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Feature Articles

Quick tips: Boost your network without spending any money

By Kenny Yeo - 7 Feb 2019

Quick tips: Boost your network without spending any money

Note: This article was first published in February 2018 and revised thereafter for relevancy.

Have you ever bought a new wireless router only to discover that your Wi-Fi experience at home hasn’t really improved? You see, there’s more to Wi-Fi performance than just a faster processor and higher data transfer rates. Here are some things you can do to boost your Wi-Fi network at home without spending a cent.

 

1.) Reposition your router

Position your router in a central spot around your home for the best performance. (Image source: Verizon Forum)

The first thing you can do is to simply relocate your router to a more central location. A router broadcasts Wi-Fi signals in very much the same way as a light bulb shines light across the room. In order to efficiently light the room up, you have to put the bulb in a central location. It is the same with routers.

Generally speaking, the router should be placed in the center of the area that you want Wi-Fi coverage. Additionally, try not to position it near any obstructions like walls, glass, mirrors, or any electronic or metallic objects. These can interfere with the Wi-Fi signal. Also, don’t put it on the floor. Instead, try to put it in an elevated position preferably on a desk, side table, or console table.

 

2.) Update its firmware

Always keep your router's firmware updated.

Changing the position of your router aside, there are a couple of other things that you can do to improve the performance of your router for free. One of the first things you should do is to ensure that your router is running on the latest firmware. Router manufacturers often make software tweaks to improve the performance and security of their routers, so it is important to make sure that your router is running on the absolute latest software.

 

3.) Change your channels

Change your Wi-Fi channels to one that is unused for less interference.

And since you are already in your router’s router management system, you might as well take the opportunity to optimize your router settings. One thing you should definitely do is to make sure that you are using a Wi-Fi channel that is not used by other Wi-Fi networks in your area, or at least one that is not heavily congested.

 

4.) Manage your networks

Get the most of your tri-band router by manually assigning devices to each network.

Additionally, if you have a tri-band router, it is worth spending the time and effort to manually manage your Wi-Fi networks. Our recommendation is to turn off band steering, which automatically assigns client devices, and manually assign performance-critical devices to one of the 5GHz networks and then everything else to the other 5GHz network or even the 2.4GHz network. This way, you ensure that performance-critical devices get the best possible performance.

 

Upgrade your gear

Alright, alright, these free "hacks" can only get you so far. Sometimes, if you really want to see improvements, you need better gear. These are the best things to buy if you want to see an improvement to your home's Wi-Fi.

 

1.) Ethernet cable

A long Ethernet cable will allow you to reposition your router to greater effect.

Trying to change the position of your router is sometimes easier said than done. One of the biggest challenges in doing so is that for most people, the fiber terminal point and optical modem is usually positioned near the entrance of the house, which is often not in the center of the home. One way to get around this problem is to position the router centrally and then connect it to the optical modem using a long Ethernet cable. Admittedly, this is not the most elegant solution, but it is the most cost-effective and efficient.

 

2.) Portal Wi-Fi router

The Portal WiFi router is one of the best little routers we have tested.

Wi-Fi congestion is one of the main reasons behind slow and unreliable Wi-Fi. The Portal Wi-Fi Router is unique because it is one of the few routers to supports Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS). Very briefly, this means that the Portal Wi-Fi router can use Wi-Fi channels are that typically reserved for radar use by the military and weather services. In other words, it can utilize channels that are out of bounds to most routers, which means less congestion and better performance and network reliability. Interested? Here's our full review.

 

3.) Range extender

Range extenders have a bad rep, but, depending on the circumstances, they can be cost a effective way of expanding Wi-Fi coverage.

Range extenders are perhaps the most affordable way of expanding Wi-Fi coverage. However, be warned range extenders are really only signal boosters. As a result, expect performance to suffer some degradation, even if Wi-Fi coverage is expanded. Nevertheless, their affordability makes them attractive options. Some Wi-Fi is better than no Wi-Fi at all, right?

 

4.) Mesh networking system

Mesh networking systems like the Orbi from Netgear typically cost more but they are well worth it if you have poor Wi-Fi coverage at home.

If you have stubborn Wi-Fi dead spots at home, a mesh networking system might be a worthwhile investment. Unlike range extenders which simply amplify existing Wi-Fi signals, mesh networking systems use Wi-Fi technology to extend the coverage of your Wi-Fi network. This means better range and performance. The only downside is that they typically cost quite a bit more than range extenders. Check out our mesh networking guide to know more.

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