10 Free Ways to speed up your WiFi Network

A fast WiFi connection at home or in your office can vastly increase productivity. As we start to utilise more wireless devices in our homes and in business the system can quickly become overstretched. However, a little bit of tweaking can really help to boost your connectivity. Work through the following 10 steps to ensure that you are getting the most out of your connection.

1. Put the router somewhere central

The first step in improving your wireless Internet connection is to simply ensure that your router is placed in a central location so that all devices have equal access to it. Often routers are hidden away in the corner of homes or offices where the main telephone line enters. To boost your signal position the router in a central spot. Usually the best spot in a house is on the landing at the top of the stairs.

2. Move it away from walls and metal surfaces

While finding a central location for your router ensure that it is not positioned close to a wall or metal surfaces. This includes mirrors as the metal layer also bounces wifi which diisperse the signal. Also ensure that the router is not sitting on the floor as this will also dampen the signal.

3. Update firmware on router

It is always worthwhile checking that your firmware is up to date. Visit the website for your router and check for new firmware updates. New updates will often resolve minor bugs which can slow the connection and also may help to utilise new technologies too. Many updates are also designed to increase performance.

4. Update network card drivers

Likewise, updating your network card drivers can also give a boost by fixing bugs and compatibility issues. If you have not checked for new updates to any of your hardware since setting up your wireless router visit the relevant websites and search for new drivers. Often older laptops are the weakest link in the wireless Internet network. You may also be able to successfully update drivers direct from the Windows control panel.

5. Use the best protocols

Ensure you have the best protocols enabled for your wireless router. For example, some routers will support Wireless N which is one of the fastest protocols for wireless networking. If your router supports this then make sure it is turned on!

6. Try a different channel

Sometimes your wireless router may be sharing a channel with other telecoms items in your home or even in a neighbouring property. Cordless phones often cause problems when they share the same channel. You can test this by changing the channel on your router or phone.

NetStumbler provides a tool to monitor channel use in your wireless region. Install their software on a machine with a wireless card to see which channels are being used most and then change to less popular channels. Generally channels 1, 6 and 11 are most common so avoid these.

7. Reduce Interference from other electrical devices

Some electrical devices can cause a lot of interference which can reduce the strength of your wireless connection. To avoid possible interference move other electrical items away from your router (or move your router away from the other devices).

Devices which commonly cause problems include microwave ovens, baby monitors and cordless telephones. In general kitchens are not good places to keep your wireless router. Also, if you have a USB device move it away from the computer with a USB extension cable.

8. Check Wireless Card Settings

Network cards often offer power saving settings which are designed to extend the battery life of your laptop. However, they can also cause problems with the signal. Using the lowest power management setting will often boost the signal. Also switching off “roaming aggressiveness” will stop your card seeking alternative connections and boost performance. If your card has settings for “transmit power” set these to max. These settings may shorten your battery life so after making these changes keep a close eye on the battery.

9. Secure your network

This is possibly the most important step to take, not only for speed but for your security. If your wireless Internet connection is not secure it means that your neighbours will be able to access it from their own computers. If they are heavy Internet users they can quickly start to eat up a lot of your bandwidth and lead to slow connections. If they start making illegal downloads it is your account that will be in trouble. So set up the WPA or WPA2 encryption to password protect your wireless network.

10. Use ethernet cables whenever possible

If there are many devices competing for the local wifi network it is a good idea to use ethernet cables wherever possible. For business owners encouraging your staff to use 3G on their smartphones can save on wireless bandwidth. 20 phones connected to webmail, Facebook and Twitter can quickly stretch the system to its limits.

If your connection is still slow after working through all the above steps then you really need to determine if the cause is actually an under-performing Internet connection or a faulty router. The easiest way to determine this is to switch off all wireless connections and run a broadband speed test on a PC connected by ethernet cable. A wireless connection is only ever as good as the Internet service that feeds it.

John Hale is a long serving network engineer specialising in network cabling and structured cabling solutions for businesses and schools throughout the UK.