Home Wi-Fi tips
Optimise your Wi-Fi connection to make it faster and more reliable with these expert tips
What if your PC’s wireless connection is slower than other parts of your network, or you struggle to maintain a strong and consistent connection? Well, then there are potential issues with your Wi-Fi network’s range or possible interference from other, overlapping, networks or devices.
The step-by-step guide on the page opposite reveals how to use a free app called WiFi Analyzer to help diagnose issues with your connection. The status screen reveals two key pieces of information: your Wi-Fi network speed, and a figure measured in dBm (decibel-miliwatts). The speed reveals your actual speed versus the theoretical maximum available for that network – your actual speed will always be significantly lower than the theoretical. The dBm figure refers to your Wi-Fi signal, and the lower it is the weaker the signal.
Fix poor reception
The numbers you see are based on two factors: the physical location of your router in relation to your PC, and the number of overlapping signals from your neighbours’ Wi-Fi networks. Your router’s physical location is critical here, because if it’s too far away from your PC – or there are physical barriers between it and your PC (typically solid walls) – then the signal is too weak.
The obvious solution is to move your router closer to your PC if possible – indeed, now’s the time to work out the optimum position for it in your home. A central location is usually best, but consider which rooms are most important and determine how many solid walls the signal must pass through to reach them. You may also have to factor in interference from other wireless devices that share the 2.4GHz frequency band – try switching to 5GHz (see below) or replacing older devices with newer ones. For example, modern wireless DECT 6.0 phones transmit over 1.9GHz to avoid interference.
Depending on the size of your home and what it’s made from, the chances are you may have to compromise before you can get a reasonable signal to most parts of it, in which case check out the ‘Upgrade your network’ box for four upgrade options to consider.
Another cause of slow performance is overcrowding – these days, what with your household’s ever-growing list of wireless gadgets from laptops and mobiles to smart home security devices and smart TVs, you can easily clog up your network through intense competition for bandwidth on your single 2.4GHz channel.
If you have an 802.11ac router, then a secondary reason for moving devices on to the 5GHz network, where possible, is to reduce the load on each frequency. Remember, though, that the 5GHz network has a smaller range than the older 2.4GHz one, and that older devices which use 802.11n and 802.11g Wi-Fi don’t support it. But it’s a godsend for those that do.
It’s worth taking an inventory of what devices are connected to your network – you may find some naughty neighbours piggybacking on your connection (in which case a change of password should see them off), but it’s more likely you’ll simply realise just how much networked equipment you have running at the same time. The simplest way to generate a list of connected devices is with a free program called Advanced IP Scanner (www.advancedip-scanner.com).
Find the best place in your home for your router.