In this article, we explain everything you need to know to determine the best placement for a WiFi router in an apartment, office, or multi-story building.
Best Place for Router
You’ve finally decided to splurge on a new WiFi router, installed it, and discovered that your wireless coverage is still far from ideal. Most likely, your new WiFi router isn’t to blame at all — the problem is its placement.
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How to Find the Best WiFi Router Placement?
Finding the best WiFi router placement isn’t difficult, but you need to have some basic understanding of how WiFi networks work.
Most WiFi routers today broadcast in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The 2.4 GHz band is better at penetrating solid objects and spanning greater distances, but it doesn’t provide as much bandwidth as the 5 GHz band.
Both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands belong to the non-ionizing (non-dangerous) part of the electromagnetic spectrum, just like AM and FM radio, cell phones, radar systems, or TV remotes.
To find the best WiFi router placement, you need to take into consideration not only physical obstacles and the layout of the area you want to cover, but also the potential interference caused by other devices that generate noise in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Guidelines for Finding the Best Placement for a WiFi Router
To help you find the best placement for your WiFi router, we’ve put together six guidelines for you to follow in the order they’re written here.
Before you begin, we highly recommend your analyzer your current wireless coverage using a WiFi analyzer like NetSpot. With NetSpot, you can quickly create an accurate WiFi signal heatmap to see where your signal is the weakest and strongest.
When you find a better place for your router, you can create it again and compare the results.
1. Make Your Router the Center of Attention
WiFi routers don’t broadcast in a single direction. Instead, they radiate signals in waves that are similar to ripples in water. If your router is currently sitting in a corner, you can’t expect it to cover your entire home or office evenly.
For that to happen, you need to move it to a central location. Of course, that’s much easier to do if the area you want to cover with a strong WiFi signal has an easily determinable central point than if it’s irregular, but even a small transition away from the outside edges of the area you want to cover is better than none at all.
The only exception to this guideline is when the central location is either inaccessible or unsuitable because it violates the other guidelines described in this article. In such a case, skip to the end of this article to learn about other ways to boost your WiFi signal.
2. Get Your Router Off the Floor
To help the signal emitted by your WiFi router disperse throughout your home or office, get it off the floor, and place it on a shelve or mount it on a wall. WiFi routers have omnidirectional antennas that create a coverage bubble, and you don’t want half of this bubble to be eaten up by the foundation.
Where should a router be placed in a two-story house? If you want to cover a two-story house with a strong and reliable WiFi signal, you have two options. First, you can place your router near the ceiling of the first floor. Second, you can place your router on the floor of the second floor.
What about a three-story house? That’s easy: simply place the router right in the middle of the second floor to achieve even coverage and remember that the best location for a wireless router upstairs or downstairs is approximately in the center.
3. Avoid Physical Obstacles
You might be surprised by just how far your router could broadcast a strong WiFi signal if there were no obstacles in the way. While some obstacles, such as walls and ceilings, may be impossible to avoid, other obstacles, such as cabinets and large appliances, should be avoidable without much trouble.
Keep in mind that reflective surfaces can bounce off WiFi signals and cause performance issues, so avoid them as much as possible.
If completely avoiding physical obstacles is not an option, then at least stay away from those that have the most negative impact on WiFi signals. Conductive metals cause the most problems, but brick walls can also act as impenetrable barriers standing between a WiFi router and your computer or mobile device.
4. Be on the Lookout for Interference
As we’ve explained in an earlier chapter of this article, WiFi signals can be negatively impacted by other electronic devices that operate in the same part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Such devices include microwave ovens, baby monitors, wireless security cameras, cordless phones, and various smart home devices.
Other WiFi networks in the same area can also have a detrimental effect on the quality of your WiFi signal, especially if they use the same WiFi channel as your router. You can discover which WiFi channels in your area are used the most with NetSpot.
In addition to WiFi channel information, NetSpot can also reveal the names of the networks in your area, their signal level, noise, security settings, and more.
5. Reposition Your Router’s Antennas
If you have a router with adjustable antennas, you can experiment with their position to improve the quality of your WiFi signal. By positioning your router’s antennas upward, you can achieve better horizontal reach. On the other hand, sideways antenna positioning can help you get a better signal upstairs.
You should also consider replacing your router’s antennas with larger, high-gain alternatives.
Router antennas typically use the RP-SMA connector, which has the same external housing as a standard SMA connector, but the center male pin is replaced by a receptacle. You can purchase a compatible antenna for around $10 on Amazon or eBay, and installing it won’t take you more than a minute.
6. Bonus: Update Your Router
WiFi routers are complicated devices with a CPU, memory, simple operating system. If you want your router to deliver the best performance possible, you should update it regularly or, better yet, configure it to update itself automatically at night.
What are Some Other Ways to Boost WiFi?
If you’re unable to find a suitable place for your WiFi router by following the guidelines above, there are still several other ways to boost your WiFi signal that we haven’t covered in this article, including:
Improve your WiFi security settings
Buy a WiFi repeater
Upgrade to a WiFi mesh network
Control bandwidth-hungry applications
For more information on them, read this article, in which we cover the top 15 ways to boost your WiFi.
Check Your Wi-Fi Signal Strength
After going through the tips provided in this article, you should check your WiFi signal strength using NetSpot to see how much it improved.
Make sure to measure from several different places to obtain accurate results and consider building a WiFi heatmap for a comprehensive overview of your wireless coverage.
WiFi analyzer app runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10/11) with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax wireless network adapter.
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If you want to get more information about Wi-Fi, check out the following articles about Wi-Fi routers, the best apps for wireless networking, WiFi signal, etc.