I've been using a wireless router for several years now and over time I've run into my fair share of problems. After enough times of getting frustrated by the lack of signal or the dial-up-like Internet speed, you start catching up on the little things that can make a difference. Here are a few tips that will help you deal with some of the issues caused by wireless routers and modems.
Whenever you are dealing with an issue that you want to solve, you first have to search for its cause. There are several common factors that can cause problems with your WiFi: your neighbors, the placement of your router/modem, or interference. Let's take it one at a time:
Whenever you experience performance drops in the speed of your WiFi connection, there's always a chance that one of your neighbors has connected to your network. If you don't use any kind of security, you definitely should. Even if you have a password, you should change it from time to time just in case.
Your house and the placement of your router/modem can actually have a huge influence on the WiFi speed and signal strength. If you have a big house, try to place the device as close to the middle as possible. The wall structure also influences the signal a lot, especially if the constructors encased some kind of metal in the construction of the walls. The perfect placement of your modem/router can only be achieved through a trial-and-error process, but try to keep it as far as away from the neighbor's router as possible. In case moving the device is not an option, I'll show you in the later part of the article a few ways to work around the problem.
This is a bit tricky, but it only affects the strength of your signal, so if you're getting a strong signal, you don't need to trouble yourself with this. However, if your WiFi signal is weak, there are a lot of things in your household that could be interfering with it: cordless phones, remote controls, microwaves, alarms, baby monitors, etc. Simply turn each of the devices off one at a time and check if your signal improves. If it does, than you've found your culprit, otherwise the problem is with your router/modem.
Now that you know the possible causes, let's go to the part where I tell you how to actually solve your WiFi troubles.
- Change the channel
Your WiFi router/modem operates on a certain frequency. When there are multiple signals working on the same frequency, it is very likely that they will step on each other's toes. In order to avoid this, you should try switching the channel, but before you do, make sure that it is legal in your country. Just go to your router's settings and select a different a channel (they're generally between 1 and 11) until you get an improvement. I would love to be more specific, but it's pretty hard to do that since there so many devices available on the market. (For most routers, this option is available in the Access Point Settings section.). Moreover, you can use specialized software such as Acrylic Wi-Fi Free to get detailed information about the wireless connections in your vicinity, including the channels that they operate on (so that you know which ones to avoid).
- Modify the broadcast mode of your network
In the same section as the option for switching channels, you should also find a button named 802.11g (the letter on the end may vary depending on your device). In case you're wondering, 802.11 is a family of specifications (protocols) for path sharing. Once you're there, you should choose the 802.11n option as it offers a bigger range and a stronger signal than the alternatives (a / b / g).
- Boost the strength of your signal
OK, this is only for the advanced users; you risk damaging your device, so if you have any doubts, don't try it. There are two ways to do this: either by altering the number directly from the device's settings interface (The button should be named Transmit Power or something similar, and the number next to it should be measured in mW). In theory you can raise this number up to 50 (max 70) mW, but read the router's technical specification before doing this as you could easily overheat it. Another option is to install a program (it's actually firmware) called DD-WRT that can help you perform numerous tweaks to your WiFi device, including boosting the signal strength.
- Use a WiFi repeater
Despite what other websites might tell you, in my experience, the only way this is worth the effort is if you use an older router (that you already own but don't use anymore) for the task. This procedure might slightly reduce your Internet speed, but if the signal doesn't reach certain spots in your house it will extend the range to satisfy your needs. The problem is that it's not as easy as it sounds and you will need to install firmware like the previously mentioned DD-WRT to be able to do it. If you need more help with this task, you can find detailed instructions here.
- Make a tinfoil antenna
To be honest, I've never been much into crafts, but this is a solution that won't cost you anything and although I don't think it will do you much good, it's worth trying out. Basically, all you need is some tinfoil and cardboard (you can also use paper, but it's less reliable). What you have to do is to cut a piece (usually a circle, but other shapes work as well) of tinfoil, then wrap the cardboard with it and find a way to attach it to the device in such a way that it directs the signal towards the desired location. I know it sounds a bit shady, but people say that this won't only help you boost the strength of the signal but also give you a way to direct it better.
- Swap your antenna
Not all modems/routers will allow you to this, but if you can do so and your device is old or withered by various conditions, changing your antenna with a new (more powerful) one can really solve your problems. Just look at the specifications of your device, see if you can unscrew the antenna and if that is possible, buy a better one and replace it.
- Buy a wireless amplifier
As far as I'm concerned, this is the best solution, but it will cost you a bit. The good news is that it's an affordable solution that is guaranteed to work (unless the problem is with the Internet that's going into your device). Basically all you have to do is to purchase the booster (amplifier), plug it into your device, and you're all set. If possible, buy a bi-directional amplifier as most of the times it is worth the price difference.