Most devices in your home are not hardwired to the internet but rely on a router to provide wireless internet service. This means that you’ll need a strong, steady WiFi signal to conference call, binge-watch TV, blast through your favorite RPG or shop online. Great web surfing starts with speedy internet and for all of these processes to run smoothly your WiFi strength needs to be tip-top, no matter where you are in the house.
Whether you’re moving to a new home and trying to decide where to put your home office or just tired of bad internet service, there are some key WiFi signal boosters you can use to get the most out of your internet.
10 ways to boost a WiFi signal
1. Perform any router updates
Routers have firmware that can be updated as manufacturers come up with better ways to make the thing work, and not all routers will update automatically. You can check for updates by signing into your router’s administrator interface and clicking “firmware upgrade” or by finding your router model number and following prompts. The exact method will depend on the model number, but here are links to upgrade info from Asus, D-Link, Linksys, Netgear and Apple. It could be a simple fix for the slow speeds plaguing your network.
2. Clear a path for your WiFi signal
Walls, especially ones with rebar or plumbing in them, and appliances like the refrigerator and microwave can impact wireless signals. So if your router is in a cupboard or closet on the far side of the fridge, you might be seriously slowing your internet. Try running a slightly longer cable to your router so it can sit out in the open near the middle of the house. Eliminating blockages can often boost the signal throughout the rest of the house.
3. Change your router’s frequency
Many routers are dual-band, meaning they can work at a 2.4 or 5 GHz frequency. Most routers default to using the 2.4 band frequency because it’s more robust at dealing with the aforementioned blockages, like walls. But because it’s so commonly used, you might get interference from neighbors’ WiFi signals, causing unnecessary delays. Switching frequencies could be the answer to quicker speeds because there are far fewer users on the higher frequency. You can check out and change your router’s frequency through your network’s administrator interface.
4. Find a clear channel
Changing your router’s channel is similar to changing its frequency — it’s about avoiding competing signals. Newer routers with auto settings should search around to find clear channels, but lower-end ones won’t necessarily do that. If it doesn’t, do a little trial-and-error on your router by manually changing the channel through the administrator interface to see if you get better performance.
5. Upgrade your equipment
You can update your router ’til the cows come home, but if it’s old, it may just be incapable of performing optimally. Manufacturers are getting better at squeezing the most speed out of routers all the time, so if yours is ancient it may just be outdated. Newer routers also have better automatic settings and superior ability to get around interfering objects meaning they can often connect you to the best channels without any effort from you.
6. Get an external antenna
Some routers have external antennas, while others have internal ones. Consider changing or adding an outside antenna to boost WiFi speeds. You’ll have to check with the manufacturer to make sure you get a model that’s compatible with your router and decide if you want an omnidirectional or a directional model. Directional antennas have significantly stronger signals than omnidirectional antennas due to the fact that omnidirectional antennas do not focus on one specific transmitter but rather search for whatever is available.
7. Use a wireless range extender
If you’re trying to get your home’s WiFi signal all the way out to your treehouse or another outbuilding, a wireless range extender may be the answer. Range extenders take the original WiFi signal from the router and further project it outward. Using a range extender may produce a lower bandwidth from its signal, but it’ll get you further out from your computer’s hub than just the router will.
8. Ditch the router for a mesh system
Rather than broadcasting your router’s signal further outward, a mesh system replaces the router entirely. The mesh system comes with several nodes, one of which is plugged into the router and the rest of which can be placed around the house, blanketing your home with even WiFi signals.
9. Always password protect
You may assume that internet access is so ubiquitous that your neighbors won’t use your unprotected signal. However, in the eternal hunger for a fast WiFi signal, some people may take advantage and use your internet if you leave your WiFi network unencrypted and unprotected. Encrypt and password-protect your WiFi using strong passwords to protect both your signal and the personal information that flows through it.
10. Take control
Routers use a feature called Quality of Service (QoS) technology that lets you set priorities for data use. Let’s say you’re in the middle of a business-related conference call. Since you don’t want to risk dropping your call when an automatic update begins somewhere else on the network, you can prioritize bandwidth for your call, slowing the update down until you’re through. Some QoS interfaces will even let you set priorities for different times throughout the day. Generally, you can find QoS settings in your router’s administrator interface.
The bottom line
You’re paying every month for internet service so you deserve to get all the speed and connectivity possible. Tweaking things like router placement and adding antennas can make the difference between a happy internet experience and a choppy, laggy one. It can also save money. Using internet extenders to enable streaming music by the pool or in the attic can improve your experience exponentially for a fraction of the cost of a bigger internet package.