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We take Wi-Fi for granted, but it’s not magic — it’s radio waves. These radio waves can be interfered with or obstructed, producing wireless “dead zones” or “dead spots.” Wireless signals won’t penetrate these dead zones, so wireless devices won’t receive a Wi-Fi signal within them.

Wireless dead zones are easy to locate if you stroll around your house, apartment, or office. Once you’ve found them, you can experiment with a variety of solutions and fix whatever is causing the problem.

What is a Wireless Dead Zone?

A dead zone is simply an area within your house, apartment, office, or any other area that’s supposed to be covered by Wi-Fi; but it doesn’t work there — devices aren’t able to connect to the network. If you take a device into a dead zone — maybe you’re using a smartphone or tablet and walk into a room where there’s a dead zone — the Wi-Fi will stop working and you won’t receive a signal.

What Causes Wireless Dead Zones?

Anything that interferes with Wi-Fi radio waves can produce a dead zone. If you have a large house or office and have your wireless router in one corner of the building, there may be a dead zone in the opposite corner of the building where the Wi-Fi signal can’t reach.

Most houses were built before Wi-Fi was developed, so they may be constructed in ways that interfere with Wi-Fi. Old houses may have thick plaster walls that contain chicken wire for support, and this metal wiring can block Wi-Fi signals. Large metal objects like file cabinets or metal walls may also block Wi-Fi signals.

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Other devices may also interfere with Wi-Fi signals — we’ve seen old cordless phones interfere with Wi-Fi signals when used and a microwave oven block Wi-Fi signals when running. Baby monitors, wireless security systems, wireless sound systems — these are all types of devices that have been known to cause problems.

If you’re in an area dense with wireless networks, such as an apartment block where every unit has its own wireless router, your Wi-Fi coverage may also be hurt by interference. If your nearby neighbors have their Wi-Fi networks configured on the same wireless channel as yours, this may result in interference, reducing your network’s signal strength, possibly producing dead zones.

How to Detect Wireless Dead Zones

Let’s be honest: You don’t really need fancy software to identify dead zones. Just pick up your smartphone or another wireless device, connect to your wireless network, and walk around your house, apartment, or office. Pay attention to the Wi-Fi signal indicator on your smartphone. If signal strength drops to zero, you’ve found a dead zone. If it drops to a very low level, that may also be a concern — unreliable signal strength may result in lower speeds and some devices may not be able to connect on the fringes of your Wi-Fi network. Different devices have different tolerances for low signal strength.

Remember that the Wi-Fi indicator doesn’t update immediately, so don’t sprint while holding your phone. Walk slowly and pause in areas where you might conceivably use Wi-Fi.

smartphone-wifi-signal-strength

Of course, you can also use software to help detect wireless dead zones. On Android, the free Wifi Analyzer app will show you more detailed information about the strength of your Wi-Fi signal. Open the app, select the Signal meter screen, and pick your Wi-Fi network. Walk around with the app open and you’ll see the signal strength change as you move from location to location.

Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to access this information on iOS, so iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch users can’t use an app for more detailed information — they’ll have to pay attention to their device’s standard Wi-Fi indicator.

If you have a Windows or Mac laptop, you could also use inSSIDer to measure your Wi-fi signal strength, but be careful while walking around with your laptop and staring at its screen the whole time.

How to Fix Wireless Dead Zones

Now that you’ve figured out exactly where your wireless dead zones are, you’ll probably want to eliminate them. Here are some tips for patching up your Wi-Fi coverage.

Whether or not you have wireless dead zones will depend on your router, its positioning, your neighbors, what your building’s walls are made out of, the size of your coverage area, the types of electronic devices you have, and where everything is positioned. There’s a lot that can cause problems, but trial and error can help you pin down the culprit.

Have you dealt with Wi-Fi dead zones in the past? What was causing the problem, and how did you fix it? Leave a comment with any tips you have!

Image Credit: Sean MacEntee on Flickr, Denna Jones on Flickr

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