A weak Wi-Fi signal complicates your online lifestyle, but there are plenty of ways to boost your Wi-Fi signal to improve productivity and enjoyment.
Many people like to extend their Wi-Fi range outside during warmer months of the year so they can enjoy the outdoors. For others, browsing speed might be slow inside the house, a particular room might be in a wireless dead zone, or they can't stream movies without buffering.
If any of these sound like you, try a combination of the suggestions here to increase signal strength and expand the Wi-Fi range to improve your connection.
Relocate the Router or Gateway Device
The range of a typical Wi-Fi network often doesn't cover an entire house. Distance from the router and physical obstructions between devices and the router affect signal strength. The placement of a Wi-Fi broadband router or other network gateway device directly affects its signal reach.
Experiment by repositioning your router in different locations to avoid physical obstructions and radio interference, which are two common range limiters for Wi-Fi equipment. Typical sources of Wi-Fi signal impediments in residences include brick walls, large metal appliances, microwave ovens, and cordless phones. Sometimes, raising the height of the router improves the range because many obstructions are located at floor or waist height.
Change the Wi-Fi Channel Number and Frequency
Range-limiting wireless interference may be caused by neighboring Wi-Fi networks that use the same Wi-Fi radio channel. Changing Wi-Fi channel numbers on your equipment can eliminate this interference and improve overall signal strength.
All routers have a 2.4 GHz band, but if you have a dual-band router—one with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands—you'll likely experience less interference on the 5 GHz band. The switch is a simple one. Check the router manufacturer's website or documentation for instructions.
Update the Router Firmware
Router manufacturers make improvements to their software and issue firmware updates to improve the performance of their products. Update the router firmware occasionally, even if you don't experience problems with the router, for security updates and other improvements.
Some routers have the update process built-in, but most older models require you to find the update and download it from the equipment manufacturer.
Upgrade The Router Or Gateway Radio Antennas
Stock Wi-Fi antennas on most home network equipment do not pick up radio signals as well as some aftermarket antennas. Most modern routers feature removable antennas for this reason.
Consider upgrading the antennas on your router with more powerful ones. Some router manufacturers advertise high-gain antennas on their products, but these tend to be offered only on expensive models, so even these may benefit from upgrading. Also, consider a directional antenna, which sends the signal in a specific direction rather than in all directions, when your router is situated at the far end of the house.
Add a Signal Amplifier
Bidirectional boosters amplify the wireless signal in both transmitting and receiving directions—an important point because Wi-Fi transmissions are two-way radio communications.
Add a Wi-Fi signal amplifier (sometimes called a signal booster) to a router, access point, or Wi-Fi client at the place where an antenna normally connects.
Try a Wireless Access Point
Businesses sometimes deploy dozens of wireless access points (APs) to cover large office buildings. Many homes wouldn't benefit from having an AP, but a large residence can. Wireless access points help cover those hard-to-reach corner rooms or outdoor patios.
Adding an access point to a home network requires connecting it to the primary router or gateway. A second broadband router can often be used instead of an ordinary AP because many home routers offer an access point mode specifically for this purpose.
Use A Wi-Fi Extender
A wireless extender is a stand-alone unit positioned within the range of a wireless router or access point. A Wi-Fi extender serves as a two-way relay station for Wi-Fi signals. Clients that are too far away from the original router or AP can instead associate with the same local wireless network through the extender.wavemovies / iStock / Getty Images
An alternative to a Wi-Fi extender is a mesh network, which uses router-like devices in each room to serve Wi-Fi in that room.
Purchase a Wi-Fi extender and install it according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Try Quality-of-Service Tools
When several people use the same Wi-Fi connection, Quality-of-Service comes into play. The QoS tools limit the amount of bandwidth that apps use. You can specify which apps and services receive priority, and set priorities for different times of the day. QoS prevents streaming video from degrading when everyone in your house decides to download files or play their favorite video games at once. They can still download their files and play games, just at a slower rate, so that you can enjoy your movie.
Change the QoS settings, which are usually located in the advanced settings of the router interface. You may see gaming or multimedia settings that prioritize bandwidth for those particular applications.
You won't find these handy tools on old routers. If you can't find settings for this, your router probably needs an update.
Ditch the Out-of-Date Router
Equipment manufacturers make improvements to their products. If you've used the same router for years, you'll see tremendous Wi-Fi improvements by buying a current-generation router. The current standard for routers is 802.11ac, and Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is gaining ground. If you run a router on standard 802.11g or 802.11b, you can't do much to improve it. Even speedier 802.11n routers can't keep up with the ac (Wi-Fi 5) and ax (Wi-Fi 6) standards.
Purchase a new router that runs on the current standard.