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If you have a wired or wireless home network Everything You Need to Know About Home Networking Everything You Need to Know About Home Networking Setting up a home network is not as hard as you think it is. Read More , chances are you’ll be looking for ways to optimise it so that it is running as fast as possible.

There are several things you can do, from making minor software tweaks to installing new hardware. In this guide, we’ll take a look a few simple adjustments you can make to speed up your home network.

Find the Right Spot for Your Router

The starting point for any wireless network is to ensure the router is positioned properly 8 Tips to Effectively Boost Your Wireless Router Signal 8 Tips to Effectively Boost Your Wireless Router Signal If your wireless router's signal doesn't seem to reach very far, or if your signal keeps dropping for some weird reason, here are a few things you can do that might fix it. Read More .

A wireless signal is diminished by distance and penetration when travelling through floors and walls. Ideally, your router would be positioned in the center of all the devices connected to it, with direct line of sight to each one. In reality, this probably won’t be convenient.

router

Instead, you need to work on minimising the obstructions that will affect the performance of your wireless network. Try and position the router somewhere near the center of your home, raised on a shelf if possible, and not hemmed in by walls.

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Experiment with placing the router in different positions to ensure you don’t have any blackspots in your house. A blackspot is an area where a device is unable to connect to the wireless router. It can be caused by an excess of obstructions blocking the signal, or even simply by the device being located beyond the router’s range.

There are many apps to help identify Wi-Fi blackspots Cover Your Home: How To Find and Remove Wireless Blind Spots   Cover Your Home: How To Find and Remove Wireless Blind Spots   Here's how to find - and eliminate - these wireless dead zones. Read More , including NetSpot on Mac, or NetStumbler on Windows. If you cannot solve the problem of blackspots simply by repositioning the router, then a Wi-Fi extender, such as a TP-LINK TL-WA850RE N300 can boost your wireless network’s power and range.

Does Cable Length Matter?

If you’re using a wired network, the length of the cables you use theoretically can have an impact on speed, although in practice it’s unlikely to be an issue in your home network.

A Cat 5 ethernet cable can run to 328 feet before the signal begins to degrade. Here’s everything you need to know about ethernet cables Everything You Need To Know About Ethernet Cables Everything You Need To Know About Ethernet Cables Read More .

Optimise Your Wireless Router

Once you have your wireless router in the best possible location, you need to work on minimizing interference to the signal.

Interference can come from everyday electronic devices in your home, including your cordless phone and microwave. Many old routers run on the 2.4GHz frequency Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers While wireless standards lack a logical progression in terms of letters, the technology under the hood is notable, and with each new release we get one step closer to painless connectivity. Read More , as do these other gadgets. It’s a good idea to place your wireless router as far away as possible from any device which may emit interference.

channel

The channel your router is set to When Defaults Are Bad: How To Pick a Unique Wireless Channel For Your Router When Defaults Are Bad: How To Pick a Unique Wireless Channel For Your Router Wired ethernet will always be better than wireless connections, but sometimes you don’t have a choice - all manner of mobile devices need wifi. There is however one very basic step you can take which... Read More can also invite interference. Every router chooses a “channel” to send and receive data. If your neighbors have a router that is set to the same channel, the two can interfere with each other, degrade the signal, and finally hamper the network speed. If you live in an apartment block with lots of neighbors, channel congestion can become a serious problem.

Some routers will be set to automatically select a channel, but if you want to use the least congested channel in your area, you can use a program such as WifiInfoView on Windows to find it. This app scans for, and displays a list of information on, all the networks in your area.

If you sort this list of networks by the channel they are using, you’ll be able to see which channels are most congested and which are least used (many routers will default to channel 6). Just pick any channel that isn’t being used, or at least one that is being used less than the others, log into your router settings, and change the channel manually.

Get Up to Speed

It’s easy to upgrade the speed of your network simply by buying a new wireless-AC router Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers Everything You Need To Know About AC Routers While wireless standards lack a logical progression in terms of letters, the technology under the hood is notable, and with each new release we get one step closer to painless connectivity. Read More , or by using faster ethernet cables Everything You Need To Know About Ethernet Cables Everything You Need To Know About Ethernet Cables Read More .

While wireless 802.11ac supports speeds of up to 1.3 gigabits per second, which amounts to 166 megabytes per second, network cables e.g. Cat 5, Cat 5e and Cat 6 top out at 100Mbps, 1000Mbps, and 10,000Mbps respectively.

ethernet cables

Whether your network is wired or wireless, your hardware will need to support the standards at each end to benefit from the speed boosts. Wired devices will require Gigabit ethernet ports at both ends (computer and router), and wireless devices must support the 802.11ac standard.

In both cases, the maximum transfer speeds will be dramatically faster than your Internet connection, so you probably won’t notice any performance difference there. But local file transfers within your network will be considerably quicker.

Get Everything Up to Date

One of the simplest ways to ensure you’re getting maximum performance from your network — or any hardware, for that matter — is to make sure it is fully up to date.

Routinely check for firmware updates for your router, driver updates for components such as network cards, and operating system updates for your computers.

Disable Network Throttling

Network throttling is used in some versions of Windows (including Vista and Windows 7) to give priority to multimedia applications, but can have an adverse effect on other tasks, such as transferring large files.

To disable Network Throttling:

  1. Go into the Registry
  2. Navigate your way to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Multimedia\SystemProfile
  3. Locate the entry named NetworkThrottlingIndex
  4. To turn the feature off completely, change the value to FFFFFFFF (hexadecimal)

Remember, that editing the registry 3 Tools To Monitor & Examine The Windows Registry 3 Tools To Monitor & Examine The Windows Registry The Windows registry is one of the most poorly understood parts of the Windows operating system. We show you tools that can simplify the registry and help you identify issues. Read More can be risky if you don’t know what you’re doing, so set a system restore point What You Need To Know About Windows System Restore What You Need To Know About Windows System Restore Imagine the trouble you could find yourself in, if your system failed! The Windows System Restore feature could save your butt. This article explains how to create and use Windows restore points. Read More before you try it.

Watch Out For Network Hogs

Network hogs can be a significant problem, where one device or application is using lots of bandwidth at the expense of everything else.

netbalancer

With NetBalancer you can view and analyse the network traffic on a Windows computer. You can see which programs are using the most bandwidth, and limit them if you need to.

For a more detailed picture of bandwidth usage on your network, you can try WireShark. This enables you to browse all of the traffic on the network, not just a specific machine, to identify what is slowing it down.

Both of these programs are free to download.

Shape Your Traffic

Many modern routers comes with a feature called Quality of Service, or QoS. QoS enables you to “shape” the traffic that passes through your network, and prioritize certain applications.

You can use QoS to allocate more bandwidth to things like streaming media, Skype or anything else that needs a fast, reliable connection. Lower priority traffic, such as downloads or email will use less bandwidth when these other services are in use.

The method of setting up QoS differs from one router manufacturer to the next. In most cases, you will need to log in to your router’s configuration page from a connected web browser.

streamboost

Qualcomm’s StreamBoost technology, which is implemented in several routers from D-Link and NetGear, automatically analyses traffic and adjusts the bandwidth allocation to suit each application without you needing to do anything.

Combine Wired and Wireless

Most people prefer a wireless setup for their home network. It’s easier to install, leaves no clutter around your house, and is more flexible in terms of which devices you can add to it.

But a wireless network isn’t always better for performance Wi-Fi vs Ethernet: Which Should You Use and Why? Wi-Fi vs Ethernet: Which Should You Use and Why? The world is going wireless. Does that mean it's all over for Ethernet? Read More , and in some cases you’ll get noticeable improvements by switching certain devices to a cable.

router lights

Gaming, for example, benefits from a fast, stable connection, and this is likely to be offered more reliably via ethernet than wireless. Also, a network between two computers in the same room is probably easier to manage if they are physically connected.

All wireless routers now come with multiple ethernet ports, so connecting devices via cables is straightforward.

Use Powerline Networking

If you choose to add wires to your wireless network, or if you find you’ve got Wi-Fi blackspots in your house, then powerline networking Powerline Networking: What It Is & Why It Is Awesome [Technology Explained] Powerline Networking: What It Is & Why It Is Awesome [Technology Explained] Read More may be the perfect compromise solution. This uses electrical wiring in your home as a wired data network, with ethernet ports attached to the power sockets. Starter kits with two adapters — like this TP-LINK TL-PA4010KIT AV500 Nano Powerline Adapter Starter Kit — are generally quite affordable, and are available from around $30.

powerline

The speed of a powerline adapter varies based on the model. Some support speeds of up to 1Gb/s, although the real world speeds will often be somewhat lower. Even so, they are fast enough for gaming, or for connecting up a smart TV for streaming.

Installing them is easy. You connect an adapter via ethernet cable to a device, and then plug it into a nearby power supply. You need one adapter for each device you’re using. So, you’d have one connected to your router, one for your PC, one for your games console, and so on.

Over to You

A home network need not require too much management, but there are always ways you can tweak it to keep it running smoothly. Especially as you add more devices or upgrade components.

And now it’s over to you. Have you set up a home network? What tweaks have you made to get it working at maximum speed? Leave your tips and questions in the comments below.

Image credits: Router via Sean MacEntee, Ethernet cables via tlsmith1000, Router lights via Clive Darra

  1. Daniel Guibord
    November 24, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Under this article's heading "Disable Network Throttling"

    My OS is Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

    Did a search in the registry for NetworkThrottlingIndex. Nothing found.

  2. Arul Mani
    July 21, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Nice article !

  3. petermakeuseof
    July 10, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    You may say it's semantics but it is really not. This statement is just plain not true: "A Cat 5 ethernet cable can run to 328 feet before the signal begins to degrade."

    328 feet (100 meters) is the is the maximum length a cable should run, after that it will fail certification. There are many things that affect the theoretical length of a cable, that's another story.

    The signal on an Ethernet cable, or any cable carrying electrical impulses, begins to degrade as soon as it hits the copper. The 100 meter rule says that at 100M the signal may no longer be strong enough to be useful.

  4. Luis Olarte
    July 10, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Here is my 2 cents worth.
    If possible use all cat5 or cat6 shielded wire, this will limit interference.
    When wire is shielded you can run up to 1000 feet no boost needed.
    Router I always purchase the one's that I can change firmware.
    Like dd-wrt, gargoyle, or tomato, to limit back doors in the firmware.
    I install most of software from ninite.com and replace all heavy applications with lite applications.
    My list from ninite.com opera, chrome, malwarebytes, spybot2, avira, trillian, vlc, monkey, audacity, win-amp, zip7, LibreOffice, foxit reader, steam, everything, teracopy, revo, windirstat.
    All from one place and no adds or spam extras like tool-bars.
    All free software I add the licenses that I have after the install, for software that I have purchased.
    In addition I install puran utilities, Gizmo 2.7, Kodi, also disconnect and add blockers to the web browsers.
    To all of the windows PC's get this basic setup, this will limit software limitations on the network.
    My Asrock mother board came with cFos speed software this is use to limit the priorities network access.
    There is other software that can do the same work, or you can do it from the router.
    I wire the apartment and use router plus a second router as bridge both dd-wrt & a switch.
    This gives me the connectivity to cover 4 PC's, 2 laptops & printer plus a NAS.
    All secured there is only 2 USB Wi-Fi sink points also with dd-wrt, when they are not in use they are unplugged.
    Wi-Fi will always be and unsecured communication form it is over the air.
    Power line networks are also not secured.
    When ever possible hard-wire connectivity to any device, it is faster and more secured.
    I never let my ISP control my security nor enable Wi-Fi, I tell them I just need and access point.
    I will handle my networks and my security you handle the connectivity.
    They always say the same thing we do not warranty be on this point, I say noted.
    One thing to be aware-off always boot your router first 2 minutes at least and 1 PC at first.
    Only then connect rest of the network ones you are sure of connectivity.
    Hope this helps someone, the rest is up to you.
    Be secured, backup, and control your network.

  5. Harald Stoll
    July 10, 2015 at 6:37 am

    if you have multiple meters and are using a powerline adapter, make sure that the start and finish are within the same electric group.

  6. likefun butnot
    July 9, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    ... and then there's the likefunbutnot method for speeding up a home network: use 40Gbps Infiniband adapters instead of Ethernet.

    10Gbps Ethernet is incredibly expensive, but Infiniband is old, formerly exotic technology that can be had at dirt cheap prices on Ebay. The only down side is needing possibly somewhat expensive cables (mine are twinax with QSFP connectors) as media rather than plain old twisted pair. Someone could get a single 40Gbps link (yes, more than six times faster than SATA) up and running for under $200.

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