How to Increase In-Home WiFi Speed

by Jacob Andrew

Two main factors impact your home Wi-Fi speed: the first is the wireless standards being used by your router and your computer, as these standards have different maximum bandwidth ratings; and the second is signal quality, which can be affected by various environmental factors. Speeding up your Wi-Fi involves using the best available standard and increasing your signal strength.

Relocate Your Router

Home users often place their wireless router in the same area -- right next to the Internet modem. Your Internet service connection, unfortunately, is not always situated in a position that best serves your home. A bad location can cause weak signals that then force your connection down to a lower speed in order to remain compatible. To combat this, purchase a long Ethernet cable and move your router to the central-most location possible in your house -- preferably mounted up high and out in the open. Remember to also avoid placing your router next to devices that generate a lot of interference such as wireless baby monitors, microwave ovens and fluorescent lights, which can all pose problems for 802.11b, -g, and -n wireless routers. If you have 2.4 GHz cordless phone system, consider switching to a 5-GHz or DECT-6.0 model.

Change Channels

Wireless networks operate on a shared frequency. Many devices, particularly other Wi-Fi routers, can interfere with your wireless signal strength. Virtually every wireless router offers you the option to change the wireless channel. These range from 1 to 11, but only channels 1, 6 and 11 are non-overlapping. Try switching between these channels until you see a performance increase. The channel with the least other devices on it will be the fastest. If you want to take it a step further, you can do a wireless network survey and discover what channel other routers in the area are using. Wi-Fi scanning programs create a list of all visible wireless access points in the area and which channels they are using. For examples of Wi-Fi scanning software, see the links in “Resources.”

Upgrade Wireless Standards

Not all wireless is created equal -- wireless networks use one of a series of standards put forth by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers under the 802.11 designation. 802.11a networks are among the oldest and are rarely in use. Next up was 802.11b -- if you are running 802.11b as your network protocol, then the most speed you’ll get is 11Mbps. 802.11g and 802.11n followed 802.11b, and 802.11n is the fastest, latest standard. New 802.11ac networks promise wireless speed over 1000Mbps, but this standard is relatively new and not many devices support it. Both your router and your devices’ wireless cards are compatible with certain standards. If all of your devices use 802.11n cards, which have a maximum speed from 150Mbps to 450Mbps, you’ll see incredible performance gains by upgrading an 802.11g router to one that supports 802.11n. Conversely, if you have an 802.11n router but your computer still uses 802.11g, which has a maximum speed of 54Mbps, you’ll see incredible gains by installing a new 802.11n-compatible card. You can also squeeze out additional bandwidth by eliminating compatibility modes; for example, an 802.11g network loses some bandwidth when set to be compatible with 802.11b devices. Eliminating 802.11b-based devices and setting the router to only accept 802.11g clients increases speed. In some cases, upgrading the firmware on your router results in a performance increase.

Antennas and Extra Routers

You can increase your Wi-Fi speed by purchasing high-gain omnidirectional antennas for your router. These antennas flatten the radiation pattern of the Wi-Fi signal, allowing it to concentrate more power laterally and less power vertically. High-gain antennas are rated in decibel milliwatts or dBm; a higher-dBm antenna offers greater high-speed range. Be careful to purchase an omnidirectional antenna; high-gain “directional” or “Yagi” antennas advertise high dBm, but only offer the signal in a specific direction. Multistory or long houses may benefit from deploying two or more routers or network extenders. Setting two routers to the same SSID, wireless standards and security settings allows you to move seamlessly between the two -- when the signal from one Wi-Fi access point weakens, your devices can switch to the second access point to maintain speed.

About the Author

Jacob Andrew previously worked as an A+ and CCNA-certified technology specialist. After receiving his BA in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2012, he turned his focus towards writing about travel, politics and current technology.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images