Improving Your Wi-Fi Signal And Range
Many times, people get frustrated because their Wi-Fi signal doesn’t reach all the remote corners of their homes. Before you start getting into expensive, time-consuming options like adding Extenders, Powerline or even Mesh try these simpler and less expensive options first.
The broadcast pattern of a typical wireless router is like a doughnut or globe. When looking at a wireless router with its antennas pointing out and up it’s easy to imagine the signal going out and up when in fact it goes out and down. Try placing the router in an elevated spot such as on top of a bookshelf or mounted to a wall if possible. This is an easy way to increase your wireless router’s range.
A wireless router’s signal is susceptible to inference from certain materials and even other wireless devices. You want to position your router so that the following materials are not blocking its path to your wireless devices.
- Electronic devices
- The human body
- Other wireless devices such as wireless phones, microwaves, and baby monitors.
To get the best signal in all directions you want to place it as near the center of your home as possible or at least as near to the most used wireless devices as possible. This is not always easy to do and may involve rerunning cables. Most homes will have several coaxial cable outlets you can choose from when your Internet Service Provider installs your modem. If you can get the installation technician to place the modem in a central location in your home you’re golden.
If your modem is already installed, you may try calling your ISP and asking them to move it for you. There will probably be a fee if it’s not the initial install. Sometimes you can get lucky and all the coax connections in your home will be connected and you can move the modem anywhere you like. You may even be able to move the cable yourself. It’s best to hire a qualified contractor for this type of work though.
Keep in mind the maximum range of a wireless signal is only about 300 feet outdoors and 150 feet indoors. I wouldn’t expect a good wireless connection any more than 100 feet away from the router indoors. Once you get past that point it’s time to start considering other options like extenders, boosters, and powerline. We’ll discuss those in the chapter on Extending Your Network.
Tech Skills For The “Home IT Guru”
Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal – Video
Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal By Changing The Channel
Wireless networking has become so commonplace it’s almost impossible to find a populated area with only one wireless signal. Unfortunately, signals from your neighbor’s wireless routers can interfere with the signal strength of your router. In the case of the 2.4GHz band on a wireless N router, this can be managed easily with the use of channels.
A wireless N router in the United States has 11 channels. All but three of these overlap and interfere with each other. Channels 1, 6, and 11 don’t overlap. This leaves us with 3 distinct channels to choose from. So, if your router is on channel 6 and most of the other routers in your area are on channel 6 you can simply switch your router to channel 1 or 11 to avoid interference from those other routers.
Most people who purchase wireless routers never even look at their channel settings. They don’t know the default setting for most wireless routers is channel 6. If they live in an apartment or a densely populated area, they are competing with half a dozen other wireless routers on channel 6 and don’t even realize it.
For this reason, when you first set up your wireless router it’s best to set it on channel 1 or 11. There is an “auto” selection, but it’s not always reliable and it only takes effect when you restart the router. If some of your neighbors get smart and start changing their channel settings, you may want to readjust your settings. You can use an app on your phone like Wi-Fi Analyzer to see the channels in use and the signal strength of other routers in your area.
To this point, our discussion on channels only applies to the 2.4GHZ band. If you’re using the 5GHz band the ballgame completely changes. You now have 24 non-overlapping 20Ghz channels to choose from. They can even be combined or “bonded” to create faster 40Gghz or even 80Ghz channels in the case of wireless AC.
Most wireless routers have an option to bond channels in the wireless settings section. This setting should be right next to where you make your channel selection. The “bonding” selection is usually presented as “bandwidth.” The options will usually be 20MHz/40MHz on the 2.4GHz band and 20MHz/40MHz/80MHz on the 5GHz band.
When bonding channels keep in mind that wider channels have less room to maneuver and are more likely they are to be interfered with. Kind of like driving a powerful vehicle that takes up two lanes on the highway. It’s great until you get into heavy traffic. I would stay away from 40MHz on 2.4GHz and 80MHz on 5GHz in a crowded environment with lots of other wireless routers. You should be fine with 20MHz on the 2.4GHz band and 40MHz on the 5GHz band.
As great as it is to have all those extra channels on the 5GHZ band, not all wireless devices (clients) will work with the entire range of channels available. If you stick with channels 40, 44, 48, 149, 153, 157, and 161 you should have no problems.
- Go to your router’s Wireless Settings.
- Choose which band to configure (2.4GHz or 5GHz.)
- Select your bandwidth.
- Select your channel.
Even if you can’t improve the performance of your entire network it’s possible to improve the performance of certain devices on your network. QoS stands for “Quality of Service.” Without QoS network traffic can become a free-for-all or “ordered chaos.” What QoS allows you to do is prioritize your network traffic. This means you can force less important email, web surfing, and downloading traffic to make way more important video streaming and gaming traffic. This allows your network to run faster and more efficiently where it matters most.
QoS Setup – Video
When drivers on the road hear the siren of an ambulance or fire truck in the background, they know the rules of the road state they must pull over and allow the emergency vehicles to pass. We all agree that emergency vehicle traffic is more mission-critical and time-sensitive than driving to work traffic. QoS allows you to set the same kind of rules of the road on your home network.
You can prioritize your network traffic by computer IP address, computer MAC address, an application being used, and types of network activity such as downloading, surfing, etc. You can use QoS to:
- Give video games a higher priority than web surfing.
- Give your gaming computer priority over other computers and devices.
- Control the percentage of bandwidth allowed to certain computers and applications.
The methods you can use to implement QOS range from simple to complex. One of the simplest ways to implement QOS is by using what is known as “Adaptive QoS.” Not all routers have it. Routers with Adaptive QOS have an easy-to-use drag and drop interface which allows you to prioritize network applications in the order you want.
Using drag and drop to assign priorities to applications.
Assigning priorities to specific computers using the drag and drop interface.
(ASUS RT-AC68U – Merlin Firmware)
Monitoring bandwidth used by various applications. (ASUS RT-AC68U – Merlin firmware)
A simpler method is by using more traditional QoS to prioritize a specific device. Using this method, you can simply enter your favorite computer’s IP address or MAC address and give it a “Highest” priority and give all other devices and applications lower priorities. This may be the way to go with an HD TV or game console which needs tons of bandwidth to run properly. Keep in mind that IP addresses can change so you only want to give high priority to IP addresses that are statically set. MAC addresses never change.
First QoS must be enabled:
- Go to your router’s QOS configuration page.
- Enable QoS
- On this router, we select “Traditional QoS.” This may not apply to your router.
- Go to http://speedtest.net to get your upload and download speeds.
- Enter your upload and download speeds.
- Hit apply.
To add a rule giving your favorite device priority over other devices on the network:
- Go to the “user-defined rules” page of your router’s web interface.
- Name your device.
- Enter the MAC or IP address of your device (MAC is better.)
- Select a priority.
- Add the rule.
- Hit Apply or Save.
The most difficult way to set up QOS on your network is by prioritizing protocols and services. This means a certain game or application will get the highest priority on your network no matter which computer it’s being used on. To set up QOS rules on an application or game you need to know the ports it uses and the type of ports (UDP, TCP, or both.) Most routers provide a built-in set of games and services along with their port numbers. It’s a simple matter of selecting your game and the ports and port types are entered for you.
In this example, we’ll give the popular game Halo priority over all activity on our network.
To add a user-defined rule to prioritize Halo to our wireless router:
- Go to the “user-defined rules” section of your wireless router.
- Select Halo from the list of services.
- Enter the MAC of the machine you’ll be playing Halo on.
- The ports will populate automatically if the service is on the list.
- The port type will populate automatically as well.
- Enter “Highest” for the priority.
- Add the rule.
- Hit Apply or Save.
If you’re using a game or service that’s not on the list, you’ll have to do some research. You can do this by simply typing in name of the application you’re using into Google followed by the word “ports” As you can see from the Madden 2019 example below this can quickly get tedious and time-consuming.
Instead of manually entering in all those ports you can simply give priority to the device you’ll be playing Madden on. Still, there are those of us who love the precise control this type of setting provides.
If you want to get all scientific about it there’s a program called “NetLimiter 4” you can use to drill down through every application running on your computer and show which ports it’s using.
According to Netlimiter 4 Firefox is using port 52505 to watch a YouTube video.
The many types of QoS are as varied as the number of brands and manufacturers. Everyone wants to be different and stand out. Netgear has an interesting variation of QoS called “Dynamic QoS” which assigns predetermined bandwidth settings to applications and services automatically. The three types of QoS explained in this section demonstrate a common thread found in most QoS types and should help you become comfortable with any router’s QoS implementation quickly and easily.
Improve Wi-Fi Signal With High Gain Antennas
If you’re disappointed with the performance of your wireless router it may or may not be time to go out and buy a more high-end one. Try upgrading the antennas on your existing wireless router first. When it comes to WIFI performance surface area is everything. Size does matter. The more surface area an antenna has the more radio waves it can send and receive.
Many wireless routers have removable antennas for this precise reason. When purchasing a new “high-gain” set of antennas make sure they were made specifically for your wireless router. Antennas have different types of connectors. You don’t want to strip the threads on both the antenna and your router by forcing it.
One thing to keep in mind with “high gain” antennas is they don’t really increase the power or speed of your wireless router. Instead, they reshape the broadcast pattern. The original omnidirectional antennas that come with your wireless router send out a circular pattern that’s equal in all directions – like a big globe.
A high gain antenna will stretch it out in one direction and compress it in the other direction. The new broadcast pattern still covers the same amount of territory but it’s wider and shorter. This means you’ll receive expanded coverage on the same floor as the wireless router at the expense of the floors above and below.
So, the moral of the story is that high-gain antennas are not an effective option in multi-story homes.
Many people replace their old Wi-Fi 4 router with a shiny new Wi-Fi 5 router, and excitedly set it up only to find themselves disappointed in the performance of their “new network.” Yes, Wi-Fi 5 is backward compatible with Wi-Fi 4 but that does not mean a Wi-Fi 5 router will make a Wi-Fi 4 device perform like a Wi-Fi 5 device.
Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal With An Adapter For Your Laptop
To get the true Wi-Fi 5 performance they desire they need to upgrade their client devices as well. This may not be possible with a phone but it’s very possible with a laptop or PC. By simply bypassing your laptop’s built-in Wi-Fi 4 adapter with a USB Wi-Fi 5 adapter like the TP-Link Archer T3U AC1300 Wi-Fi Adapter you’ll immediately be able to reap the rewards of your new Wi-Fi 5 router.
Even if your laptop already has a built-in Wi-Fi 5 adapter a new USB Wi-Fi 5 adapter may still be an upgrade because wireless adapters built into many laptops are not always the best quality. Manufacturers will go with the bare minimum specs to save money. A name-brand USB wireless AC1300 Dual-Band wireless adapter with MU-MIMO support may be a significant upgrade to your laptop’s built-in Wi-Fi 5 adapter.
Now that the new Wi-Fi 6 standard has arrived it may be time for you to start looking for Wi-Fi 6 routers, clients, and adapters.
If you have a really large home the methods in the article may not be enough. If you’re serious about getting a strong Wi-Fi signal in every nook and cranny of your expansive home it may be necessary to spend some money extending your network with Wi-Fi extenders, Powerline, and Mesh Wi-Fi. We cover these in our next section on extending your wireless network.
Last update on 2022-12-10 at 08:11 Affiliate links and Images from Amazon Product Advertising API