Get Faster Wi-Fi With These Easy Router Tricks
Wi-Fi is basically on par with water and oxygen in terms of basic human needs, so when your Internet starts lagging like it's on a dial-up connection from the days of yore, the situation can get pretty dire. Let that never be the case, ever. Here are 11 Wi-Fi-boosting tips so you can solve your connectivity woes once and for all and get back to streaming Scrotal Recall.
Relocate your router
If you've got a massive clusterfuck of devices and wires, and your router's caught right in the middle of it, that’s Wi-Fi suicide. Metal objects, thick walls, and media-filled cabinets are also a wireless connection’s kryptonite. Since placement is key, set up the device in an open area, ideally a few feet off the ground to avoid any electrical interference from other wireless gizmos. Another ideal spot is high on a flat surface like a bookshelf.
Disconnect old devices from your network
Standard protocol when you get a new laptop or that sweet new Apple TV is to link it up with your home Wi-Fi, right? Here's the thing: in order to take full advantage of the router’s connection, you need to disable all previous devices from the same network. This is easily done on a MacBook by clicking the Wi-Fi menu icon on the system’s menu bar > Turn Wi-FI Off > Enter Admin password (if necessary). Windows users can go to Notifications > Right-click icon > Disable.
Plug in with an Ethernet cable
Looking to Netflix and chill at a much faster pace? Use an Ethernet cable to speed things up. AppleTV, Roku, Amazon TV, and your laptop (duh) all have an Ethernet port where you can plug directly into your router, freeing up the machine for faster speeds and less interference. This also provides an open lane for other Wi-Fi-enabled devices to operate without any lag. Use a Cat6 cable for best results.
Discover hotspots with the Network Analyzer app
Unsurprisingly, your smartphone can also help you find the best wireless locations for your router and troubleshoot connectivity issues. The Network Analyzer app is a great multipurpose tool that can execute an entire LAN scan and ping test to determine Internet speeds. From there, the ping test will discover other devices that are potentially causing network issues and you can either relocate the router or switch to the best channel.
Try the tin-foil hack
What’s been considered an urban legend in most tech circles has become a credible formality amongst DIY geeks. Aluminum foil can actually help boost your router's strength. Create a reflector using tin foil you've got laying around in the kitchen, or use a beer or soda can. It will help increase your Wi-Fi signal and make it more directional.
Kick freeloaders off your Wi-Fi...
If the occasional trip to Starbucks has taught us anything, it’s that sharing the same Wi-Fi with egregious freeloaders completely sucks. If you've got a similar situation at home and want to boot the crowd sucking up all your bandwidth, consider manually adjusting the broadcast channel on the router.
To do it, access the router’s interface by typing the gateway IP address into your browser window. The most popular router manufacturers, Cisco/Linksys, share a default gateway of 192.168.1.1 but here's a full list of common routers and addresses. Then enter the username/password. Nine out of 10 times the username remains Admin and the password is either "password," your router's serial number, or just blank. This all depends on your setup.
Then go to Change the Channel > Wireless > Basic Wireless Settings > Channel to select one that is completely traffic-free.
... and keep them off
If neighbors keep leeching off your open connection and slowing you down, step up your security game. Log into the settings again, go to Wireless > Wireless Security > Channel. From there, select the strongest security mode (WPA2/WPA Mixed Mode) and an encrypted password. You know, something with alphanumeric characters (upper/lower case, punctuation marks, and symbols).
Get the right antenna
Maybe your router came with an omnidirectional antenna. This serves as a great option if you can place your device in a central location that broadcasts the signal equally for optimum performance. But if you're trying to designate most of that power to one specific device, pick up a single-directional antenna so you can double the strength of the signal and focus it in one direction.
Adjust the frequency
Modern routers offer two different frequency speeds: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. You speed demons can figure out which is fastest. To switch up the frequency, log into your router settings again, and go to Wireless > Basic Wireless Settings > Channel. Then choose from a variety of different speed options under the assigned frequency tab.
Reboot on a regular basis
The golden rule of technical troubleshooting is to reset or unplug once something starts acting up. Pretty sure you’ve heard this several times from your local Internet provider. But you should also do a routine system reboot every now and then just to keep things operating smoothly. Save yourself the agony of listening to Time Warner Cable’s “On-Hold Hits” and just purchase an outlet timer that will automatically reset your router when you're not around.
Invest in a Wi-Fi extender
Even if you drop some serious coin on a new hi-tech router, you may still need some extra hardware to achieve the best results -- especially if your apartment is huge (how nice for you) and there's a lot of ground for the signal to cover. A Wi-Fi extender plugs into your wall and can help increase a signal’s range to other rooms where the connection is lagging. The NETGEAR N300 WiFi Range Extender should do the trick at the accommodating price tag of $40.
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Alex Bracetti is a contributor to Thrillist, Complex, HOOP, Man of Many, and several others. Follow him on Twitter: @AlexBracetti.