How to Optimize Your Wireless Router

Get a stronger signal from your router

What to Know

  • Relocating your router, updating its firmware, and adding a new antenna will generally boost the signal.
  • Sorting certain types of traffic onto different bands and channels of a dual-band router will reduce the workload for your router.
  • “Whitelisting” your devices will also help with speed.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to improve the signal and speed of your router. 

How Do I Improve My Router’s Signal?

Regularly running through a few basic tasks can generally improve signal with minimal effort on your part.

  1. Perform basic maintenance, such as occasionally rebooting your router in off-hours. It will also give your router time to take care of automatic updates and make other changes.

  2. Regularly change your password, and limit who knows the password. This helps reduce the number of potential freeloaders, digital or human, on your network.

    Configure your router’s guest network feature and give visitors access to that instead of your password.

  3. Remove older devices from your network. Routers are generally backward compatible with all 802.11 wireless standards. However, older standards are slower, and routers tend to default to the oldest standard on the network. Removing old devices from the network and rebooting your router will automatically reconfigure it to use a faster standard.

    Remember that some devices are configured to receive new passwords from your router to keep functioning. You may need to find and remove these manually or have them "forget" your Wi-Fi network.

  4. Relocate your router as close to the exact center of your home as possible. Placement of the router will affect its range, so keeping it central helps most of the devices connected to it. Also, avoid putting it anywhere it might experience interference, such as near steel beams or in an area with thick walls.

  5. Update your firmware, following the instructions in your router’s manual. Often firmware updates automatically optimize your router and its signal for you.

  6. Upgrade your router’s antennas if they’re removable. Many routers will ship with antennas that serve their purpose but aren’t top of the line. You can find upgrades from your router’s manufacturer and third parties.

What Should My Router Settings Be?

Your router gives you the ability to prioritize traffic and “whitelist” specific devices while reducing the speed or ignoring others. Your router doesn’t generally automatically sort more demanding uses, like streaming 4K video, from lower-impact traffic such as the passive connection smart devices need, so setting these priorities can help.

  1. Note the "names" of your devices on your network. It's generally the device's brand name, possibly with personalization such as "Jenny's iPhone." Simpler devices, like smart plugs, might have the manufacturer's name or serial number.

  2. Write down the rooms in which each device that uses in your router is. 

  3. Check your router’s web portal or app for a tab marked “Quality of Service” (QoS) and select it.

  4. In the QoS tab, you’ll be able to prioritize specific uses and devices, such as your streaming stick. Choose the devices that should be first in line.

    You can also “blacklist” devices you don’t recognize, but check with anyone living with you or any visitors first to ensure you’re not cutting off their tablet or another personal device.

  5. On a dual-band router, you can also pick the band and channel for each device. Put closer devices on the 5 GHz band, which has a shorter range, and devices further away, or that move around your house such as a laptop, on the 2.4 GHz band, which is slower but reaches further. Depending on how many you have, you may also want to assign individual channels on each band to your devices.

    If a device is slower on one channel and faster on another, there’s interference, like another router, on that channel.

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