How to Position Router Antennas

Hint: It's not just straight up and down

What to Know

  • For a one-floor home, point half up and half sideways (for multi-floor home, the angles depends on the number of floors).
  • Two antennas: Point both straight up or one straight up and one to side. Three antennas: Point center up and outside ones at 45-degree angle.
  • Four antennas: Two straight up and two at 45-degree angles.

Most people think about router features like speed, power, and Wi-Fi protocols, the antenna position matters, too. Here’s how to position router antennas for the best performance.

How Should Wi-Fi Antennas Be Positioned?

When you are deciding how to position router antennas, there is a simple method and a complex one. The approach to each is a little different.

The Simple Method for Positioning Router Antennas

The simple method follows a pattern that works in most situations for most people. It works best if you want good performance but don't exactly care about getting the best performance.

  1. If your Wi-Fi router has feet, set the router on them and not on its side. If the router has feet on more than one side, you can choose either position.

    Wi-Fi router positioned correctly on a table

    Kittichai Boonpong/ Getty Images

  2. Locate your router’s antennas. If you can’t find any external antennas, your router has only internal ones.

    A Wi-Fi router with internal antennas near phones and tablets

    Pea San Ratn Dilk/ Getty Images

  3. If you want coverage for only one floor, position some vertically and some horizontally.

    A white Wi-Fi router with two antennas pointed straight up

    Vladimir Nenov/ Getty Images

    Manufacturer's typically recommend that all of the antennas point straight up, but Wi-Fi works fastest when the router antenna and the device antenna are positioned the same way. Laptops tend to be horizontal, but the antenna positions for phones and tablets depend on how you hold them.

  4. For coverage on more than one floor, most manufacturers recommend positioning your Wi-Fi antennas at different angles depending on the number.

    A Wi-Fi router with three antennas. The center one is straight up, and the two outside ones are angled away at 45 degrees.

    Eshma/ Getty Images

    • Two antennas: Both pointing straight up or one pointing up and one to the side
    • Three antennas: Middle straight up and the sides ones at a 45 degree angle
    • Four antennas: Two straight up and two at 45 degree angles in opposite directions

The Complex Method for Positioning Router Antennas

If you want to get the best performance out of your router, you’ll need to do some testing, because every Wi-Fi setup varies. To begin, you’ll need a method to measure your signal strength on your computer, tablet, or phone. Once you have a way to record signal strength, you can test different positions for your antennas.

  1. After initial setup, measure your Wi-Fi signal strength in various positions throughout your coverage area. Begin with your manufacturer's recommended positioning.

  2. Note the signal strength and speed in various locations in your coverage area.

    The signal strength (RSSI) and transfer rate (Tx) on MacOS desktop with the Wi-Fi menu down.

    There are many ways to view your Wi-Fi signal strength and speeds.

    MacOS makes it easy right on the desktop. Hold command + option and click the Wi-Fi symbol in the upper right corner. Look at the RSSI and the Tx rate. The lower the RSSI, the better, and the higher the Tx, the better.

  3. Reposition your antennas and test again until you have the optimum setup for you.

Do the Antennas on Routers Do Anything?

A Wi-Fi router's antennas are more than just decoration. Home Wi-Fi routers typically have two types of antennas, internal or external antennas. Internal antennas are inside your Wi-Fi router, and they typically broadcast signal in every direction. Manufacturers design their position to optimize signal coverage, so you don’t have to worry about it. 

External antennas are the moveable antennas you’re likely to see on a router. Manufacturers can design them to stick out the back, sides, or even surrounding the whole router. These antennas broadcast Wi-Fi signal in a donut pattern, sideways from the antenna. So, an antenna that is pointed straight up will broadcast a signal sideways, expanding as it goes. An antenna pointed to the side will broadcast a signal up and down.

FAQ
  • How can I boost my Wi-Fi signal with an internal antenna?

    There are several ways to boost a Wi-Fi signal. For example, you can experiment by repositioning your router in different locations to avoid physical obstructions and radio interference or change the Wi-Fi channel. Other methods include adding an amplifier, a wireless access point, or a Wi-Fi extender.

  • What is the advantage of detachable antennas on a router?

    You can replace the Wi-Fi antennas on a router if they are detachable. This can be beneficial because you can replace an antenna with a stronger omnidirectional, high-gain directional, or external antenna to improve the router's performance.

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