These days we depend on Wi-Fi networks more than ever. We use them for work-related purposes, to browse the web looking for exciting news, we check our email accounts, stream movies, watch sports games, listen to music, and do lots of other important, interesting, or entertaining things. According to this statistic, the number of public Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide has reached 550 million. Not all of them are properly set up and configured, of course. Here are some of the most effective things you can do to increase wireless signal strength.
The router is the heart of any home network. It transmits all the data that flows through your Wi-Fi, and it can’t do that if it’s not in the right place. A common mistake people make is placing the router near metallic appliances such as washing machines or refrigerators. This reduces the amplitude of the Wi-Fi signal, causing problems.
Installing the router near other electronic devices such as television sets, microwaves, cordless phones, or active speakers can cause similar problems due to interference. So, it is best to avoid all these devices when looking for a good place for your router.
Wi-Fi signal strength can be estimated by taking into account two essential aspects: the distance from the router to the device, and the actual speed of the wireless connection. Fortunately, if your router uses regular RP-SMA connectors, you can replace the stock antennas with better ones without opening the router case. More info about RP-SMA can be found here.
Many router manufacturers use low-end antennas, which have a gain of 4-5 dBi. If you purchase a set of 10 dBi antennas, for example, you will double the Wi-Fi signal power. The new antennas may be taller than the old ones, but that's a small price to pay in comparison with the benefits that arise from having a reliable Wi-Fi network.
Have you ever thought that your neighbors have connected one or more of their devices to your Wi-Fi, slowing it down? If your network is open or uses a common password, some people in the area may have connected to your Wi-Fi without even realizing it is a private network.
Solve the problem by changing the password of your wireless network. If you've never changed it before, it is probably set to "admin" or "password", so there is no wonder your neighbors have gotten access to your Wi-Fi.
Additionally, make sure that your router isn't broadcasting the name of your network, technically known as "SSID" (Service Set Identifier). This identifier helps new devices discover the network, but if all your devices are already connected, you can safely disable SSID broadcasting from within the router's admin panel. While we are here, it is important to change your router's default admin password as well, to ensure that no one else can get access to it.
Routers use Wi-Fi channels to broadcast their wireless signals. Since the default channel is often set to 6, many Wi-Fi networks operate using this frequency. Under these circumstances, it is best to set up your network using channels 1 or 11, which don't overlap with channel 6 at all. Download one of the many Wi-Fi analyzer apps (they're available for Android and iOS devices as well), and then find out which channels are used a lot in the area. Switch to the least crowded channel, and you’ll see that data transfer speeds will improve.
Don't forget to keep your router up to date. Responsible router manufacturers patch their products regularly, fixing various issues, adding new features, and sometimes managing to increase Wi-Fi speeds. It's a simple way to get a significant wireless signal boost, while keeping your home network and devices secure.
If everything else fails, buy and install a signal repeater. It’s an inexpensive device which will pick up a weak router signal, amplify it, and then broadcast it. Use the same Wi-Fi analyzer app to determine the best location for the new device; it should be placed near the devices that need a better signal, while being close enough to the router as well.