We’ve come to rely on the Internet for just about everything. We use it to communicate with our friends and colleagues. We use it to look up information on every given subject. We use it to amuse ourselves with funny cat videos. This is all well and good, until the signal from your wireless router cuts out and you’re left in a web-less void. This isn’t a fate that I would wish on my worst of enemies.
As convenient as wireless routers have become over the years, they can still use some help from our end to ensure that our connections stay strong and speedy. Whether you’re working on your computer from the home office, playing online games with your console of choice or using a tablet to tweet on the porcelain throne, there is something you can do to improve the WiFi signal strength of your wireless router.
Change the Channel
Most people go through the initial configuration for their wireless routers, leaving just about everything with their default settings. If you’re smart, then you probably went in to change the SSID and password, but beyond that, most people just leave things be. However, if you find that you are dropping signal, there is a simple fix that can be quite effective.
Your router will default to a wireless channel, typically between 1 and 11, most commonly ending up with channel 6. The problem is that there are other routers in the area (like your neighbour’s), there can be interference. A handy tool you can use is called Meraki WiFi Stumbler and it’ll show you the channels of other networks in the area. Then, you can dial into the admin area of your router (usually 192.168.0.1 through a web browser, but check your user manual) to change to a less populated channel.
Update the Firmware
Just as there are updates to your favorite smartphone apps, there are updates for the firmware on your wireless router too. These can bring about new features and functions, but more commonly, they’ll address known bugs and issues. The firmware update process will vary from model to model, but it’s usually pretty easy to understand, even if you’re a technical novice. And the update can improve wireless performance.
For more advanced tinkerers, the DD-WRT open source software is something worth considering. It’s not compatible with all routers, it might invalidate your warranty, and it may be difficult to remove, but DD-WRT gives you a lot more control over what your router can do.
Bigger External Antennas
In an effort to look cleaner and more attractive, many new routers have gone to using internal antennas these days. The tradeoff is that they may be comparatively weaker than their counterparts with external antennas. If you have the option of switching out the external antenna for a larger, more powerful one, that could really do the trick to boost your router’s WiFi signal strength.
Move Your Equipment
Sometimes, the best solution is also the simplest one. If you have your wireless router tucked away in the dark corner behind a cabinet, there’s a good chance that its signal is being impeded by all these barriers. It will operate far more effectively if you can put in a central location out in the open. This is also true for the wireless adapter on your computer. If you can help it, try to have the wireless adapter as out in the open as possible too.
Set Up a Wireless Repeater
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much you try to boost your router’s WiFi, it just won’t reach that extra bedroom at the end of the house. For times like those, it may be worth investing in a wireless repeater or range extender. What these devices do is take the signal from your router and “repeat” or “extend” it by creating another wireless access point. I recently used the Diamond Multimedia WR300NR and it works like a charm. Similar devices typically retail for $40-50.
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