Wireless Feng Shui: How to Optimize Your House For Best Wi-Fi Reception

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wifi feng shuiSetting 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 that achieving a perfect signal everywhere in the house would be insanely easy.

Well, that’s not exactly the case. There are a lot of things that can cause problems with a Wi-Fi signal, and a house is full of them. There are walls made of all different materials, blocks of masonry, electronic devices creating both inductive noise and emitting frequencies of all sorts. If you don’t carefully plan the placement of your router, taking into account all of those factors, you may not get the pristine wireless Internet signal that you deserve.

We’ve covered a few wireless issues before here at MakeUseOf. In March, Danny wrote about why wireless Internet is the future. In May, Erez wrote about new wireless printers hitting the market. It isn’t difficult to see just how important it is these days to be wireless.

Experiencing Perfect Wi-Fi Feng Shui

Just like real Feng Shui suggests placing your living environment in harmony with naturally-occurring energies, wireless Feng Shui requires that you allow your wireless signal to flow effortlessly throughout your house, dancing harmoniously with all of the other noise and interference that may be going on.

When you look at a typical house, the number of obstacles and points of interference is amazing. To avoid problems, the temptation is to situate your wireless router somewhere in the very center of your home.

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wifi feng shui

The problem with this is that “interference” when it comes to wi-fi isn’t just about walls or objects. There are many other things to think about. In this guide, I’m going to give you four major points to consider when you’re trying to lay out where you want to place your router as well as any additional access points you may be considering.

Avoid Walls & Obstructions

You’ll see this advice on almost any article about optimizing Wi-Fi. While a wireless signal can travel through walls, there are certain materials that it can’t penetrate – metal and concrete or cement. In fact, one of the easiest ways to block your wireless signal from your neighbors is to place the router below the level of your cement basement wall. That foundation wall will absorb nearly the entire signal.

Most people do place their router in the basement, but  a common mistake is placing it on a shelf right next to that exterior foundation wall.

wifi layout

The wireless signal from that router radiates out in every direction. By doing this, you’re essentially wasting a lot of the capacity of that router, radiating the signals right into the concrete wall where it has no place to go. It’s even worse situated above, because just around the corner of that wall is a majority of the house, where people upstairs will have a difficult time getting a good signal. Very bad Wi-Fi feng-shui.

Another object that people don’t really consider until it causes Wi-Fi problems is that massive slab of masonry in the middle of your home called a “chimney”.  Yes folks, that block of stone can play games with a wireless signal when you place the router a little too close to it. Maybe in the basement you have a nice convenient shelf near the chimney, so you put your router right there, plug it in, and the next thing you know you can’t seem to get a very good wireless signal throughout half of your house.

wifi layout

And that half of your house happens to be on the other side of that chimney. Go figure.

Bottom line: Place the router in a central location, away from masonry walls or objects like a chimney. You want to give your router some “breathing room” to radiate those signals out in every direction into your home.

Here’s an example of a decent placement if you prefer putting  your router in the basement. This router is placed on a shelf in the center of the basement, away from any wall or window (windows or other reflective surfaces will deflect signals and cause interference).

wifi layout

You’ll wire this router to your cable modem or whatever your primary incoming Internet signal comes from. Then, your wireless router will radiate up throughout the entire first floor. So, that should do it, right?

Well, not entirely. What if you have an entire second floor of a house to consider. Do you think that wireless signal can easily radiate through the first floor as well as the second floor? You will notice a drop in signal by the time you get up into those second floor bedrooms, and if you want a good signal throughout the entire house, you should consider placing a repeater somewhere on the first floor of the house.

Placing An Access Point On The First Floor

The easiest way to do this is to actually purchase an access point that is the same brand of your router. An access point will pick up your wireless network signal and send it out again from that area. It serves as a “repeater” of sorts, so placing such a device high up on the first floor, anywhere toward the ceiling, will “refresh” the wireless signal and provide a nice strong signal to the second floor of the house.

The fastest and easiest way to do this if you have an old router on hand and don’t want to buy an access point, is to set up the router exactly as Jorge described in his wireless bridge article, and then place that new access point up on the top of a closet situated somewhere in the center of the first floor.

wifi layout design

By placing it toward the ceiling of the first floor, it has a nice strong wireless signal from the router in your basement, plus it only needs to penetrate through one wood floor into the second floor of your house. You’ll notice that this produces a nice, clear signal for everyone upstairs.

Avoid Devices That Emit Wireless Signals

People don’t realize just how many devices in a house can generate wireless frequencies or electromagnetic interference that can mess up your wireless signal. Placing your router near any sort of motor, which generates an inductive “flux” and therefore wireless EM frequencies, or devices like a microwave or a wireless telephone that emit similar frequencies to a router – those can all have disastrous effects on your Wi-Fi signal.

It’s tempting, when looking around the center of the first floor, to place the router right up in that kitchen shelf right above the microwave that you never use, right?

wifi layout design

Yeah bud, you can go ahead and do that if you want to be made an example of absolutely horrid Wi-Fi feng shui. That microwave will play more games with your router than Zsa Zsa Gabor played with her nine husbands.

Microwaves are a router’s worst enemy. Wireless phones are a close second. When you’re looking to place your router in that perfect location, don’t only think about location – draw a diagram of the floor plan and make sure to highlight where you have existing devices that are actively emitting wireless signals.

If you can do that – you’re going to have a house that’s just flowing with oodles of wireless Internet everywhere you go.

Build a Wireless Amplifier?

If you’re really gung-ho about maximizing your signal and you have to place a router near one of those basement walls, you might consider placing a reflective canister on the your router antenna.

I’ve read about this technique at a few places and was never really convinced that it works, so I decided to give it a try. I saw some results that were positive. Nothing spectacular, but if you have to get another bar out of that thing, you can give this a shot. Theoretically, the reflective surface of the inside of the can focuses the signal into the direction of the open end of the can.

It’s fast and simple. first, cut the end off of two soda cans (or one if you only have one antenna on the router). Be careful about the sharp edges of the can!

wifi layout design

With the can standing up, measure three inches from the bottom and cut a hole in the side of the can.

Finally, just place the antenna through the hole and point the new “amplifiers” in the direction that you want a stronger Wi-Fi signal. If near a basement wall, these cans would be pointing away from the wall toward the center of the house.

Did this make a difference? A little bit – but I can’t say it was definitely because of the amplifiers. Here was the signal right before I applied the amps to the router.

The top wireless signal is from my new router – a Wireless-N router- and the lower one is a Wireless-G router, which had one bar less when I placed my tablet at the far corner of the house.

After applying the amplifier setup, I did notice the wireless bar tick up one bar higher.

wifi feng shui

Was it definitely because of the cans? Maybe, or maybe not – I didn’t perform enough tests to confirm it, but a lot of folks out there swear that this setup can help focus a wireless signal. So, if you really need it, give it a shot and point it toward the center of your house. At the very least, it can only help your Wi-Fi feng shui, it can’t hurt it!

Do you have any other Wi-Fi feng shui tips and advice for someone to improve the placement of Wi-Fi routers and access points in their house? What techniques do you use? Share your advice and tips in the comments section below.

Image Credit: 3D Isometric View the Cut via Shutterstock, Wi-Fi Icon on Dark Background

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88 Comments - Write a Comment


Hoku Sarroca

oh wow… wish you guys had posted this earlier… LOL I don’t have two floors but because our house is on the older side… the walls prevent the signals to reach the front of the house so we piggied backed it from the router to another router.. and have the router hanging on the wall that is closest to the front of the house.

Ryan Dube

Yeah – just a few small changes may make a big difference. Time to start playing around with your Wi-Fi feng-shui! :-)



It can’t be explained better than this. The images helped alot in understanding the Wireless Feng Shui =)

Ryan Dube

Cool – thanks Zain!


Declan Lopez

What did you use to take the screenshots on your tablet?

Ryan Dube

Hi Declan – the Transformer Prime comes with a built-in screenshot app that you use simply by holding down the search button for 3 or 4 seconds. It’s a really nice feature – I think it’s an Ice Cream Sandwich feature?



Howsabout some tips for people who don’t know which building their router is located in?

Ryan Dube

You mean triangulating the position of hot-spots? That can be very difficult – but I’ll pass the idea around other writers here to see if anyone is interested in taking it on.


druv vb

I have a router that is placed next to my PC for easy ON/OFF, but I extended the antenna with a cable connection. Now the antenna is fixed to the stairs which is the center of my house. I get 3 bars inside my house, and 2 bars outside in the garden.

Next time am going to try putting several cables extending a single antenna jack to different antennas, and see if the connections are equal around the house.
Working as exterior antenna relays.

The Cantenna (antenna in a can!) works well. I’ve been able to connect to my neighbour’s Livebox router which is 3 houses away from mine. Connections tops at 3 bars / 11Mbps.
The antenna point directly to his Livebox, which is near his window.

Aluminum foil can also be used. I shielded mine with aluminium foil on a small parabolic plate to deflect signals from the antenna going in my house.

Happy modding for all those who don’t want to buy repeaters, just like I did…

And yeah, great article with detailed instructions for folks…

Ryan Dube

You know, the aluminum foil on a parabolic plate was another tweak I wanted to test out and probably should have. Glad to hear from others here that it really does work as intended.


ferdinan Sitohang

Like this tutorial very much, awesome..


Kevin Liske

Most people place their router in the basement? Really?

That said, I live in an older house with fairly solid plaster walls. I recently put an booster access point in the kitchen so we can use the screened in porch. The signal was fading by the time it hit the kitchen from where the study is which is two rooms away.

Ryan Dube

Hey Kevin – wow, yeah, solid plaster walls are going to wreac havoc on your wi-fi signal from room to room. Your only option might be to place your main router centrally and then use repeaters throughout to boost the signal – placing them in line-of-site to the central router if possible. Lots of older homes have that same construction so I’m glad you brought that up – it’s a good point.



Great article. Any tips on boosting the signal of these new N omnidirectional intennas?

Ryan Dube

I haven’t had a chance to play with those – but I’ll pass the idea among other writers here, maybe that’s good fodder for a future article.


“new” n routers? I have not seen a Linksys Wireless G router in a retail store for years. N and mimo are pretty standard nowadays.

…. Honestly I was surprised to see the date on the posting and comments and believe that it was not from 5 years ago. Cantennas and tin foil? To be in 2012 and say you have not had a chance to play with an N router is rather shocking to me.

Ryan Dube

Not sure what you’re talking about, Kat – I didn’t say I’ve never used an N-router. My main home router is an N.

If you’d read the comment that I was responding to, you’d see that he was asking whether anyone has tried boosting the signal on an N with the omnidirectional antennas.

And…seeing as you’re so experienced with these, why not offer WingL some helpful tips?


“I haven’t had a chance to play with those”

I have a few helpful tips, yes.
If you have a router like the one pictured above, get a new one.
If you have signal problems, get yourself some Powerline Wireless Access Points.

Also , soda cans and tin foil wrapped cardboard and feng shui do not belong in the same sentence. Imagine a nice home, then this blue monstrosity with tin foil, pringles and soda cans all over it….sitting on a shelf somewhere…not very zen.



The soda cans are more for shooting a tight signal to a distant fixed point then for making a router directional. I once lived in a long rectangular apartment, and the router was in one end, and to make it directional so I could get all bars at the other end (this was a block long NYC apartment in a house built in 1928,) I took a flat piece of cardboard, covered it with tinfoil and placed it a few inches behind the antennas, and got those full bars at the other end…the signal going through many walls that had top to bottom full bookcases.

Ryan Dube

Awesome – glad to hear that the tin-foil parabolic booster works. I’ve been meaning to try that out as well, so I’m glad to hear that it really does work as advertised. Sounds like an easy and cheap solution too.


parabolic and cylindrical reflectors may show you more bars, but they will also cause much higher packet loss and retransmission. Any reflections received at the antenna will be combined with nonreflected signals out of phase, which basically means you are raising the noise floor. The demodulator has to make sense of all the combined in and out of phase signals, which will change rapidly based on your environment. Take a look at the percentage of tcp retransmits with and without the reflector. The best idea if you are having issues with range is to buy a proper directional wifi antenna. These are things built specifically to avoid phase issues. Check out the Luxul x-wav antennas for example.



This is a great article. Not only do I need this information, I understood it! One question though: How can I tell what devices emit wireless signals besides a wireless phone (which I don’t have) and a microwave (which I do)?


look online for a simple wifi-finder device (usually a keychain dongle) which just looks for the 2.4gh signal. I used to have one for wardriving but it would definetly pick up cordless phones.

If you’re worried about your landline interfering you could get a 5.8g signal phone(s).



The soda cans are a quick and cheap way to build a wireless amplifier – can’t say they
do much for the aesthetics though.

Daniel Escasa

I suppose you can always paint them, or cover them with something decorative. Say, some stickers.


P.F. Bruns

What’s the range of an 1100 watt over-the-stove microwave? I have one almost exactly like the one in the pic. Now, there’s a cinder-block-and-plaster divider between it and the router, but I was thinking of putting the router on a raised shelf about 6-8 feet away on the other side of the divider from the microwave, to get it away from my wife’s computer and the 54″ LCD it currently sits between.


The problem with a microwave oven is that it uses a Faraday cage to keep the microwaves in (hence why your face doesn’t boil while the water inside does) so that acts as like a blackhole for radio waves. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage


The problem with a microwave is the frequency range in which it operates. Unlicensed microwave communications, and microwave ovens, operate in the 2.8 GHz range. So, when your microwave is on and your wi-fi is on, they are competing for bandwidth.
Since the power of a signal is a function of the size of the antenna and the electrical power behind it, the microwave will usually win.
Now, that being said, there are different channels within the 2.8 Ghz range. You may find that manually setting your router to a different channel may make it work better when the microwave is on.
The other huge signal sink in the house is….you. As a mentor of mine said, “Nothing kills a signal like water, and we’re all big bags of water.” You may find not sitting with your back to the router actually helps.
I did an article way back on cool software for diagnosing wi-fi issues. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-use-xirrus-wifi-network-inspector-to-figure-out-problems/


Muhammad Ahmad

hehe, It’s like old technique we use to boost the television signal strength in 1998.



Interesting article, but I found it oddly specific. I believe large basements on a concrete foundation are mostly an North American feature. My house doesn’t have a basement, nor do most houses where I live (the UK). Also, in many properties here, the chimneys are at at the side of the house (on the wall adjoining the next property). Finally, UK ISPs insist that the client connect the router to the main phone socket (“main” being the point where the telephone line comes in), and when providing support, always ask the customer to confirm this is the case before proceeding…

Regarding the reflection of signals (e.g. by walls), this is true, but only valid for older WiFi standards (a,b,g). Equipment using MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out, i.e. WiFi with multiple antennas) actually reassemble the signal from the bounced reflections, giving an even better result than a “straight-through no reflection” signal!

A tin can can improve the signal a little, as your experimentation confirmed, but you will get much better results by making a parabolic antenna of card & tinfoil as shown in http://www.freeantennas.com/projects/template/ .

In my own experience, WiFi can work brilliantly in some locations, and very badly in others. It depends a lot on the layout, material, distances and “competition” (neighbours’ routers). in large properties, I now use PowerLine adapters to extend WiFi, either on their own or with a Wireless Access Point if the customer specifically needs WiFi in the “extended” area.

Ryan Dube

Agreed – the article was definitely focused on a wood-framed house with sheetrock walls that are generally forgiving when it comes to wi-fi signals. Folks that live in homes with plaster-walls or brick partitions definitely face unique challenges when it comes to wi-fi feng shui…


Off topic but basement-homes are impractical in areas of swampy-soggy soil like Florida and gulf coast states; and then the opposite problem of hard-pan earth like around Las Vegas Nevada, you could dig one there but it’d be like digging through cheap cement (and there’s still the flash flood problem). I think the tradition of building basements started for people to be able to get out of the summer heat and to store food in a cool area. Also thanks for the antenna link!

Luke G

+1 for the ‘freeantennas’ link. I put my wife and then-8-year-old son on the task of making a pair of these for me as a ‘craft project’.

At the time, we lived in a multi-story home with plaster walls and they dramatically improved my signal strength. Being as they were made of cheap cardstock and foil they didn’t survive the moving truck when we left that home…and the new home’s layout hasn’t caused a need for these now. But I never had any problems with them until then.

It may not be fancy-looking (especially with the little surfing guy on the dish), but the low cost makes this a very appealing option for those who have such a need!



I’m gonna try that hand made amplifier ty. Btw has anyone got idea if mirrors deflect wi-fi signals and make them worst?


I don’t think a mirror would have an effect because the signal is electro magnetic in nature and mirrors reflect light (unless it has a metalic backing).


Jack Barney

Great Article. I have a 2 story house with cable internet. Currently, the modem/router combo is located on the second floor, but I’d really like to relocate it to the basement (mounted to the ceiling) because we have underground utilities, and I can split the signal just as it enters the house and run a few wired connections throughout the house. I remember reading a few articles though that said the best starting position for the wifi signal was the highest point in the house and that gravity would ‘pull’ the signal downward, so I’ve been hesitant to re-route everything. Has you heard that before?


Ryan Dube

I would say that at the speed that the signals propagate through the air, combined with the fact that they have no mass, would lead me to suspect those articles as being inaccurate. The biggest concern is obstacles and anything that might be blocking the signal.


Yep, gravity has nothing to do with a higher placement of the antenna giving you greater range. Placing an antenna higher just usually gives you more coverage…to a point. What follows isn’t perfectly accurate, but paints the picture nicely.
Picture the signals from a router as being a nice big sphere with the router at the middle.
If the router is in the basement, then only maybe the top third of that sphere is in your house. If the router is on the second floor (or for our friends in the UK, the first floor) then maybe two-thirds of the sphere is in the house. Hence better coverage. Hence broadcasting antennae on top of hills.

I know we haven’t discussed this, but I want to reverse the conversation just for fun. What would the ideal house be for wifi coverage? How about a monolithic dome? http://www.monolithic.com

BTW, great article and metaphor Ryan. It is no easy task to take something that can be so complex and break it down like that.


Brick Wall Dude

This is very nice post and all. But unfortunately for me living in a brick house it’s a whole other issue getting a signal through a double exterior brick wall.. I did try the sodacan move and it actually gave me a whole 2 extra bars reception in the last bedroom.

But if all else fails, just install a wifi relay modem :)


Hugo Ch

how do i extend the wireless transmission if my router does not have antenna?

Ryan Dube

Hi Hugo – I’m pretty certain building a parabolic booster with tin foil and a curved cardboard backing will accomplish what you need.


SaapeXD MoHods

I use Aluminum Foil and it also does the job! XD


Eva Bernini

Very useful article, thanks!!!


Jan Görtzen

Awesome! I live in an older house with crappy wifi and already read some guides to improve the reception. But your tip to move the router away from walls and windows (especially our living room window) has made a big difference already! Thanks!


Aditya Roy

gonna try the amplifier thing tomorrow…

Aditya Roy

It did help me to some extend… thanks..:)


Iva Krstik

Great tutorial


Aimee Babcock-Ellis

Looking forward to applying these things


Lamees Al Shareef

so there’s no wi-fi feng shui for my country? we don’t build with wood in the UAE (thats where Dubai is, for the unknowing). Most ppl live in flats built with cement, i guess (bt am sure its not wood).

Ryan Dube

Hi Lamees – I’d say that it’ll just be more difficult, but there’s still wi-fi feng shui for India! Are interior walls all made of cement as well? If so, then you’ll be limited to trying to arrange the router, receiving antennas and repeaters in a line-of-site arrangement between sections of the house. Unfortunately there’s no better option when you’re dealing with cement!

David Eason

You might investigate powerline networking, although the only options I am familiar with use U.S. power outlets. It turns the electrical wiring of the house into a switch so you can put ethernet ports anywhere you have an outlet.


I believe UAE is United Arab Emirates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Arab_Emirates) and Dubai is one of the emirates. His name would be a clue as well. He’s not in India! Sheesh.

Also, please, learn the difference between site and sight…it’s “line-of-sight”!

And, how about using PowerLine adapters (with or without WAPs) to use the house electrical wiring to carry the signals to outer rooms as Oron mentioned? That seems much easier and a “clean” solution.


Alan Mowbray

I had my router on one end of the house and the signal at the other end was nil.
Put in a wireless access point hidden in a fake plant about halfway through the house and things are beautiful. Cost me $45 bucks and I didn’t have to move anything.


Ellen Odza

Oh, thanks – this is so useful. And makes it so clear. While I don’t put my router in the basement (we don’t HAVE a basement – in S. Florida basements are also known as indoor pools), my router is on an exterior wall, and the interior wall is lined with books (on both sides!) which further affects the signal. I’m definitely going to try the soda can approach for starters.



Thanks! We have been having issues – this will help!


sreenath s

Cool Idea.


Christian Caldwell



Philippa Lazare

Wow – great article!!! Wish I had this a couple of years ago when I was trying to set up. I ran into so many obsticles!!


Mary Hintsa

Wow, that’s pretty inventive with the pop cans, and its reusing waste. Why not?


Rizwan Saudagar

very useful article…



Its amazing that coke cans have another use! thanks


Gillian Bengough

My laptop, whose wifi works fine in other places, will only connect to the internet in my house, when connected to the electricity outlet. I can be sitting in the same room as the router, but no mains, no internet. Any ideas?


I’d check your power saving options. Maybe it is set-up to disable the wi-fi card when not on full power? Some tablets and phones have this function, maybe some laptops do too.

Check your wifi connection settings on your laptop and on your router. There may be something amiss there as well.

Potentially, your house wiring, or laptop power cord, could act as a make-shift antenna. Not likely, but possible.

That is a weird one indeed.


Gian Singh

need to make some changes to router placement


Shawn Ashree Baba

I’m always looking for ways to better my wireless connection around the house.


Louis Davidson

Great article, sure explains a lot!



really useful, thanks


Aastha Mehra

nice post


Andrew Parsons

Now I’m beginning to understand where my problems stem from, thanks



excellent article, Ryan! Exactly what I needed. thank you


Mani Ahmed

a very useful article indeed. I have two floors and due to the requirement of having the Broad band box in the corner of the room (because it has to be connected to the primary phone line coming from the main line outside the house) i can really do with this information.


RamĂłn GarcĂ­a

Or you can replace your router antennas for better ones, 8 to 12dbi will broad the coverage. You can find them in internet shops or ebay. Be careful because there are different kinds of connectors: sma, rp-sma,… and you have to buy the right one for your router (or buy an adapter).


Nathan Howe

Yep – I was doing everything wrong. Thanks for the help!



Use Ethernet, the reception is killer!



wow great article… now I know why my signal was not so good!



The ‘cantenna’ idea works wayy better when they are shaped like a parabola.



Whorehay M

Don’t forget about a tool such as Meraki WiFi Stumbler. Most people leave their routers on whatever the default channel is, which could lead to interference. It runs on Java, so it should work with Windows/Mac/Linux and now they even have an Android app.



take also following obstructions into account:
1. large mirrors (bathroom, bedroom)= glass with mettalic layer
2. book shelves : paper is a good absorber for radio signals (the encyclopedia brittanica for example )


Brian Lawrence

Is there a free software that helps you with your
network setup sure as Network magic does?



Its something more than being just ‘useful’.



i have four floors in my house , now should i consider repeaters on all consecutive floors or is their any way by which i can spread WiFi throughout my house.
i want good signal in every corner of my house.please do suggest an adsl modem router too.


Jim Spencer

Now this has answered some questions that I have had in trying to optimize my wireless home network, giving a good rule of thumb on placement, etc.


Nikhil Chandak

thnx for the nice article



i use an cantenna GEETEK flex wireless to increase my network and its really works,i got 5/5 bars but there is a problem i cant open google chrome or internet explorer even if my connect from the GEETEK antenna…so i still using the laptop wifi which is low network….anyone know if there is a problem from chrome settings or something else????


Paul Fox

You can also use free software like Netspot!
NetSpot is a simple and accessible wireless survey tool for Mac users, which allows collecting, visualizing and analyzing Wi-Fi data using any MacBook.



Oh nooos the Tinfoilians have invaded!


Rigoberto Garcia

Excellent Ryan. I have some problems with my WiFi and prove what the “home amplifier”. Thanks …



I agree that interference from a microwave is a fact. But how long do you use your microwave in a day? 10 minutes, in average? What is 10 minutes compare to 10 hours you probably stay at home? What is the probability that you use your microwave and surf in the net simultaneously? The most terrible interference source is the neighbor’s WiFis, not the microwaves.

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