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One moment you’re absolutely dominating in your online game while downloading some movies (legally, of course), and the next moment you can barely load a simple web page. Or maybe, you can’t do that ever. So did your brand new Gigabit Internet connection go to waste? Probably not — if you’re running a home network entirely on WiFi, it’s important to optimize it as much as possible.

Is It Your Internet Connection?

Before messing around with your WiFi, you should attach a computer with Gigabit Ethernet directly to your router or preferably your modem to test your Internet connection. If you can’t get a decent connection with this setup, you have other problems on your hand, which require your ISP’s attention. I only suggest a Gigabit Ethernet connection, so you can easily rule out the Ethernet as a bottleneck.

Update Your Firmware

Before going farther into this article, make sure you’re using the latest firmware of your modem and router. This is important as any updates can come with fixes to software problems that you would try to fix in other ways (and probably fail). Do check for updates regularly, or have your router do that for you if it can.

WiFi Feng Shui

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High up on your list should be to follow Ryan’s WiFi Feng Shui article Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception Setting up a Wi-Fi network should be an easy prospect, shouldn't it? I mean, a house is a closed-in box, and you'd think when you place a device that transmits wireless signals in all directions... Read More — it’ll help you make sure that your router is located at an ideal location along with a few other tips for maximum coverage within your house. When signal strength is at its maximum, your devices should be able to run at their fullest speeds at top reliability.

Switch WiFi Channel

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Next, make sure your router is using a WiFi channel that is unoccupied by nearby routers from neighbors. You can use applications which scan for networks and show you on which channels they’re running on. James has previously demonstrated how to pick a unique wireless channel 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 .  By choosing an unoccupied channel, you’ll face less interference and therefore better performance.

Routers usually default at either channel 6 or “automatic”, which will do this for you. However, if you’re in the same situation as I am, with up to 10 WiFi networks at a time, finding a channel can be difficult. Try to pick a channel with the least number of networks on it, preferably networks that have very low signal strength at your location, or, again, have it set to do this automatically. At least then you won’t have to check back every now and then in case neighbors do some channel shuffling of their own.

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Use More Universally-Compatible Settings

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If you’re concerned about your router using settings that might not maximize compatibility with all your wireless devices, it’s best to use more common frequencies and technologies. All WiFi devices today support at least 2.4 GHz 802.11g, which goes up to 54 Mbps. If you set your router’s settings to these same values, you should be using the most compatible settings possible. Otherwise, if you choose to run a 5 GHz WiFi network up to 300+ Mbps, then only dual-band WiFi devices can even connect, and those running 802.11n or 802.11ac will get preference by the router — leaving subpar performance for other devices.

Upgrade The Antenna

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If your router has a removable antenna, you can upgrade it to a larger antenna that will produce a larger dB, or signal strength. This can also help a lot if it’s not physically possible to follow all of the steps in Ryan’s previously mentioned WiFi Feng Shui article.

Find Out What Is Using Up Your Bandwidth

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If your WiFi speed drops periodically or during specific times of the day, it’s possible that software or other devices on your network eat up your bandwidth. You can refer to Ryan’s article to find out who’s eating your bandwidth Find Out Who's Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips Find Out Who's Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips Click....wait. Click....wait. Click....ARG! Does that seem familiar? It's you when you run out of Internet bandwidth! Let's find out what occupies your Internet connection and how to get it back. Read More . Of course you might also find that your WiFi is being leeched.

MAC Address Filtering

Lastly, if you find that neighbors are messing with your network, you can prevent them from getting to your Internet connection. Make sure you have a good WPA2 encryption enabled (WEP is unusable as James demonstrated How to Crack Your Own WEP Network to Find Out Just How Insecure It Really Is How to Crack Your Own WEP Network to Find Out Just How Insecure It Really Is We’re constantly telling you that using WEP to 'secure' your wireless network is really a fools game, yet people still do it. Today I’d like to show you exactly how insecure WEP really is, by... Read More ). You can also enable MAC address filtering, where you maintain a whitelist of the MAC addresses of your WiFi devices. Of course, MAC address filtering is time consuming and therefore not ideal if you have guests visiting regularly.

Conclusion

It’s not always easy to get a good WiFi setup going, but it’s well worth the effort to maintain sufficient signal strength and compatible settings with up-to-date firmware. If after all this you still have issues, it might be a good idea to look at the router and devices you have and see if they should be upgraded. For example, you might have just gotten yourself a new device with 802.11ac wireless, but your router still only supports 802.11g. This could definitely limit your wireless performance.

For general home network performance, check out James’s article 4 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Network 4 Things That Might Be Slowing Down Your Home Network If you have more than one computer in your house, home networking knowledge becomes essential. But there are many factors which can slow down a home network, often quite easily fixed. Read More which also includes wired networking.

How have you fixed your WiFi problems? What caused it? Let us know in the comments!

  1. Nancy
    September 11, 2016 at 2:48 am

    I wish I could figure out why our laptop is suddenly losing internet connection. I've done allowed the updates and still it drops Internet, while remaining connected to the router. We have to physically walk the laptop to the router where it connects again and is usable back in the family room for awhile, until it drops again. It is connected to the 2.4ghz band and the only device on it. All other devices are on the 5ghz and work well, with no internet loss. The laptop has only 2.4 capability. I've used a wifi analyzer and there really seems to be very little drop in signal throughout the house. I've done speed tests. With the desktop connected via Ethernet to the router, I get good ping and speeds. With the iPad on 5ghz wifi, it is slower and jerky, showing drops to nothing and then back up several times during the test.
    Does this sound like a router issue? It's just over a year old. Belkin N600. Thanks.
    Ly

  2. Adel
    May 8, 2016 at 1:30 am

    Thank you

  3. guest
    May 3, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    If you gaming you shouldn't even bother be using wifi, it's not as fast as Ethernet.

  4. SURG3ON
    February 4, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Is it possible to keep my speed constant even when others are online using my network without kicking them off?

  5. Al Herbert
    June 24, 2015 at 4:53 am

    went though many of the step in you article and thanks for all the info. However, even though working with all the info I jumped my wifi from 1meg dn to 4meg dn. I was thinking I needed to replace my old router. But decided to try one last thing, I blew the router out with canned air.
    The down load speed jumped to 25megs down. So don't forget cleaning, sometimes it works wonders!

  6. ned
    March 16, 2015 at 3:32 am

    I find my download speed gets slow often but when i switch off the wifi on my computer it speeds it up instantly. does anyone know what's slowing it down?

  7. rammurthy
    February 25, 2015 at 8:00 am

    i have using public wifi 801.2n there is a status spped is 13mbps but i have download speed is 1mbps ..once i have got 13mbps but now its not reach to that speed is there any prblem in nmy pc

  8. Anthony
    February 17, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    My question is how can I set my router so that it gets closer to the 105 mbps download speed I am paying for. With a direct connection to the modem, it pulls 105+. Once I switch to Wi Fi only, it only gets around 25 to 26 mbps. Is there a setting which will allow a faster speed?

    • Drew
      July 22, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      Could be your wireless card or wireless adapter you're using. Might be slow or old. Try purchasing a gigabit network adapter and using it. I max out my connection

  9. MH_A
    December 25, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    by laptop when i connect using wifi i every thing is ok but when i connect the phone using wifi the speed getting too low that i cant use net

    my router is d-link dsl-2730u v1

  10. Scott T
    January 17, 2014 at 6:18 am

    That was a great read! thank you for this.

  11. Annie B
    December 31, 2013 at 11:03 pm

    Great article. Now I have a clue on how to find out what's wrong with my wifi! Thanks for giving me a place to start.

    • Danny S
      December 31, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      I'm glad I could be of help, Annie! :)

  12. Nicolas L
    December 31, 2013 at 10:35 am

    If only my neighbours knew about this...

  13. Wally
    December 29, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Geeez . . . first I have to figure out what my password is!

    • Danny S
      December 31, 2013 at 11:20 pm

      Once you do, reset it to something that you can actually remember. :P Just be sure that it's still a strong password!

  14. Stayz
    December 28, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    We used to have bad wifi signals because our wifi setup was far from where the room we usually do the wireless internet surfing and all the walls blocking. But we recently changed the place of our wifi and did a DIY windsurfer from youtube tutorials cantenna is also effective but my mom preferred the windsurfer and it did a good job we get the maximize wifi full bar signals. Another thing we used a name of a virus for our wifi so neighbors wouldnt even dare do piggybacking or leeching. Our internet connection problem though is our provider themselves because of the poor service they give not the wifi router's fault. But I would do the checking of wth is eating my bandwidth. XD

  15. dragonmouth
    December 28, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    "Of course, MAC address filtering is time consuming and therefore not ideal if you have guests visiting regularly."
    If by "guests visiting regularly" you mean the same guests repeatedly, then you should add them to your white list. That's what I do. I have added the two or three people who visit us regularly to my white list.

    If by "guests visiting regularly" you mean a steady stream of different guests, such as the student body of the nearby state university, then maybe you should set up a separate network for their use. /grin/

    • Davespur
      December 30, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      I think he means one night stands

    • Danny S
      December 31, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      dragonmouth got it right. Sorry if there's any confusion on how that sentence could be interpreted. I meant the latter, but the former is correct as well.

  16. Vs V
    December 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Modem connected to router, WiFi works
    Modem connected to desktop, connection works
    But when modem is connected to router which is connected to desktop, no connection. Earlier it used to be fine. Why is it happening so?

    • pceasies
      December 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      When you say Wifi works, do you mean LAN or internet access?

    • pceasies
      December 28, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      If you have Tomato or DD-WRT it's not too difficult to setup a guest wireless network that's isolated from your regular network. You setup a VLAN for guests and one for your regular network and ensure both have internet access and can't communicate. There are guides online and one should theoretically work for both firmwares if it's based off cli commands.

    • Vs V
      December 29, 2013 at 6:44 am

      Thanks pceasies, but I am not very familiar with the terms that you used. I think I will get someone more knowledgeable to get this fixed.

    • Danny S
      December 31, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      How do you know that WiFi works when the router is connected to the modem? Wouldn't that be connecting your desktop to the router? Because otherwise you might have some strange issue with your Ethernet.

    • Vs V
      January 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      Hi Danny S, I will explain: I have a modem- connected to router- router connected to desktop; with this set up my home was Wifi and the desktop had the wired connection. It used to work well until recently when "ethernet" light on the modem stopped glowing with this connection and both wifi and wired connection was disrupted. I tried giving a direct connection from modem to desktop, the wired connection worked well. Then I disconnected the desktop and tried with the modem connected to router and my home was wifi again. But when I try to establish both wifi and wired connection as I was doing all this time, the ethernet light wont glow and both wifi and wired connections are lost.

    • Oron J
      January 17, 2014 at 3:03 pm

      If the ethernet light on your router has stopped shining, there's a problem in wired connection between the router and the modem. It could be a fault with the modem or router, but most often it is the cable. Get a cable that you have tested elsewhere and know to be working, and use it. If everything works, problem solved. If not, test the router and the modem separately (against the PC), and identify the culprit.

    • Vs V
      February 11, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks Oron J, checked the cable, its working fine...have to test both the modem and the router now.

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