Here’s a 21st Century problem for you. You’re an hour into that new blockbuster movie and the world is just about to be invaded by aliens. You’re right on the edge of your seat when … the streaming video freezes. Or the kids are playing Minecraft online, when a creeper that was way off in the distance is suddenly exploding right next to them.
In this age of super-fast broadband, things like that are just not supposed to happen, but they do. It’s because you’ve got a Wi-Fi problem. It’s too slow or the signal’s too weak. There could be too many devices connected at once or you may be in a tug of war with your neighbor for bandwidth.
Fortunately all Wi-Fi issues can be fixed. It’s just a question of how. Here are some common problems with tips on how to fix them.
1. Christmas lights can slow you down
Did you know that Wi-Fi router speeds are affected by electromagnetic fields? These can include security lights, Hi-Fi systems and even your big old desktop computer. Christmas lights are major culprits too!
How to cure it? It couldn’t be easier: just move your router away from other electrical devices.
2. Walls and Wi-Fi
Wireless signals work through walls, but the signal gets weaker the more spackle and brick it has to travel through. If you have an old house with really thick partitions, try to position your router in an open area, like a corridor or near the top of your stairs. If you live in a one-story home, place your router close to where you work and watch or play on your TV.
3. Repeat yourself
Wireless repeaters are clever and cost-effective little gadgets that easily extend the range of your Wi-Fi router. They cost very little, plug into any main electrical socket in your house and amplify the Wi-Fi signal in that area. The best place to put them is somewhere between your router and the rooms where you want to use your e-readers, laptops, tablets or other wireless devices.
4. Become a signal hunter
Want to find out which bits of your property might need a boost? Most of us have a Wi-Fi detector right in our pocket: a smartphone. Go to the Wi-Fi section in your smartphone’s settings and find your local network in the list (it will have a little icon next to it that looks like a slice of pie). The better the Wi-Fi signal, the more of that pie will be filled in.
5. Wi-Fi flows downward
If you have more than one story in your house, you can extend the range of your router just by moving it upstairs. No, really! Radio waves travel downwards, so you’ll get better coverage throughout your property if your router is on the top floor of your house. Cost? Zero dollars.
6. Other people’s Wi-Fi
Your Wi-Fi operates just like an old fashioned radio, using a specific channel. In the United States there are 11 of them, numbered from 1 to 11.
If your neighbor has his wireless router set to the same channel as yours (or one next to it) it can interfere with your connection, slowing it down.
The fastest fix is to set your router to choose its broadcast channel automatically. The way you do this varies from router to router, but you will need to access your router’s admin panel using a web browser. Your Internet service provider’s website should be able to help you out here.
7. Buy a new router
The best tip of all? You don’t have to stick with the router your Internet service provider gave you. With just a small investment you can buy a new router and improve coverage throughout your home, without having to tweak a thing.
For example, Google’s OnHub router is so clever that it does many of things we’ve suggested above, all by itself. It can’t walk upstairs, but it can automatically search for the best channel and wireless protocol to use for the fastest, most reliable Wi-Fi signal. It doesn’t rely on a single antenna either. It has twelve of them, hidden away in its slinky circular case.
8. Great budget alternatives
The OnHub is a really powerful piece of gear, retailing for $199. But you can spend a little less and still get rid of Wi-Fi signal interference.
Take the TP-Link Archer C7, for example. It has a more traditional shape and retails at $112.81. This dual-band device supports the Wireless AC protocol, which means it will outpace broadband speed development for years to come.
Then there’s the Buffalo AirStation Dual-Band AC Wireless Router. At $64.15, it’s great for those on smaller budgets, with a case that’s really easy on the eyes.
Whichever way you fix your wireless woes (and you can use all these tips together if you want), rest assured that you don’t ever have to put up with weak Wi-Fi signals. Now let’s get back to that alien invasion.