In this article, I’ll cover a wide variety of solutions you can use to increase your Internet speeds and the performance of your Wi-Fi network using fixes that range from small tweaks to your wireless router to adding and replacing Wi-Fi components.
Location Location Location – Placement Of Your Wireless Router
Before spending too much time and money on trying to increase your Internet speed and Wi-Fi performance the first thing you want to do is make sure your wireless router is in a central location in your home or at least in a central location relative to all your Wi-Fi devices. Simply moving your wireless router to an area that is accessible to all your devices can create a noticeable increase in your Internet speed.
When you’re relocating your wireless router make sure to avoid things that can stop a wi-fi signal dead in its tracks like large pieces of metal and concrete. Electronic devices such as microwaves, refrigerators, and cordless phones can also interfere with a wireless signal. Your wireless router will be at its happiest on top of a bookshelf all by itself.
The easiest, cheapest way to increase your internet speed may be to change the location of your wireless router. For some reason, internet service providers have an affinity for placing their equipment in a far-off corner of the house, the basement, the laundry room, or the garage so you want to keep an eye on them and actually be present when they show up to install the equipment. If that’s not possible you may have to move it yourself.
Depending on how your apartment or home is set up this could be as simple as moving your modem, the coax cable, and your wireless router to another room with a live coax connection. If there’s no coax fiber or phone connection in the area of the house where you want to move things you may have to get your internet service providers to help by moving the connection to another area.
Increase Your Wi-Fi Performance – Video
Cut Off Wi-Fi Freeloaders With A Secure Password
Sharing flour, sugar, or bread with your neighbors is one thing but you don’t want to find yourself sharing your internet connection with them. Not only is it not right to have to pay for someone else’s Internet connection but depending on what they’re doing they can seriously drag your internet connection down. If they have hacking skills you have a whole other set of problems on your hands.
The simple way to thwart this is by using a complex password. That means not using your home number, your name, or your street address. You want to use a string of random letters and numbers that make no sense like “kejhr04943yua/zs!.”
Yes, I understand it’s impossible to remember random letters and numbers but these days they have password manager programs that make it easy to remember complex passwords. The good thing is most wireless devices will remember your password for you once you type it in once.
Increase Internet Speed With Bandwidth Management
Another easy way to increase Internet speed is to prevent your Wi-Fi devices from stepping all over each other’s connections. Just about all wireless routers, these days have two bands – a 2.4 gigahertz band and a 5 gigahertz band. The reasons for this are actually quite ingenious. For one thing, since they’re on totally different frequencies.
Devices on one band won’t interfere with devices on the other band which allows you to have many more devices in a particular area without having to worry about them interfering with each other. They also specialize in different types of connections.
The 5GHz is faster than the 2.4 GHz band but it doesn’t travel through obstacles as easily while the 2.4 GHz band is slower but it has a longer range. By simply moving a device from the 2.4 GHz band to the 5 GHz band you’ll get much better performance on devices like HD TVs and game consoles that need a lot of bandwidth.
I get into much greater detail on how to use bands with different devices and had to use a feature called Smart Connect to manage this automatically in my “Home Wi-Fi Explained” video.
Tweak Your QoS Settings
As I said earlier a Wi-Fi connection is shared with all the other people and all the other devices in your home network. The way things are shared out is not always fair. Some devices such as merely surfing or checking email don’t really use a lot of bandwidth.
Other devices such as game consoles and 4K TVs use an extreme amount of bandwidth and can slow the network for other devices. The shoe may be on the other foot if you’re trying to play a video game and someone else’s activities on the network slows you down.
Sometimes you can quickly increase your internet speed by simply finding those devices and turning them off. If that’s not possible there are other ways to get the situation under control. The best way is something called Quality Of Service or QoS which allows you to prioritize the devices in your home to make everything more equitable.
Some wireless routers handle this prioritization for you and others allow you to configure it. It doesn’t happen automatically though at the very least it has to be turned on. I get into great detail on how to configure QoS in my “Wireless Router Setup” video.
Wi-Fi Channel Selection
Maybe you remember back in the old days of battery-operated AM/FM radios when you had to search through the dial to find a strong station. Along the way, you come across many weaker stations that were overlapping each other. Many people who own wireless routers are not even aware that their wireless router has channels. Your wireless router also uses radio waves and you can use channels to find a stronger connection to your wireless router.
If you live in an apartment or if you’re surrounded by neighbors who also have wireless routers it’s a simple matter of finding a channel that everyone else isn’t using. This is especially true on the 2.4 gigahertz frequency band because it only has 11 channels. Out of those 11 channels, only three don’t overlap.
You want to focus your attention on those three channels (1, 6, and 11.) The 5 gigahertz band has way more channels and more channels that don’t overlap so it’s not so much of a problem on the 5 GHz band.
Most wireless router manufacturers set their routers to default to channel 6 on the 2.4 gigahertz band which means you can be living in an apartment building full of other wireless routers running on channel 6. This can make it difficult for you to get a strong connection to your wireless router.
There’s also an “auto” setting you should avoid because it can result in you ending up on a different channel every time you reboot your router. If other routers in your area are also set to auto you can end up with some pretty unpredictable results.
So how do you know which channel to use? Well, that depends on the channels everyone else is using. You can find that out by installing a free program like a wi-fi analyzer on your computer or a smartphone.
It will present the information you’re looking for in a simple chart format. In this example, the channels are on the bar on the bottom and the signal strength is on the left. The closer you get to zero with signal strength the stronger the signal is.
Changing your wireless router’s channel is pretty easy if you know where the settings are. It’s normally under advanced and then under wireless on most wireless routers. Once you’re there you can select which band you want to work on.
The mixed-mode setting is for good if you have a lot of different types of devices on your wireless router. I go into depth with this in the Home IT Handbook which you can download for free.
This Simple DNS Tweak Can Help Increase Internet Speed
If you watched my Home Networking Basics video you know all about DNS. DNS is what helps your computer navigate its way around the internet. Without it nothing works. Most home networks use the wireless router’s IP address to forward all DNS requests to DNS servers provided by the Internet Service Provider.
Unfortunately not all DNS servers are created equal. Some can be busier or farther away than others. That could make loading new web pages slower and more cumbersome.
A long time ago I got into the habit of bypassing my ISPs DNS servers and using Google’s very reliable DNS servers and I haven’t looked back since. this means simply changing your DNS server address from whatever your wireless router’s IP address is to 126.96.36.199.
You can do this on each individual computer on your network or you can do it on all your computers at once by specifying Google DNS in your DHCP settings. That’s right – DHCP can automatically configure more than just a computer’s IP address.
Doing this on your computer is easy. Simply go down to the bottom search bar and type in ethernet or wi-fi (Depending on which one you’re using) and then “Change Adapter Options.” Next, find your network connection, right-click on it and go to properties. In there you’ll find Internet Protocol 4. Go to Properties and then change the DNS setting here to 188.8.131.52.
To do the same thing to all your computers at once go to the DHCP settings on the wireless router. The DHCP server on your wireless router assigns not only the IP addresses to all your computers but also the default gateway and the DNS server addresses.
Simply log into the wireless router, go to advanced, then DHCP Server. That’s the area where you want to make your changes. Set it and forget it. All computers you connect to your networking will magically be configured with the setting you just entered into the wireless router.
Try Updating Your Wireless Router Before Replacing It
The typical lifespan for most wireless routers is four to five years. After four to five years technology usually changes to the point where old hardware needs to be replaced with newer, faster hardware. That doesn’t mean your wireless router won’t go through some changes during that time.
Wireless router manufacturers are always finding ways to tweak performance and add features to their wireless routers without having to create a whole new model. They do this with firmware updates.
That’s why it’s a good idea to periodically check your wireless router to make sure it’s fully up to date and taking advantage of all those new features and tweaks. Before upgrading your wireless router’s firmware you want to be aware of certain things such as your router’s model and hardware version number as well as the update it’s currently on.
You’ll need to compare those numbers with the latest firmware update that’s available. I go into way more detail on how to do this in my Wireless Router Setup video. In most cases, your router will have a built-in utility that automatically checks for new versions and downloads and installs them.
When In Doubt – Reboot
There are no more enduring words of wisdom than this old, time-tested phrase. No matter how advanced computers and electronics become there’s no substitute for a good old-fashioned reboot.
There have been many more times than I care to remember when I spent a lot of time troubleshooting an issue. Then out of frustration I just turned the computer off and on again and like magic, the problem was fixed.
We make a lot of demands on our computers and electronics and sometimes they just need a break. A reboot gives a computer or a piece of electronic equipment a chance to calm down, sort itself out and start over again. It also gives the computer a chance to adjust to recent upgrades, updates, and configuration changes.
Back in the day when Wi-Fi was new people were always frustrated with how many times they had to reboot their wireless routers to get them working again. Thankfully that’s not the case with newer devices. Even so, if your wireless router is showing signs of just being stuck on something for no reason a reboot can help.
What’s The Next Step To Increasing Your Internet Speed?
Well, that about takes care of all the free Wi-Fi fixes to increase your Internet speed. Now we’re getting into things that might end up costing us a little bit of money. If none of the tweaks we’ve gone over to this point do any good it’s time to start taking stock of what exactly we have in terms of hardware.
That means taking a closer look at what kind of wireless router and devices we have and what type of wireless technology they’re using. By “wireless technology” I mean recent improvements to Wi-Fi manufacturers have made in recent years such as MU-MIMO, Beamforming, Airtime Fairness, QoS, and Smart Connect.
These are all features that can be found on many newer wireless routers and devices. I go into great detail on each one of these features in my Home Wi-Fi Explained video.
Maybe you’ve done some shopping for a wireless router before and you saw a description of a device saying it’s a Wi-Fi 6 device and is backward compatible with Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 4. This can be somewhat misleading. “Backwards compatibility” is great.
It’s always nice to know that a newer device will work with your old devices. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as “forward compatibility.” Connecting a Wi-Fi 4 device to a Wi-Fi 5 wireless router does not magically turn the device into a Wi-Fi 5 device.
Instead, it just slows your wireless router down to Wi-Fi 4 speed to establish that connection. In order to gain the full benefit of a Wi-Fi 5 wireless router you also need to be using Wi-Fi 5 devices. The same goes for new Wi-Fi technologies such as MU-MIMO and Beamforming that I mentioned earlier. In order to use those features, your devices must support them.
If you’re having issues with signal strength and range a long-range wireless router may be in your future.
I cover all the ins and outs of the different types of Wi-Fi in my Home Wi-Fi Explained video in a way that’s much faster and easier to understand than reading an article.
Antennas And Adapters
One of the cheapest upgrades you can do on your wireless network is by upgrading your wireless router’s antennas. The signal strength of the antennas that come with most wireless routers is only 3 to 5 dbi. For a few dollars, you can upgrade that to 9 or 10 Dbi and realize an instant improvement in your wi-fi signal strength.
Unfortunately, not all wireless router antennas are removable. If you feel like this is something you’ll end up doing in the long run removable antennas are a feature you want to look for when buying a wireless router.
When shopping for antennas try to find a pair that are made specifically for your wireless router. If that’s not an obvious option you may have to get a little creative. That means getting familiar with some of the terminology used with Wi-Fi antenna connectors.
For example, most of us can recognize the difference between a male and a female plug but when it comes to Wi-Fi antennas the connectors can get confusing.
Basically, all you have to remember is if you see “RP” that means “Reverse Polarity. What that means is whatever you’re expecting to see the opposite is true. As you can see by this illustration an SMA Male connector has a pin that looks like what you would expect but an RP SMA Male connector does not. Instead, it looks like a female connector. This is because of the reverse polarity of RP SMA.
Another cheap but very effective Wi-Fi upgrade is a wireless adapter. If you come home with a brand spanking new Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 wireless router with all the latest and greatest technology and all you have is an older laptop with a Wi-Fi 4 adapter you will never realize all that Wi-Fi goodness unless you upgrade with a Wi-Fi 5 adapter that also supports all the latest technology like Beamforming and MU-MIMO.
A great example is the TP-Link Archer T4U Plus AC 1300 USB wireless adapter. I go into great detail setting it up and testing it on an obsolete laptop in my WiFi Adapter For Your Laptop video.
Extenders Can Give Your Wi-Fi A “Boost”
A well-placed Wi-Fi extender can instantly increase Internet speed in areas of your home with a weak Wi-Fi signal. If the Wi-Fi issues you’re having are not limited to a specific device but to a specific area of your home such as a guest bedroom way off in the corner somewhere and you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a wireless router upgrade or even a mesh system an easy way to handle that is with wireless extenders.
A wireless extender is like a little baby wireless router without all the other wireless router features and connections.
Basically, it picks up your router’s Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcasts it into an area of your home that’s having wireless issues due to a lack of range or signal strength. Here we have a perfectly placed wireless router providing good coverage to all areas of the home except out on the porch where people don’t really spend a lot of time.
We don’t want to spend a lot of money just to get a little Wi-Fi signal out on the porch so we simply plug in a wireless extender into a wall outlet. Given the wall is not made out of metal or concrete we should get just enough signal out here to keep a couple of smartphones satisfied.
Check out my Wi-Fi Extenders – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly video for more details.
It May Be Time To Upgrade Your Wireless Router
Our expectations for wireless devices have come a long way in a few short years. The fact that you’re reading this article and watching my videos shows that the Wi-Fi connections in your home may not be meeting your expectations.
If that’s the case increasing your Internet speed will probably require some hardware changes either now or in the near future. The good thing about all these advancements in technology is prices for “last weeks tech” come way as manufacturers come out with new models.
You don’t necessarily have to buy the biggest, baddest wireless router with the most antennas available on the market just to see some improvement on your home wireless network. You just need an understanding of what you need and what it will take to get you there.
There are still some very good wireless routers available for less than 100. You’ll find good explanations of several of them in the Wireless Routers Under $100 section of this website.
If you’re still using a Wireless N or Wi-Fi 4 wireless router and you’re having wireless networking problems your solution is very simple. You just need to upgrade to Wi-Fi 5 or 6 and upgrade your devices accordingly.
You won’t have to spend a ton of money to get good performance and as long as you get a Wireless AC or Wi-Fi 5 (Wave 2) wireless router. “Wave 2” indicates the device or router has advanced features such as MU-MIMO and Beamforming.
If you’re into video games you don’t need me to tell you anything because you already have a Wi-Fi 5 or 6 router and a good understanding of what some of the latest features can do for you. A full explanation of these features can be found in my Home Wi-Fi Explained video.
If you already have a Wi-Fi 5 router and you’re thinking about getting a Wi-Fi 6 router your decision should really hinge on how many Wi-Fi 6 devices you have. If you have mostly Wi-Fi 5 devices you will realize next to no improvement by getting a Wi-Fi 6 router even though Wi-Fi 6 is backward compatible with Wi-Fi 5.
I would not go out and get a Wi-Fi 6 router until Wi-Fi 6 devices have become cheaper and more commonplace.
To Mesh Or Not To Mesh
The final word with Wi-Fi performance is Mesh. Someday all home networks may be Mesh networks and we’ll be looking at the conventional wireless routers we use today as the “old-fashioned” way.
Most mesh systems are extremely easy to set up and provide excellent Wi-Fi performance in homes up to and sometimes exceeding 5,000 square feet. They have extremely intuitive smartphone interfaces you can use to set up and configure them. In most cases, the installation of a Mesh Wi-Fi network will result in an immediate increase in Internet speed and Wi-Fi range.
One of the greatest things about Mesh Wi-Fi systems is called “seamless roaming.” That means even though you have multiple access points throughout your home you don’t have to disconnect and reconnect from the main wireless network as you roam from one connection to the other.
The only downside with Mesh is the cost. Even that’s coming down. The Deco Mesh system is a prime example of a top-performing mesh system for under 150 dollars. Mesh Wi-Fi is kind of a big topic. I cover it in great detail in the Home IT Handbook so I’ll be getting more into it in future videos.
The Last Resort – Contact Your ISP
If you have tried everything we mentioned in this article to improve your Wi-Fi performance and you still need to increase your Internet speed your problem may not be with your internal network. Your problem could be with your ISP and your wired connection to the internet.
If you immediately call your ISP with your suspicions they will most likely tell you they’re going to do some tests and tell you everything is fine on their end.
If you really want to get someone to come out there and look at the connection inside and outside your home you may have to have to strong-arm them a little by telling them some of the troubleshooting steps you’ve already taken.
You’ll also want to test the speed coming directly out of your modem to determine whether the issue is on your end or the ISP’s end. To do this you want to unplug the cable connecting your modem to your wireless router and plug an ethernet cable from a laptop or PC directly into the ethernet port on the modem.
You may have to reboot to get an Internet IP address directly from the ISP. Go to speedtest.net and record your internet speed. If it’s not what you’re paying for you’ll be armed with this information when you have the dreaded ISP on the line.
Once you’re on the phone with them you’ll be glad if you followed some of the troubleshooting steps you found in this article because once they realize they’re on the phone with someone who knows what they’re talking about. They’ll be far less likely to give someone like that the run around once you convince them that the issue is not your internal network.
I know I sound cynical but I used to work for an ISP so I’m “just saying.” Some internet service providers are better at this kind of customer service than others. Worst case scenario is you’ll end up taking your business elsewhere or possibly upgrading your internet service to a newer, faster service you’ll be happy with.