Improve Your Home’s Wi-Fi Signal in Five Minutes
By Chris Hoffman
Updated October 17, 2017
Wi-Fi is just radio waves, and many things can cause interference. But a strong Wi-Fi signal can give you faster performance and better coverage distance, so it’s important to properly position and configure your router for optimal signal strength. I’ll show you how; it just takes a few minutes.
Point the Antenna Up
Routers generally have physical antennas that are adjustable. The antenna often comes pointed horizontally to fit the router inside its box. For maximum signal strength, position your router’s antenna vertically, pointing straight up. If you have two antennas, you won’t get better performance by pointing them in different directions.
Position Your Router Properly
Consider where you put your router. If you have a large home or office, place the router close to the center to maximize coverage. If you position the router at one end of the building, you may have poor (or no) signal at the other end.But keep in mind that if you already have your router positioned at one end of your home and the signal strength is just fine on the other side, you don’t need to move it.
For maximum coverage, the router should also be high up. Placing it on the floor is the worst location possible – place it on a high shelf, if possible.
Don’t place the router on or near large metal objects, such as metal shelves or filing cabinets. These can block the signal. Metal or stone walls can also block Wi-Fi, while wood and plaster walls won’t cause any problems.
You might be able to root out other sources of interference. For example: microwave ovens, 2.4 GHz cordless phones, and 2.4 GHz baby monitors all have the potential to interfere with a Wi-Fi signal. I’ve personally experienced a Wi-Fi signal to my laptop dying every time a microwave oven was turned on. The microwave oven was in direct line-of-sight between my laptop and the router. The solution? Move any one of them so that the microwave isn’t in between. If you get interference from a cordless phone, you might want to purchase newer 5.8 GHz cordless phones; these workon a frequency band other than Wi-Fi and don’t cause any interfere.
Choose the Best Wi-Fi Channel
If you’re in an area with many different Wi-Fi networks — such as an apartment complex or even just a house close to other homes — your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks are probably interfering with yours.
To minimize this, move your router further away from the other Wi-Fi access points, if you can. For example, if you’re in an apartment and have a router in the corner of your room, your neighbor’s router might be right on the other side of the wall.
But the best thing you can do is switch to a different Wi-Fi channel. You access this option on your router’s settings page — check your router’s instruction manual for instructions on how to do that. (If you don’t have the instruction manual, you can almost certainly find the instructions online.) Locate the Wi-Fi channel option in the router’s web interface and change it to a different channel with less interference.
It might take a little experimentation to find the best one, but you can get help choosing a Wi-Fi channel using the Wi-Fi Analyzer app for Android phones and tablets, which will monitor the Wi-Fi networks near you and recommend the least-cluttered Wi-Fi channel for your network. Unfortunately, similar apps aren’t available for iPhone or iPad due to the limitations Apple places on app developers.
That’s it — all you really have to do is position your router well and choose the ideal Wi-Fi channel to optimize your network. Of course, buying a new router that supports modern, improved Wi-Fi standards may also offer you a signal strength and speed boost.
Image Credit: Sean MacEntee on Flickr, Kal Hendry on Flickr
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around tech geek who writes for PC World, MakeUseOf, and How-To Geek. He's been using Windows since Windows 3.1 was released in 1992.