A recent report from a major telco here in Australia stated that nearly 80% of homes now have WIFI routers, yet many of us are still struggling with poor reception, drop outs and other connection issues.
Here’s a few things you can easily do to maximise the efficiency of your WIFI router. Let me first start by telling you most off the shelf WIFI router/modems will only support up to 4 devices connected wirelessly at any one time. A lot of people don’t realise this, and although initially it sounds like 4 is plenty, it’s actually not when you think about it. Most people have smart phones nowadays that connect to your home WIFI network when in range. It’s estimated that the average family now have 3.5 smart phones in any one household. Throw in a smart TV, a games console, a laptop or two and an iPad all of which have the ability to connect wirelessly to your home network, and you can soon see how the average family with 3 teenage kids would very quickly exceed the 4 device limit on most routers. Bear in mind, the more devices connected, the slower each device will run when surfing the net. So, if you are struggling to connect to your network, you may have to turn some other devices off first.
*LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
Most people place the router right next to the nearest available phone point, however that is not necessarily the best spot for it. Your router should be positioned centrally in the home and preferably up high. It is also vital that the antenna/s are pointing vertical as routers transmit a signal in a 360 deg radius. Clear line of sight is also important as walls and other obstacles greatly deteriorate the WIFI signal. This may mean running a telephone extension cable to the router to get it in the best spot. If you have a larger home, then you’ll need to invest in WIFI range extender. The most common ones simply plug into a wall outlet and are very simple to set up. (GOOGLE WIFI RANGE EXTENDER) Bear in mind that the extender must be able to pick up the signal from the router in order to boost it to other areas of the home, so don’t install it too far away from the router. Usually about 10 metres away would be the maximum distance.
*KEEP YOUR ROUTER FIRMWARE UPDATED.
This is another thing that most people are unaware of. Routers have preinstalled firmware that the manufacturers update several times a year. It will always run at its best if it has the latest firmware installed. To see how to do this, refer to your documentation, or simply google your router model for comprehensive instructions.
*INTERFERANCE FROM OTHER DEVICES AROUND THE HOME.
Other electronics can wreak havoc on your routers performance, in particular cordless phones and microwaves. I recently went to investigate an issue for a client of mine at their home. They had purchased a good quality modem/router, but could not connect wirelessly if they were any more than about 2 metres from the device. I saw the problem as soon as I walked in. They had the router sitting in the corner of the room on a coffee table…and sitting right next to it was a cordless phone base station. I simply relocated the base station to another phone point in the home and “WALLAH”…problem solved! That will be $195.00 thank you very much…lol…
The moral of the story is… If your signal strength is poor, take a look at any other devices that are nearby and relocate if need be. Even TV’s and stereos can have a negative impact on your WIFI signal.
*ARE YOUR NEIGHBOURS GETTING A FREE RIDE?
It beggars belief how many people still don’t secure their WIFI properly, or in some cases not at all. I often attend clients’ homes because they are complaining about large internet usage/bills, only to find they have no security set on the WIFI, or in a recent case, his WIFI password was “PASSWORD”. I think “IDIOT” may have been a better choice in this case ;) You should always set a strong password, with a combination of upper, lower case letters and some sort of symbol, and change it regularly. I recommend my clients change their network password every 3 months. If you don’t know how to do this, then refer to your router documentation, or ask Mr Google. If you suspect that someone is accessing your WIFI, then try this simple test. Switch off ALL devices in your home that access the router, and see if your WIFI and internet light on the router are still flashing rapidly. If this is the case, then it’s time to change your password. Also, if your router supports it, then WPA2 is the most secure. Once again, if you are unsure how to set this up, check your documentation.
*ARE YOUR KIDS HOGGING ALL THE BANDWITH?
Online gaming, movie and TV show downloading and streaming of media content such as Netflix etc are all extremely bandwidth heavy. If someone in your household is doing this then you may find that you are unable to get a quality connection on your device. This is particularly relevant if you only have a reasonably slow connection in the first place. Those of us that are lucky enough to be connected to the NBN here in Australia, probably won’t find this to be such an issue, which brings me to the next topic.
*TEST YOUR INTERNET SPEED.
Most people are unaware that you can quickly and easily test your speed for free using a variety of online tools. This is my favourite one.
Australia’s largest telco – Telstra – claim that any connection speed over 4mbs is acceptable although I personally think that in this day and age, 4mbs is atrocious. Most ADSL-2 connections should run at 10 – 15mbs and if you are on the NBN, then 50mbs + is not uncommon. If your connection is not running at these figures, then ring your ISP and complain. Quite often the problem can be fixed quickly and easily at their end with just a few settings changes.
*UPDATE YOUR MODEM/ROUTER
Did you know that most ISP’s will update your router for free every two years if you are on a plan? Yep, true story. Even if you are not on a plan, you should update the device every few years at least. The good news is that routers are relatively cheap these days with even good quality ones with long range capabilities coming in at around $150.00.
*LAST RESORT – A LITTLE DIY HACK
If you must set your router up in a corner for whatever reason, try cutting open an aluminium can and placing it behind the antenna, this will give a “parabolic” effect and direct the signal into the room. I have tried this personally and have seen increases in signal strength of over 50%. (refer thumbnail pic for this blog).
So, there you have it. Hopefully you’ll be enjoying great WIFI in your home soon.
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Pete – Precision Computers Brisbane