You probably know that your WiFi router transmits data in digital form. In other words, every picture, video, audio, website, or document you download from the internet is sent to you as an impossibly long string of ones and zeros, or bits. As long as every single bit eventually finds its way to you, the content will be readable.
The problem is that the transmitted data relies on analog radio waves, similar to an old-school transistor radio. These waves are broadcasted on several different frequencies, most commonly on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and the easier they can reach you, the better your WiFi signal strength will be.
Arguably the biggest factor that influences WiFi reception is distance. Stand only a few feet away from a WiFi router, and you’re guaranteed to enjoy a strong signal and excellent speeds. But walk away from the router to a different room, and the signal will weaken.
Just how much weaker the signal will be depends not only on the distance itself, but also on the kind of obstacles between the router and the connected WiFi device. Generally, solid materials such as brick, stone, or concrete have a greater negative influence on WiFi signal strength than materials such as wood.
It’s also important to remember that WiFi signal travels in straight lines. Laptop and smartphone users sometimes wonder why they have close to 100 percent signal in one part of a room and nearly no signal in another part of the same room. In the vast majority of cases, the reason is that the line of sight between the router and the device is partially obstructed by some obstacle and moving to another part of the room clears it.
The frequency on which WiFi routers broadcast is further divided into a multitude of individual channels. The exact number of these channels varies from country to country, with some channels overlapping adjacent channels and others being non-overlapping. When multiple WiFi networks are being simultaneously broadcasted on the same channel, network congestions may occur and slow everyone’s WiFi down.
Before you read the following chapter on how to improve WiFi connections and achieve the maximum possible transmission speeds, you should know how to measure WiFi signal. The good news is that measuring WiFi signal is a lot easier than how it sounds.
In practice, all you need is a WiFi analytics and survey application such as NetSpot. This easy to use product for macOS and Windows computers has been designed for regular computer users but with the needs of professionals in mind.
As a result, NetSpot is considered to be easiest native wireless site survey software for Mac and Windows, allowing anyone to start measuring wireless signal right away with just a couple of clicks. NetSpot offers two modes for WiFi analysis: Discover and Survey.
The former instantly collects every detail about surrounding Wi-Fi networks and presents wireless data as an interactive table, while the latter creates interactive heatmaps with detailed information on all surveyed wireless networks in every point of the map.
NetSpot is free and supports all WiFi networks broadcasted on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands at 20/40/80/160 MHz channels with standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapters. Even though many other WiFi analytics and survey applications do exist, NetSpot stands out from them with its elegant simplicity, powerful features, and an irresistible price.
If you have money to spare and would like to improve your WiFi instantly, you can simply purchase a high-end router and call it a day. Modern high-end routers have multiple antennas and various signal-boosting features to transmit a strong WiFi signal even though thick obstacles and across long distances. But even the best router on the market has its limitations, and it’s paramount that you know what to do in case you reach them.
With NetSpot’s Survey Mode, you can create a signal heatmap to see where your WiFi signal is the strongest and where it is the weakest. Using this information, change the placement of your router so that it covers as much space as possible and as evenly as possible. You might need to place your router farther away from walls or other obstacles or even put it on a shelf.
Last but not least, you should switch to an uncluttered WiFi channel. To see which WiFi channels are used the most, use NetSpot’s WiFi channel analyzer. All you need to do to see which WiFi channels are overlapping is follow this guide.
After every adjustment you make, use NetSpot’s speed test feature to check whether your efforts have produced a positive result. If you’re WiFi is still not as breezy as you would like it to be, you should rule out the possibility of someone stealing it from you.
Start NetSpot’s Discover Mode and check whether your WiFi is encrypted. If it isn’t, go to your router’s admin menu and change the necessary settings. Using an unsecured WiFi is extremely dangerous in this day and age and could lead to the exposure of your private information to malicious hackers.