Tips for Improving Home Wi-Fi Performance

Try these suggestions for better speeds at home

Family using wireless devices at home
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You can assemble a Wi-Fi wireless home network quickly. However, the performance of a Wi-Fi network can decline for several reasons. Many homeowners aren't aware of the options available to maintain a system and make it better over time.

Consider these suggestions for improving the capability, performance, and security of your wireless home network.

Upgrade and Add Equipment

While Wi-Fi gear can run for many years before failing, you should consider replacing older equipment. Many homeowners know about network routers and access points, but they may not realize that Wi-Fi technology continually improves. Newer Wi-Fi gear typically runs faster, is more reliable, and offers better compatibility with the devices you use to connect to the internet at home.

Don't overlook the benefits of more advanced gear, including wireless print servers, range extenders, and game adapters. Before settling for the cheapest basic network setup that supports only a few PCs or phones, research these types of products to see if they may benefit your home and are affordable.

Move the Router to a Better Location

You may quickly set up your wireless network only to find that it doesn't function well in some areas of your home. You may also enjoy a working setup at first but notice that your network crashes when someone uses a microwave oven or cordless phone.

PCs in a basement, attic, or corner room may suffer from chronically lousy network performance, but it may be unclear how to fix the problem.

One easy way to address these common Wi-Fi networking issues is to move the wireless router to a better location. Walls, distance, and proximity to appliances that interfere with a wireless signal can often affect network speed and performance. You want your router as close as possible to the room(s) in which you'll use the internet the most.

Change the Wi-Fi Channel Number

In most countries, Wi-Fi equipment can transmit signals on any of several different channels (similar to televisions). Interference on a channel can impact your Wi-Fi network's performance.

Most wireless routers ship with the same default channel numbers and most users never think about changing this. You may experience radio interference from a neighbor's router on the same channel or even from some other piece of electronic equipment.

Changing the Wi-Fi channel is often the best way to fix this problem.

Upgrade Router Firmware

Like your phone, routers contain built-in programmable logic called firmware. Much like software, developers upgrade and improve firmware over time.

The manufacturer installs a version of firmware, and this logic is essential to the operation of the device. Many routers offer a firmware upgrade capability that allows you to install newer versions as they become available.

Updating your firmware can provide performance improvements, security enhancements, or better reliability. Look for firmware updates on the router manufacturer's website—usually under a support section—and upgrade as needed.

Increase Signal Strength and Range of the Router

No matter where in a home you install a router, sometimes the Wi-Fi signal won't be strong enough to maintain a good connection. The likelihood of this problem increases the further away from the router you are and the more obstructions, such as brick walls, stand between you and the router.

One way to solve this problem is to upgrade the Wi-Fi antenna installed on the router. Some routers do not support antenna upgrades, but many do. The alternative involves installing an additional device called a repeater. A repeater amplifies your existing wireless network, increasing its range and strength.

Increase Signal Strength and Range of Clients

As with wireless routers, you can also improve the signal strength of wireless clients. Consider this when dealing with a single Wi-Fi device that suffers from a short signal range compared to the rest of your devices. This technique can improve the ability of laptop computers to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots, for example.

Increase Wireless Network Security

Many homeowners consider their wireless network setup a success when file and internet connection sharing are functional. However, you shouldn't call the job complete until proper security measures are in place.