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A good router can make a massive difference to the speed of your internet connection. But if you don’t have the money to fork out on a top-of-the-range model, what other avenues are open to you?
If you want to know how to optimize router settings for speed or how to establish the best router configuration for faster internet, keep reading.
1. Automate a Reboot Schedule
Most newer routers don’t need to be rebooted regularly. However, if you’ve ever run into a dead internet connection, rebooting your router is often all it takes to get you back up and running.
However, if you find yourself rebooting the router with any regularity, the DD-WRT and Tomato firmware options both have timed reboot options. Set it to reboot once a day while you’re sleeping, and you’ll never even notice the downtime while the router powers off and starts back up.
2. Make Your Router Faster With a New Antenna
A simple way to make a router faster is to buy a new antenna.
The antenna on most consumer-grade routers is awful. An amplified aftermarket antenna is a great fix and a simple way to improve signal quality (and thus improve speed) without the need for a new device. Powered and amplified aftermarket options start at around $10 to $15, all the way up into the low $100s.
Plug-in range extenders are a bit more expensive, but they act as a powered antenna and wireless repeater in one. They can offer a significant improvement to homes with dead zones or signal degradation, but your mileage may vary.
3. Disable Older Wireless Protocols
How do you optimize router settings for speed? One of the first things you can consider is turning off old wireless protocols.
Newer routers on the 802.11ac protocol offer capabilities far exceeding many ISPs service offerings. While the router might be fast, many of your devices are probably using older protocols—such as 802.11g—which slows the entire network down as soon as this device connects. Ideally, you should remove any device you see using b or g protocols.
The fastest protocols, in order of fastest to slowest, are ac > n > g > b.
Consult your router documentation to find out how to do this.
4. Change the Channel Width
What about the best router settings to improve speed on your local network? For example, how can you make a video stream between your devices more quickly?
The best router configuration for local speed often entails changing the channel width. The wider the width, the more that older devices on older protocols will suffer from interference.
Take it one step further with our article on channel bonding for Wi-Fi routers.
5. Keep Your Router Updated
One of the most overlooked ways to maximize router speed is to ensure your router is always running the latest software and firmware from the manufacturer.
Sure, the updates are normally security fixes, but they’re not going to suddenly make your router blazing fast. However, every incremental gain can help. If you’ve not updated in a while, you might see more of a boost than you’d expect.
6. Experiment With Router Location
It’s not only about finding the best router settings for fast internet. You also need to consider where you’re placing your router in your home.
Because the router competes with every other 2.4GHz and/or 5GHz device in your area, subtle movements often make a world of difference. Additionally, the building material of your house might interfere with the wireless signal. Solid concrete walls are notoriously hard for a Wi-Fi connection to pass through.
7. Optimize Your Router’s Channel Settings
Let’s take another look at how to make a router faster by optimizing the settings.
Have you considered changing the router’s channel? There are plenty of free tools that’ll scan your local airwaves for the channels with the least interference. They will then make a suggestion about which channel you should switch to.
You need to change the channel from within the router’s settings. Once again, you’ll find out how to do this using your device’s documentation or online help page.
Learn more on how to pick the best Wi-Fi channel for your router.
8. Switch the Router to a Different Band
A typical home is full of wireless devices. Luckily, with a dual- or tri-band router, you’ll have the capability of separating them in order to maximize speeds.
In simple terms, you’re opening another lane for network traffic. While a one-lane road will get you there, two (or three) lanes are better for everyone involved.
If you have a dual-band router, you could assign some to the additional (and typically less crowded) 5GHz band, instead of all your devices competing for space in the 2.4GHz band.
We’ve written about the best dual-band routers you can buy if you’d like to learn more.
9. Change Your Network Name and Password
A lot of otherwise tech-savvy people still use the default username and password on their router. Even intermediate hackers are capable of hacking relatively secure networks with non-default passwords.
Using a strong Wi-Fi password is equally important. While you might do a great job of splitting your devices up into separate bands, updating your firmware, and switching channels during high traffic periods, it’s all an exercise in futility if your neighbors are piggybacking your Wi-Fi and using it to torrent movies all day.
10. Install New Firmware
Many routers keep the settings relatively dummy-proof so that you don’t screw anything up. While this is great for most users, sometimes you just want to dive in and hack the settings until you’re running a router that far exceeds its price tag.
There are several open source firmware options for some of the most popular routers. While not every router is supported, there is no shortage of great options. They can help you speed up a Netgear router, find the best settings for a TP-Link router, and make just about any brand of router run faster.
DD-WRT, OpenWRT, and Tomato make some of the most popular third-party firmware.
Keep in mind that if you stick with your ISP’s hardware, installing new firmware is not an option. That’s one of the reasons it’s a good idea to replace your ISP’s router with a store-bought one.
Optimize Your Router Settings for Speed
Hopefully, this article has shown you how to maximize your router’s speed and identify the best configuration for faster internet.
If you’d like to learn more about getting the most speed out of your router, check out our other articles on how to monitor and restrict router traffic and the best modem/router combo for every budget. From a security standpoint, you might also want to consider setting up a guest network on your router.