Imagine rushing home from work, concocting a quick meal and depositing yourself in your movie-nights couch just to realize you cannot watch your favorite TV Series premiering tonight courtesy of slow Wi-Fi signal.
You are stuck between calling your techie cousin to help you boost your home Wi-Fi signal as they did for your neighbor, and abandoning the Series.
Worse still, you could wait for keyboard warriors to start ranting about it on Facebook if it ever loads on your phone or let everyone spoil it for you tomorrow morning at work.
Routers, like every other electronic gadget in your home, knows when it is needed most.
That’s when it reminds you of the long-overdue checkup. If your router keeps you waiting when loading an online game, serves you choppy videos, drops videos call now and then or takes forever to download files, now is the best time to read this article.
You have found the Wi-Fi router enhancing encyclopedia. Go ahead, follow the instructions below, your techie cousin is probably watching the same TV Series you were dying to.
So what you are not a techie? There is always something you can do to boost your home Wi-Fi signal without screwdrivers and codes. You can either do it in a cash-less way or involve your credit card. The choice again is yours. Here you go!
Liberate your Router from Dark Corners
Hiding your router in a cabinet, at the back of the bookshelf or in a cupboard sounds wise. You don’t want kids pushing buttons and resetting it now and then, nor do you want your pet getting excited about the flickering LEDs and popping antennas.
As safe as the ideas sound, that’s not where your Wi-Fi router belongs. It was built to sit centrally in your home so it can broadcast the Wi-Fi signal to every corner.
And bearing in mind your home could have solid walls, shoving the router into a cabinet or a corner won’t do it any good.
Liberate the device, place it where it can breathe and not heat up. If possible, pin it high up where it is free to thrust the signal in every possible direction with minimum hindrances.
That simple relocation will boost your home Wi-Fi signal to a great deal, enhancing video streaming and faster downloads.
Position your Router’s Antennas to your Advantage
Picture a German shepherd’s upright and outstretched ears. They make the dog look more attentive, ready to respond than the species with a drop or rose ears, don’t they?
A router’s antennas, just like a German shepherd’s ears should never sit folded. Though they look rather stunning when erect, they are not part of the router’s décor. They are meant to remain pointed out to increase Wi-Fi coverage in your home.
Most Wi-Fi routers come with multiple external directional antennas that thrust the Wi-Fi signal in a particular direction making it strong and stable.
If you have any Wi-Fi dead zones in any room, point one of the antennas in that direction and it will come alive with a reliable Wi-Fi signal.
That spells the difference between a painful download and one that comes down like a rock!
Wisdom calls for testing signal strength and the best location to place your router using tools such as inSSIDer or Heatmapper.
They go into deep details to help you identify particular spots in your home that have weak Wi-Fi signals enabling you to make more informed decisions.
Adorn the Router with New Antennas
In case your router came without a single external antenna, chances are it has the internal omnidirectional type.
A fair percent of such Wi-Fi routers today have an allowance for external antennas. They could have been packed in the box that came with the router but chances are you have long disposed of them.
Visit your router manufacturer’s website to see the recommended antennas. Make sure they are marked, high gain before paying.
Adding directional external antennas to a router with internal omnidirectional type boosts Wi-Fi signal strength and coverage.
Remember to set the antennas pointed in the direction where you have a weak Wi-Fi signal so every wireless device sitting there can join in the Wi-Fi party.
Update the Router’s Firmware
If your home Wi-Fi signal is still weak after repositioning the router, adding and pulling up the antennas, the next best but easy thing is to access the router’s guts. Not physically though.
Check the back of the router or its documentation for the username and password to access the Administration interface.
You may need to connect your laptop to the router using an Ethernet cable to proceed. The two main tabs in most routers’ Administration interface have the Basic and Advanced settings.
To update the Wi-Fi router’s firmware, you can either go to the Advanced settings and perform a direct download at a press of a button or access previously downloaded update file from the manufacturer’s website and run it.
The router’s manufacturer provides a means to tweak its performance using firmware updates. You only need to update it as often as they are available whether your home Wi-Fi signal is poor or not.
These updates also improve the home Wi-Fi network’s security.
Shift to a Faster Frequency Band
If while going to the mall you chose the outer lane of the road because it allows you to exit the road easily, should several other drivers think the same, you would end up in traffic jams.
A dual-band router, the most common today, have the 2.4GHz frequency band and a 5GHz one.
Like the congested outer lane, the 2.4GHz frequency band is used by many other electronic gadgets in your house such as a microwave. Chances are, your neighbor’s router is also set to use the same frequency by default.
That slows down your data traffic hence buffering movies, lagged online games and breaking video calls. That 1GB file you need from your Dropbox won’t download anytime soon!
Common sense calls for you to exit the congested lane and move to a faster one; the 5GHz frequency band.
You may need to know though, even though this frequency band is faster and boosts your Wi-Fi signal, it does not cover so much of the physical space.
You may, however, end up with good streaming for wireless devices near the router and nothing at all for those sitting far from it.
Your router may also not allow you to use the same SSID the one used by the 2.4GHz frequency band. There’s nothing wrong experiencing temporary discomfort if you must watch your favorite TV Series without hitches, is there?
To change the frequency band of your router, go to the Basic tab of the router’s Administration Interface, on the Band option, select 5GHz instead of 2.4GHz.
You can always return to the 2.4GHz band in the morning when it is less congested.
Move your Home Network to a Less Crowded Channel
In every frequency band, there are several channels. A router set to 2.4GHz frequency band has 11 of those working at 40MHz.
Using the command netsh wlan show all on Windows’ command interface, you can see what channel and frequency band other routers in your neighborhood are using.
Most Wi-Fi routers are set to Auto by default, allowing them to operate on the least congested channel at any one time.
A good router selects channels 1, 6 or 11 which rarely overlap so that its overall speed is not affected. However, if your neighbors’ routers also end up on the same channel, chances of slowing down your wireless devices are very high.
After evaluating the state of the channels using the netsh wlan show all command, access the Administration interface and change the settings to the least used channel.
This being a manual change though, the router will not reset it back to Auto if it experiences overlap.
All applications will slow down again. So consider the move as temporary and test the speed from time to time. It is a great solution when you need to boost your Wi-Fi for a particular reason like making an urgent video call, streaming a premiering movie or online gaming.
The joy of knowing how to tweak your router’s settings is that you are not held down to agonize at slow speeds when you can wiggle out of it.
Seek Assistance from DD-WRT Software
While the last three methods of boosting your home Wi-Fi signal involves the router’s Administration interface which comes with the device, this method involves an outsider.
Dresden Wireless RouTer (DD-WRT) is an open-source operating system available as a firmware upgrade.
It is Linux-based, and while some wireless routers come preinstalled with it, the older routers require manual installation.
It helps you tweak the router’s performance, perform network monitoring and scheduling. DD-WRT also enables you to access advanced settings and manipulate the Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Though it sounds rather complicated, its User Interface is easy to use, free for home use and supports 802.11a/b/g/n WLAN standards.
Commercial users pay for a license to use it. That old router of yours can have its Wi-Fi signal boosted to impressive speed and strength instead of declaring it hopeless.
Engage Quality of Service (QoS) Tools
Assuming you want the little ones in your house to stream educational videos every morning, five days a week without buffering to prevent loss of interest.
Anyone playing online games, downloading huge files or making a video call may end up slowing down the kids’ program.
That is where QoS comes in.
QoS is used to prioritize specific applications, devices at a particular time so they are allocated more bandwidth over others.
This allows you to instruct the router to allow the lion’s share of the bandwidth for the kids’ educational videos in the morning while every other application takes a low share.
You can also instruct the router to allow more bandwidth for particular interfaces, IP Addresses or Mac addresses over all others in your home Wi-Fi network.
Some routers have the QoS settings in their Advance tab of Administration interface by default. That allows you to quickly enable it and set it up.
But if you have an old router, QoS settings may not be available.
Install DD-WRT in the router, enable QoS and configure it with your rules of choice. You still need to access it through the Advanced tab of the router’s administration interface.
To configure the QoS rules, first, know what applications and devices you need to prioritize at what time. Begin with activating just a few. Avoid setting too many QoS rules to as not to confuse the router.
Do not forget to test the upload and download speeds without any device accessing the router before inputting any settings.
After configuring the QoS rules, repeat the speed test to see if your settings worked. Always use an Ethernet cable to link the laptop to your Wi-Fi router while accessing the Administration interface. Use speedtest.net for accurate speed results.
So far, you have not bought any device or application to boost your home Wi-Fi signal. If all of these methods have not given you the results you crave, it is time to buy specific devices to upgrade your home Wi-Fi.
Stretch Coverage with Wi-Fi Range Extenders
Most homes have one router supplying all the wireless devices with a Wi-Fi signal. Though this setup makes management of the home Wi-Fi network easier, if your home is larger than the router’s ability to cover, several parts will not have any signal; dead zones.
A Wi-Fi range extender picks the existing Wi-Fi signal from the router and rebroadcasts it to the unreached areas.
It must, however, sit close enough to the router to capture a strong Wi-Fi signal then broadcast it.
Wi-Fi range extenders though solving the problem at stake have two main hitches. They only rebroadcast the original signal at half the strength and they force wireless devices under their coverage to use a different SSID from the routers.
Meaning, if you move from a room whose Wi-Fi signal comes straight from the router to an area served by the Wi-Fi range extender, your device will drop the router’s SSID and request it to log into the extender’s network.
That results in interruption. But considering that your whole home Wi-Fi network will have a reliable Wi-Fi signal, this is a small price to pay.
While buying a Wi-Fi range extender, ensure that it uses the same WLAN standard as your router.
It doesn’t have to be from the same manufacturer though. For an even stronger signal, either dedicate one frequency band for communication between the router and extender or use an Ethernet cable.
The positioning of the router and Wi-Fi range extender is very important if you want to have the best results.
Get a Newer and Better Router
By now you must know what WLAN standard your router is using. If you are still in the dark, check the router’s documentation on the manufacturer’s website or use netsh wlan to show all command to reveal it.
Better still, if bought the Wi-Fi router within the last 10 years, it is likely to be on 802.11ac, 802.11n standards. If older than that, your home Wi-Fi network is a dinosaur of the 802.11g family; difficult if not impossible to tweak.
There is a new kid in the WLAN standards, 802.11ax also known as Wi-Fi 6. It has been in the market since last year and has done a great job at pushing manufacturers of wireless devices to follow suit.
A Wi-Fi 6 router works well with 1Gbps internet plans or better and promises data rates of up to 10Gbps. That spells the end of buffering videos, choppy video calls, and lagging online games. Rather enticing!
Why is this so important to a home user with a slow Wi-Fi signal desperate for boosting?
Instead of wasting time fine-tuning the settings of an old router; 802.11g or 802.11n in the name of boosting the signal, replacing it with a Wi-Fi 6 router saves you 5 years upgrade!
Not only does the Wi-Fi 6 router super boost your Wi-Fi signal, but it also marries well with any new wireless device landing into the market today.
Most of these routers have automatic firmware updates keeping your home network both fast and secure. And since they are backward compatible, they communicate with devices built on older standards, though at a slightly lower speed.
There are plenty of Wi-Fi 6 routers in the market today; most cost between $200 and $400. A worthy investment.
Upgrade to Mesh-based Wi-Fi System
If you find logging into a new network every time you move from one room to another rather annoying over and above the slow Wi-Fi signal, migrating to Mesh-based Wi-Fi system will serve you best.
This system consists of a Mesh router and one or more satellites
Though some routers promise to work with Mesh satellites without a hitch, to boost your home Wi-Fi signal, replace your current router with the Mesh router.
Then add the satellites. Total overhaul.
Unlike the marriage between your router and a Wi-Fi range extender, in the Mesh-based Wi-Fi system; your entire home Wi-Fi network has a single SSID name and password.
That allows you to move from one room to another without need to log into a new network or lose connectivity on your active application.
This translates to no dead zones, fast and strong Wi-Fi signal and seamless connectivity throughout your home.
Setting and managing the Mesh-based Wi-Fi system is easy and runs under one App.
The Mesh router connects to the modem via an Ethernet cable while satellites are placed in strategic places to pick the signal and rebroadcast it without stripping its strength.
Only the satellites that are close to the Mesh router receive the Wi-Fi signal from it.
All others wait for their neighbors to broadcast the signal close to them, then pick it from there and thrust it further. That explains the crazy coverage with a strong signal.
You are also assured of a more secure network since most Mesh-based Wi-Fi systems automatically update their firmware.
Upgrade your Broadband Level with your ISP
If after all these changes you are not satisfied with the results of your speed test, this is a good time to involve your ISP. The poor Wi-Fi signal may not be an internal matter after all.
But first, understand that an 802.11g router has a maximum throughput of 54Mbps, the 802.11n 300Mbps, 802.11ac 1Gbps and 802.11ax 10Gbps. Each router can only handle internet signal from the ISP that is slightly lower than its capacity.
Since routers act as internet traffic cops controlling where data goes between the wireless devices and the internet, if your internet plan is too low, your router will not have much work to do.
Therefore, your 100Mbps internet plan is of no good use even if you have a Wi-Fi 6 router. Lots of wasted resources.
To prevent having a powerful but underutilized Wi-Fi router, contact your ISP to see what internet plan is suitable for your router and available in your locale.
Some ISPs may even allow you to experience higher plans for a day or two before upgrading so you can experience the difference.
During the testing season, they help you run speed tests from home. You could also use that time to run multiple bandwidth-hogging applications on various wireless devices so you can understand what you are going into.
Imagine two days of blazing-fast Wi-Fi signal; no buffering, no lagging, no call drops. Wouldn’t that convince you to migrate to a better internet plan?
Even if you are not a techie, boosting your home Wi-Fi signal does not have to be rocket science. It takes understanding the basics of your router, wireless devices and what your ISP is bringing to the table.
In most cases, a slow home Wi-Fi signal is not as a result of broken devices but wasted resources. Knowing what your router and modem are capable of and what your wireless devices need takes your curiosity.
This article teaches you how to boost your home Wi-Fi signal, so you will never have to forego watching your favorite TV series on the premiering night or miss a business video call.
Make a regular habit of investigating why your Wi-Fi signal is slow and vow to boost it no matter what. Never shrug your shoulders about it, you are paying for it!