Note: This article was first published on 15th October 2017.
If you ask people to create a list of items that they absolutely cannot live without, chances are, Wi-Fi will appear very high on that list. Therefore, a dwindling Wi-Fi signal is everyone’s nightmare. If you are suffering from poor Wi-Fi performance at home, try these tips and solutions.
1. Location, location, location
The simplest way to improve your Wi-Fi is to simply position the router in a more ideal location. Ideally, it should be in a central location in your home. Other things to note include not placing it near any obstructions like walls, glass, mirrors, or any electronic or metallic objects. In addition, never ever place it on the floor. Instead, try to put it in an elevated position, preferably on a desk, side table, or console table. Also, remember to make sure the router’s antennas (if it has any) is put it an upright vertical position.
2. Update its firmware
Router manufacturers frequently make software tweaks to their routers to squeeze out more performance, so it makes sense to ensure that your router is running on the latest firmware. Most modern routers can automatically update their firmware on their own and it is a good idea to turn this option on. Improved performance aside, firmware updates can also sometimes bring about new features and security updates for the router, which are just as important.
3. Which frequency are you on?
Band steering is a feature found on many new routers these days, especially tri-band ones. Band steering automatically assigns client devices to the router’s networks. Users do not need to worry about connecting too many devices to a single network. This sounds good on paper, but in practice, the router might sometimes assign devices to the wrong networks. Though the 2.4GHz network of your router provides better coverage, it is significantly slower compared to the 5GHz network. If performance is critical, you should always connect to the 5GHz network. So for fussier and savvier users, our recommendation is to manage the networks yourself and ensure that your performance-critical devices are connected to the faster 5GHz network. Dive in to your router's admin interface and look out for wireless settings similar to what we've screenshot above from a modern Linksys router to disable/enable band steering option.
4. Change your channels
If you live in a densely populated place, chances are, there are lots of other Wi-Fi networks being broadcasted apart from yours. This can cause interference and result in signal degradation. The important thing to note is that Wi-Fi networks operate on different channels, so what you want to do is to use a channel that is not used by the other Wi-Fi networks in your area, or at least a channel that's not heavily congested. To determine what Wi-Fi channels are free, use an app like Wi-Fi Analyzer (for Android, for iOS), which shows all the Wi-Fi networks in your area and the channels being used. Other excellent tools are as follows:-
- Windows OS based systems: Acrylic WiFi Home scanner
- Mac OS based systems: WiFi Explorer
- Singtel too has a handy browser-based tool to help out for Windows and Mac OS based systems.
You can change your own Wi-Fi network’s channel simply by going into your router’s management system.
5. Use Quality of Service
Quality of Service or QoS is a feature that is available on most routers today. Essentially, it helps manage and prioritize your connections so that the most critical ones get priority over the others. For example, if video streaming is especially important to you, you could prioritize over other connection like general ones such as web browsing or emails. Some routers even allow you to prioritize devices over others. So if you are a gamer, you could assign priority to your gaming console or gaming PC over your work laptop.
6. Use a range extender or power line adapter
If you have tried the methods above and still can’t get your Wi-Fi working at a satisfactory level, it is time to get help with additional devices. Range extenders are a relatively affordable way of expanding Wi-Fi coverage at home but bear in mind that even if Wi-Fi coverage is expanded, expect performance to be negatively impacted. You can check out some possible range extender options to consider over here.
Power line adapters let users quickly create a wired network in their homes. They are generally not quite as quick as a true Ethernet connection, but they are still faster than Wi-Fi connections. However, they can be unreliable at times and they need to be plugged directly into a wall socket and not through a power strip, adapter, or surge protector.
7. Use a mesh networking device
Mesh networking devices are arguably the most advanced way to expand Wi-Fi coverage at home. Easy to setup and use, these devices use Wi-Fi to communicate with each other to expand Wi-Fi coverage. Their flexibility also makes them ideal for use in large homes or homes with odd layouts. That said, mesh networking systems can be pricey and they are quite limited in their ability to expand Wi-Fi coverage (on a per-node basis), which means multiple satellites or nodes may be required to effectively expand Wi-Fi coverage over a large area. The other advantage of mesh networking systems is the flexibility in placement to where you need to improve Wi-Fi coverage and these devices are usually smaller, and more aesthetic in appearance than usual networking equipment.
Read Next 1: A beginner's guide to mesh networking
Read Next 2: Mesh Networking 101 and does it really work?