I am plagued by what my Nana calls a “21st century problem:” My home wireless Internet (“Wi-Fi”) always seems to be slow/sluggish/sloth-like/pooped out/lackluster/in need of an intravenous espresso drip.
When the Internet is slow, it is tempting to try and solve the problem by upgrading (which means paying an extra $10 a month) to a faster home Internet package. But by following these tips it is possible to get the most out of your current service and avoid a pricey upgrade.
Perform an online Internet speed test
First things first: discover just how slow your Wi-Fi really is. There are tons of free Internet speed tests online, but I recommend using the SpeakEasy Speed Test. Choose a location from the list (the location isn’t important, so pick one at random), and then wait about a minute for the download to be completed and upload speeds to appear. Make a note of these speeds and then compare them to the speeds that your Internet service company promised.
Move the router
Routers come in two types: Ugly and uglier. That’s why most people usually keep them hidden. Sorry to burst your pretty decor bubble, but if that router is going to work at its full potential, it usually has to be brought out into the open free from any obstructions and walls. Try several different locations in the house (perform the SpeakEasy Speed Test discussed above to see which spot works the best) until the ideal spot is located. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- If the router has an antenna, point it vertically
- It is usually best to keep the router elevated
- In a three-story home, the best place for the router is usually on the second floor
Keep router away from products that cause interference
Wireless routers operate on 2.4/5.75/5.8GHz radio frequencies. There are also many home products and appliances that operate on the same frequencies, causing noise, interruptions and weak and slow signals. Some of these interfering home products and appliances include but are not limited to: Bluetooth-enabled devices, microwaves, wireless cameras, garage door openers, cordless phones, cordless baby monitors, television remotes, and wireless keyboards and mice. If you have any of these things in the house, keep the router as far away from them as possible.
Keep Wi-Fi secure
The low-tech way to find out if someone is stealing your home Wi-Fi is to shut down all the wireless devices in the house (this includes the computer network in addition to Wi-Fi connected television or gaming consoles). If the wireless light is still blinking on your router, that means that someone outside your home is using your Wi-Fi connection (and slowing it down). Put a WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) password on your network account to prevent thieves from using your connection. If people are still using your password-protected network, call your Internet service provider and report the issue.
Regularly reboot the router
A router that is rebooted about once a day will typically work better. When rebooting the router be sure to unplug all the cords, wait for 30 seconds, and then plug everything back in. When the lights on the router stop flashing, reconnect to your wireless connection and then the Wi-Fi should be ready to use again. Rebooting the router daily may be a little annoying, but it is a lot less annoying than having lackluster Wi-Fi. Make it easier: Automate this process by using an outlet timer.
Switch Wi-Fi network to a different channel
Wireless networks can run on more than one channel. If there are too many people in your area trying to run their wireless networks on the same channel it can get congested, and everyone’s network will run at slower than optimal speeds. It is possible to change your Wi-Fi network to a different channel without help, but these methods are typically too complicated for most people. In this case it is best to contact your home Internet service provider and ask them to check congestion on your current Wi-Fi channel and see if they could switch you to a Wi-Fi channel with fewer users.
Final step: After following the tips above, perform another Internet speed test (using the same process described in the first step). If there is still a sizable discrepancy between the network’s actual download and upload speeds and the download and upload speeds the network initially promised, call your Internet service provider’s technical service/customer service department and ask for a discount/refund until they can find a solution. Home Internet is expensive (it’s $39.95/month in my area), so there is no reason to pay all that money for service that does not work as advertised.