidth of clients nearby to it. You may need to sacrifice the network performance of one client for the good of the others.
  1. Avoid physical obstructions whenever possible. Any barriers along the "line of sight" between client and base station will degrade a Wi-Fi radio signal. Plaster or brick walls tend to have the most negative impact, but really any obstruction including cabinets or furniture will weaken the signal to some degree. Obstructions tend to reside closer to floor level; therefore, some folks prefer to install their wireless access point / router on or near the ceiling.
  1. Avoid reflective surfaces whenever possible. Some Wi-Fi signals literally bounce off of windows, mirrors, metal file cabinets and stainless steel countertops, lessening both network range and performance.
  2. Install the wireless access point or router at least 1m (3 feet) away from other home appliances that send wireless signals in the same frequency range. Such appliances include some microwave ovens, cordless telephones, baby monitors, and home automation equipment. Appliances that transmit in the 2.4 GHz frequency range are most likely to generate Wi-Fi interference.
  3. Likewise, install the router away from electrical equipment that also generates interference. Avoid electric fans, other motors, and fluorescent lighting.
  4. If the best location you find is only marginally acceptable, consider adjusting the router's antennas to improve performance. Antennas on wireless access points and routers can usually be rotated or otherwise re-pointed to fine tune Wi-Fi signaling. Follow the specific manufacturer's recommendations for best results.

If using these guidelines you still cannot find a suitable location for your wireless gear, there are alternatives. You can, for example, replace and upgrade the base station antenna.

You can also install a Wi-Fi repeater (often called a "range extender" or "signal booster"). Finally, in extreme cases, you may need to add a second router (or access point) to extend the range of your WLAN.

More: How You Can Boost the Range of Your Wi-Fi Network

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