If your home internet speeds are teeth-grindingly slow, chances are your WiFi network needs some TLC. Making a couple of adjustments to your WiFi setup can have a big impact on your overall network performance, and here’s five easy steps to hopefully see an instant improvement
So your so-called broadband internet is slower than a Lada full of elephants going uphill. Backwards. YouTube barely works, Netflix is seemingly just myth and the only thing your web connection is good for is checking email. You don’t understand why your WiFi is so slow and you’re at your wits end. What do you do?
Well, you could flip the nearest table and stomp your router into a million pieces, of course. Alternatively, you could follow our advice and make some quick and easy changes to your WiFi setup, which could really help to boost your slow internet connection and give you the speed you need.
Here are five essential tips to bear in mind if you want to speed up your Internet connection and make the most of that bandwidth coming into your home. Check out our other guides to health checking your home WiFi and understanding exactly what kind of speeds you can expect from your provider:
Is your home WiFi setup ready to stream 4K movies?
What is Fibre-To-The-Cabinet fibre broadband and why does it impact internet speeds?
What is Fibre-To-The-Premises fibre broadband, and am I getting it?
How to boost your WiFi speeds: Get a new router
If you’re still using the crappy router that your internet provider sent to you, chances are it’s slowing down your home WiFi connection. These routers are often basic at best, unless you splashed out for an upgrade or are on a high-priced contract.
We recommend getting a dependable router if you’re suffering from slow broadband, as this can make an instant and surprising impact on your connection speeds. Here’s some top tips.
Make sure your router is 5GHz frequency compatible
Most old-school routers use single-band technology. They use the 2.4GHz radio frequency that’s used by virtually everything from baby monitors to Bluetooth headsets. They’re fast enough in theory, but because the frequency is congested, they end up being kind of like a busy high street at rush hour.
Thankfully most up to date routers feature what’s called ‘dual-band technology’. Dual-band routers will communicate with devices by using both the typical 2.4GHz frequency and the faster 5GHz frequency. Think of 5GHz as a smart new five-lane motorway, compared with the narrow country lane of 2.4GHz.
Most phones, laptops and tablets these days are compatible with dual-band WiFi, apart from the really budget devices. You can set up dual-band routers so that they broadcast two separate signals. If you do, you’ll see something like ‘WiFi hotspot 5GHz’ appearing on the WiFi discovery screens of your devices, as an alternative to the standard network.
Are you a demanding user?
If your household needs a super-fast connection for online gaming or streaming high-def video on demand, then you’ll need an appropriate router. You can buy specific gaming routers to help out, although you’ll also need to take a close look at your broadband package as well.
How to boost your WiFi speeds: Reposition your router
Wireless signals bounce off of walls, ceilings, floors and doors and they typically (but not always) propagate in a spherical fashion around the router.
If your router is currently stuck away in a far corner of your lounge (a likely event, as they tend to go next to the phone socket), then a lot of your signal is going to be bouncing around in one section of your house and not getting to the other places where it’s needed.
To make sure most of your signal is being shared evenly around your house, try to position it in as central a position as you can. Obviously putting your router in the middle of the hallway smack bang on the carpet isn’t always practical, so all you can do here is try your best to find a more sensible location.
For an idea of how WiFi bounces around your house, Professor Andrew Nix has usefully provided an explanation.
However, you should also consider that it’s a good idea to keep your router close to the master socket. The master socket – where the external phone line enters your home – is normally positioned close to the front door.
The further away you move your router from the master socket, using things such as extension cables, the slower your speeds will be.
How to boost your WiFi speeds: Use a multi-router ‘mesh WiFi’ solution if you live in a two-storey house or larger
If you live in anything bigger than a London flat, chances are your home suffers from black spots, with zero WiFi coverage. That’s because of the reasons discussed in the last tip.
However, there is one simple solution to this. Bag yourself a ‘mesh WiFi’ solution, which offers up two or more routers to be spread around your home. These typically include a ‘master’ router, which replaces your old one, along with one or more secondary routers which connect to the main hub. These secondary routers can be positioned in any areas of your home where you suffer from slow speeds, to give you a much-needed connection.
Some multi-router solutions we recommend are BT Whole Home WiFi, Netgear Orbi and Google’s own WiFi router.
Check out our pick of the best mesh WiFi routers right now for more ideas.
How to boost your WiFi speeds: Change the (wireless) channel
As well as using radio frequencies, wireless routers use specific channels through which they send data. If 2.4GHz and 5GHz are motorways, then wireless channels can be thought of as motorway lanes.
Different lanes aren’t necessarily any faster or slower, but it’s common for a lot of routers to default to the same channels after they’ve been set up. All of your neighbours could be using the same channels, which causes congestion, a bit like every vehicle on the motorway using the same lane.
To see which channels in your immediate vicinity are the busiest, you can make use of mobile apps like Airport Utility for iOS (make sure you give it permission to scan all networks by tapping Settings > Airport Utility and then WiFi Scanner) or you can use WiFi Analyser for Android.
Of the channels available to you, it’s usually best to pick from either channel 1, 6 or 11.
Picking empty channels is generally a bad idea; overlapping channels will cause interference dragging both your WiFi signals down along with those of your neighbours.
Going for channels 1, 6 or 11 is a good rule of thumb to stick to. Feel free to experiment yourself to find the best channel for you.
To change WiFi channels, open a browser and type in the router’s IP address. This should be printed on a sticker that’ll be either on the side or the bottom of your router.
Then log in with your username and password as normal.
The location of the Settings page will differ from router to router but what you need to look for is a page that lets you change the Wireless Channel. Select this, hit save and reboot the router to make sure the changes have stuck.
How to boost your WiFi speeds: Get wired
Where possible, you should make use of the Ethernet ports on the back of your router.
Ethernet cables are often impractical and unwieldy and create physical clutter. But they do provide a stronger, dedicated signal to devices that need them.
While this doesn’t directly help you improve the wireless signal in your home, it reduces reliance on WiFi, meaning those WiFi-only devices in your home have more room to breathe.
So those are our top five tips for boosting your WiFi profile at home. If you’ve got a slow connection then try them out and let us know how you get on in the comments below.
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