We’ve all been there: You’re watching the latest season of House of Cards on Netflix when, all of a sudden, the video jerks to a stop—and the buffering begins. It’s frustrating when your network slows down (or shuts down completely), but there are a few tricks you can use to boost your Wi-Fi signal. Here are a few of them.
Don’t Hide Your Router – Most people hide their routers because they’re unsightly or in the way, but placing a router in a closet or in a cabinet is a one-way ticket to slow Wi-Fi. Just because you can’t see the Wi-Fi signal doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Walls and doors can degrade and absorb signal strength. Find a central location in your home and put your router on a table or bookshelf. The less objects between your device and the router, the better.
Stay Away from Appliances and Metal Objects – Microwaves, cordless telephones, fluorescent lights, and even other routers in your neighbor’s home or apartment may interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. To reduce interference, place your router away from household appliances and set it to a different wireless channel and frequency. Using online tools—Acrylic Wi-Fi for Windows and AirGrab Wi-Fi Radar for Mac, for example—can help you find the right wireless channel with the least amount of interference. If you want an easier fix, most routers have an automatic option to find the best channel for your location. You should also avoid placing your router near metal objects, which can absorb signal strength.
Reset on a Schedule – It sounds simple enough, but a majority of tech support problems can be cleared up by simply resetting or rebooting your router or modem on a regular basis. (It’s also probably the first thing we’ll ask when you call.) And if you buy an outlet timer, you don’t even have to worry about it: Set the timer to reset your router once a day at an off-peak time.
Password Protect your network – Because home Wi-Fi speeds are (slightly) dependent on how many people are using it at one time, a strong password is key: It will ensure that only authorized people are using your network. Take advantage of the security already built into your router and select a password (or a pass-phrase) that is a hard-to-figure-out, a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Update Your Firmware – Yes, we know—running firmware updates is annoying and time consuming. But if you have an older router, those updates ensure your router’s software is running at its best and most efficient. And remember: It’s best to buy a new router every four to five years.
Buy a Repeater – Most routers have a range of about 150 feet. If you live in a big house, devices and computers in rooms farthest away from your router might have a hard time connecting to your home Wi-Fi network. The easiest fix to boost the signal in those rooms is to buy a Wi-Fi repeater, which can plug into any wall outlet and will increases a signal’s range and strength to the farthest parts of your home (with a corresponding decrease in internet speed for those connecting to the extender, but you can’t have everything).
Stagger Heavy Bandwidth Usage – If too many people on your home network are using heavy bandwidth at the same time, like playing online video games, watching Netflix, and downloading movies and music from iTunes, then your entire network will slow down for everyone. Try to stagger heavy Internet use to make sure your home network is running fast and smooth for all users.
Router Up-To-Date – This one is simple: Make sure your router is up-to-date. Routers from 2002 do not work well with the new iPad Pro and all of its fancy features.
Disconnect Devices – Disconnect devices that you aren’t using. Even devices that aren’t active are connected and using valuable Wi-Fi.
Disconnect Old Devices – Last but not least, disconnect any old devices from your network. Thought it was a good idea to let the kids play with your old iPod touch from 2007? Not so much. Your Wi-Fi connection slows down in coordination with the slowest/ oldest device you have on your network. For the love of Wi-Fi, just disconnect those old devices.