Why Does My Wi-Fi Keep Losing Its Signal?

By Milton Kazmeyer

Wi-Fi networks are prone to interference that may affect your ping.
i Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

While a wireless home network can be a very useful tool, it can also be a major source of frustration. Electronic interference, competing networks, and the construction of your home can all affect your Wi-Fi signal, slowing down your speeds and even disconnecting your mobile devices. If your Wi-Fi signal keeps disappearing, changing your configuration may help improve reception.

Electromagnetic Interference

Depending on the protocol your Wi-Fi network uses, it may broadcast on the 2.4 GHz band, the 5 GHz band, or both. If you have another wireless device in your home, like a cordless phone, it may use one of these bands to transmit and receive data as well. If your Wi-Fi drops out every time you use your cordless phone, consider upgrading to a newer model that uses the 1.9 GHz band. In addition, some electronic devices such as microwaves can put out interference across the electromagnetic spectrum while in use. If your Wi-Fi dropouts coincide with midnight snacks, consider relocating your wireless router to place it further away from your microwave. Additionally, put your router high, like atop a bookshelf, and don't hide it behind a solid object such as a column or the refrigerator.

Other Networks

If you live in an apartment building, nearby Wi-Fi networks may be the source of your signal problems. If you configure one of your mobile devices to search for available networks, you will see a list of all Wi-Fi networks within range. In some cases, too many competing networks in a small area can degrade network performance. You can try changing your network channel in your router to see if a different channel offers less interference, or you can upgrade to a router that uses the 5 GHz band, which is usually less crowded.

Network Conflicts

Most routers have an automatic configuration system whereby every mobile device that accesses the network automatically receives an IP address. This address is necessary to allow the router to communicate with each device, and to send data back and forth. In some cases, you may need to configure your network to use static IP addresses, assigning a permanent address to each device to facilitate port forwarding and other services. In this case, you may have inadvertently assigned two devices the same IP address, causing conflicts whenever either one attempts to access the network. If most of your wireless devices have no problem connecting, but two regularly lose the Wi-Fi signal, check both to see if a configuration error may be the source of the problem.

Router Overload

Routers handle all the data packets that flow between your computer and the Internet. A single machine can produce a very large number of packets that the router must handle correctly, and every device you connect to your network adds to the load. In addition, certain programs like the BitTorrent file transfer protocol can greatly increase the load on your router. In some cases, older hardware can fail under the strain, crashing and losing the Wi-Fi signal in the process. If your Wi-Fi dropouts correspond with file transfers or certain applications, check your router logs to see if it is crashing and restarting due to overload.