With everyone working from home these days, Internet networks are seeing more activity than usual. When your focus was mostly streaming Netflix, the occasional buffer was nothing more than a temporary nuisance. Now that you’re working at home, potentially indefinitely, you need to keep everything moving with the best possible performance. That does not mean you need to go online and buy a new router. Here are some of the best ways to boost your Wi-Fi speeds while you are working from home.
Perform a Speed Test
Before you jump into all of the possible solutions to increase slow speeds, you need to determine how slow (or fast) your Internet really is.
You can do this from any Internet browser or smartphone. Head over to sites like Speedtest.net (which offers mobile apps) or fast.com and perform a speed test. If you are doing this on your smartphone, make sure that your Wi-Fi is on and active so you do not accidentally test cellular speeds. Also, try the test in multiple rooms, especially those that are farther away from the router. It’s important to know which rooms might be too far from the router to achieve the best possible speeds. That point brings us to the most important rule of home Wi-Fi use – location, location, location.
The most important rule of home router placement and the best way to boost Wi-Fi speeds is to find a central location for the router. That might mean a kitchen, living room, bedroom, etc., but it should be a centralized place with minimal interference. The last thing you want to do is put your router in a closet or on one side of a home where its signal will have to travel through any number of walls.
It’s worth noting that walls are not the only thing that can impact Wi-Fi speeds. Other obstacles like fireplaces, cabinets or kitchen appliances can absorb Wi-Fi signals. That is especially true for the 2.4GHz band, which nearly every router released in the last decade includes. Checking speeds in various rooms will help you determine where the best download and upload speeds are available. When you find the fastest room, that’s the room you will want to use as a base point for your router.
Use an External Antenna
Remember the old radio sets that used to have extendable antennas at their backs which you would pull out and move around to catch a better signal? Similarly, you can buy an external antenna for your router to transmit Wi-Fi signals equally in all directions across greater distances.
If you already have an external antenna, move it around manually and take note of which position allows for capturing the strongest Wi-Fi signal on your electronic device. You may also want to move the router itself to a spot where it emits the strongest signal.
Changing the Channel
Today’s most common routers are either dual-band or tri-band hardware with 2.4 and 5GHz bands. The 5GHz band has advantages, like greater overall bandwidth, and is reserved solely for Wi-Fi use. From a technical standpoint, the 2.4GHz band travels longer distances, but those signals can overlap. That means more interference is possible, especially if you live in close proximity to other users. Think of an apartment or condo building.
On the other hand, 5GHz offers 23 non-overlapping channels, but its range is significantly shorter. A good number of recent routers will sense interference automatically and choose the best band, but if you are sensing trouble, manually choosing between one band or the other can make a huge difference.
Turn Your Transmission Signal Up
Check your router settings for one that is related to the transmission power of the signal. It is sometimes indicated by the letters “Tx” or something similar. Once you have located the option on your Wi-Fi’s online interface page under “Advanced settings,” check to see if it is turned up to 100 percent, and if not, turn it up to a maximum for better signal strength and range.
However, sometimes the transmission signal may be set at less than 100 percent by your Wi-Fi supplier for legal or hardware-related reasons. Talk to your supplier before changing your transmission signal strength to ensure you are not harming your router or doing something unlawful.
Reduce Bandwidth-Hogging Distractions
Working from home is the ultimate multitasking challenge. Can you stream video, listen to music, video chat with your colleagues and do the rest of your work all at the same time? That’s probably not happening all at once for you, but multitasking can lead to speed drops. Listening to Spotify or Apple Music in the background won’t hurt, and it’s probably helpful for your overall state of mind. However, you should limit large downloads during the day so you have plenty of bandwidth for video chats. Streaming Netflix while listening in on a video chat is also a not good for speed. Video uses precious bandwidth that can take away from the quality of a video call.
Upgrade Router Firmware
This advice is often underutilized and likely only undertaken by a small minority of home Internet users. Updating your router firmware can fix bugs, and it often includes tweaks that will boost overall Internet speed. Most mesh-networking routers available today and more recent routers from the last few years offer automatic updates in the background, but that’s not true across the board.
To find if your router is running the most recent firmware, look for an option labeled “System Settings,” “Advanced Settings” or “System Tools” to help locate the update function. If none of those options exist, Google search to the rescue. Your router name or model number are likely on a sticker on the bottom of the hardware.
Add a Wi-Fi Extender
When all else fails, a Wi-Fi extender may be the answer. Unfortunately, you cannot run out and grab one right now thanks to retail closings. Online ordering is still open for business, so access to one of these is not too difficult. By adding one to your home, you can extend the Wi-Fi signal into bedrooms or offices that might be impacted by room location. If a bedroom is on the far side of a house away from where the router sits, a Wi-Fi extender can make a huge difference in signal strength and therefore speed.
Wi-Fi extenders do not have to cost a fortune, either, as well-reviewed models can come in anywhere from the $20 to $100 range depending on your needs and budget. They work with both 2.4 and 5GHz signals as well.
Working from home is something that is still new to many. Whether this is your first time working from home or your existing reality, fast Wi-Fi speeds can make all the difference, and there are plenty of tools for you to work remotely and productively.