WiFi can be a fickle thing. You may be enjoying a perfectly strong WiFi signal, move just a few steps in one direction, and watch it drop to one bar. The seemingly unreliable nature of WiFi networks has everything to do with the fact that there are many factors that influence their performance.
Now that you understand the top 5 factors that affect WiFi performance, it’s time to take a closer thing at some of the things you can do to improve it.
Not all places are equally suitable for your router. To start with, you want to avoid placing your router close to metal objects and appliances that emit electromagnetic waves. Metal is the top disrupter of a WiFi signal, and its presence close to a WiFi router can easily create a large dead zone.
Other materials, including glass, wood, plastics, foam, and cardboard, can also disrupt a WiFi signal but their influence of WiFi signal strength tends to less severe. Keep in mind that many buildings use metal studs (rather than 2x4 wood) for the particle board mounting, and placing your router close to them would be a bad idea. When in doubt, use a handheld stud finder or at least a stud finder app on your smartphone.
Strictly speaking, all household appliances emit electromagnetic waves to some degree, even fluorescent lightbulbs, circuit breakers, and electric razors. The biggest emitters of electromagnetic waves tend to be found in the kitchen, and they include stoves, microwave ovens, and dishwashers.
Other problematic appliances are washing machines, tumble dryers, televisions, cordless phones, and radiant heaters. If you have any of these appliances at home, keep your WiFi router as far away from them as possible to boost WiFi signal.
Ideally, you also want to keep a safe distance from electric wires. To cover an area with an even WiFi signal, you should place your WiFi router roughly in the center. You can slightly boost your wireless signal by elevating the router above the floor level.
WiFi signals radiate outward in all directions, not just horizontally. When your router is on the floor, it’s ability to emit strong signals is severely limited. For the same reason, people who live in multi-store houses should always locate a Wi-Fi router near the ceiling on the first floor. This way, even the second floor will receive consistent coverage.
If you follow the news, you’ve heard about the growing number of large-scale malware attacks that are costing businesses and individuals alike billions every year. Many of these attacks wouldn’t be possible if all routers were kept updated. Once a malware infects a router, it can steal bandwidth and spread itself across the network to other devices.
But even without a presence of a dangerous malware, routers with old firmware perform worse than routers that are properly updated.
To check if your router is running the newest firmware available:
Most WiFi routers come with small, weak antennas. It’s not that manufacturers want to save every cent they can, but powerful WiFi antennas tend to be hideously large. Compared to the antenna that came with your router, which probably is just a few inches tall and has around 4 dB gain, a 10-dB antenna can be anywhere between 10 to 15 inches tall.
But if you don’t mind the size, a new, powerful WiFi antenna is a great way how you can boost WiFi at home or office without buying a new router.
There are several different types of WiFi antennas, but the only type you need to care about is the common “rubber duck” antenna, which is an electrically short monopole antenna that consists of a springy wire in the shape of a narrow helix, sealed in a rubber or plastic jacket to protect the antenna.
Such antennas use the same RP-SMA connector, and there are many different models available on Amazon and other online stores. Some even come with a handy extension cable that allows you to place the antenna farther away from your router to achieve optimal signal distribution.
To boost WiFi signal, you need to purchase an antenna with more gain than your current one. The gain of an antenna system relative to an isotropic radiator at radio frequencies is expressed in dBi, or decibels relative to isotropic. Most home routers come with small antennas, whose gain tends to be between 4–5 dBi. Replacing such antenna with a 9 dBi antenna should provide excellent signal boost.
An encrypted, password-protected WiFi is a must in this day and age. With more people than ever relying on WiFi, the hunger for open, fast WiFi networks is real. Don’t think that your neighbors won’t use your WiFi network just because they have their own — they will.
You should encrypt your WiFi and protect it with a strong password that can’t be easily guessed. A strong password should:
If you have lots of guests, create a separate guest network and either significantly limit its range or protect it with a different password and change the password on a regular basis.
Even though they are referred to by many names, WiFi boosters, repeaters, and extenders are basically the same thing.
WiFi repeaters are relatively simple devices that take an existing signal from your WiFi router and rebroadcast it as a new network. This new network is just an extension of your main network, and all data that go through it also go through the main network.
WiFi boosters and extenders are very similar, but they also amplify the existing signal before rebroadcasting it to create a second network. Because WiFi boosters typically have greater range than WiFi repeaters, they make sense in situations where the original signal is very weak.
A good repeater or booster costs less than $100, and it can be installed in a few minutes by anyone since the installation process usually involves only the press of the WPS button. You can find a list of the top 5 WiFi boosters at the end of this article.
To achieve the best performance when using a WiFi repeater or booster, it’s a good idea to use a WiFi booster app to analyze existing WiFi coverage and determine the optimal way how to extend the existing WiFi network.
Just like lanes on the highway, there are multiple WiFi channels on which a WiFi router can broadcast. Even though most countries have six non-overlapping channels (1, 6, 11, and 14), many users leave their router set on the default channel, which is usually either Channel 1 or Channel 6.
This results in a WiFi traffic jam as too many packets are trying to drive on the same line. The solution is simple: find out which channel is occupied the least and switch to it. This can be done with the help of NetSpot, a professional and easy-to-use WiFi analysis and surveillance tool.
With a new channel selected, you need to tell your WiFi router to use it:
You can now verify that your router is broadcasting on the new channel using a WiFi network analyzer like NetSpot.
It takes just one bandwidth-hungry application or a client to make download and upload speeds come to a crawl for everyone else on the same WiFi network. Luckily, modern routers support services like QoS (Quality of Service), which allow users to prioritize certain applications over others. With QoS, your online gaming session won’t ever be interrupted again by a person watching a 1440p video on YouTube or downloading a huge Linux distribution from the Internet.
To change your router’s QoS settings:
Some routers make it very easy to configure QoS settings, while other routers are far from intuitive. When in doubt, consult the manufacturer of your router.
The newest wireless technology, IEEE 802.11ac, offers superior download and upload speeds as well as improved range compared to older WiFi technologies, such as IEEE 802.11b, g, and others. To take advantage of the latest WiFi technologies to boost home WiFi, you need to make sure that both your home router and your WiFi-enabled devices, such as smartphones and laptops, support them.
When selecting a new WiFi router with support for IEEE 802.11ac, don’t pick the most affordable model you can find. Unless your budget is very strict, it’s always worth spending extra to purchase a router with excellent range and modern features such as MU-MIMO, Quality of Service, guest networks, gigabit Ethernet ports, and replaceable external antennas.
The 5 GHz wireless frequency provides faster data rates at shorter distances and is typically much less busy than the 2.4 GHz wireless frequency. If your router supports it, consider switching to it for an instant short-range speed boost.
How to boost your WiFi by switching your router to 5 GHz:
The timeless IT advice, “If it doesn’t work, try switching it on and off", also applies to WiFi routers. A simple reboot is often enough to considerably improve your WiFi speeds.
A reboot clears the router’s memory and allows updates to install.
The purpose of WiFi boosters is to extend an existing WiFi signal to areas where it can’t reach. Most WiFi boosters are designed to be plug and play, making it possible for anyone to install them on their own to enjoy a strong and reliable WiFi signal everywhere.
When selecting a WiFi booster, make sure you have at least a rough idea of how large is the area that you want to cover. You can use a network analyzer like NetSpot to create a signal heatmap of your space. Then you need to set a budget and evaluate the potential candidates based on their features.
To make the selection process easier for you, we selected the top 5 best WiFi boosters according professional reviews and real users alike.
The Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000 is a high-end WiFi booster with speeds up to 3 Gbps. It uses Netgear’s patented FastLane3 technology to broadcast WiFi signals over three different bands (at the same time (including a dedicated 5GHz band with up to 1.7 Gbps) so that each device you connect to the internet can choose the fastest line available.
Thanks to the support for the 802.11k standard, you can move around the house while video chatting with friends or watching an online video without any interruption. On the rear, the Netgear Nighthawk X6S EX8000 has four Gigabit Ethernet ports to connect wired devices, such as your Smart TV, game console, or home security system.
Just keep in mind that this high-end WiFi booster is much larger than most other WiFi boosters on the market. Its dimensions are much closer to WiFi routers, but its performance more than makes up for the bulky form factor.
The Netgear Orbi RBK50 WiFi system isn’t a straightforward WiFi booster. It’s actually a hybrid between a WiFi booster and a WiFi router. When you purchase and open the box, you discover two units inside. One of the two units is meant to connect to your WiFi router, while the other unit connects wirelessly to the first one, seamlessly extending your WiFi network to other parts of your home.
Together, the two units can cover up to 5,000 sq. ft with fast WiFi and up to 3 Gbps combined WiFi speeds. Since the two units broadcast the same WiFi network, you can move with your smartphone or laptop from room to room without ever having to connect to a different WiFi network.
Because the Netgear Orbi RBK50 WiFi system works with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant, it allows you to control your WiFi network with voice commands.
The TP-Link RE350 AC1200 is a compact WiFi booster that you can plug in directly into any wall outlet to extend your existing WiFi network. It supports both the 2.4 GHz band (300 Mbps) and 5 GHz band (867 Mbps) for maximum coverage and performance. Its two integrated high-gain antennas provide surprisingly wide coverage considering their elegant design.
At the front of the TP-Link RE350 AC1200 is a signal light that indicates current signal strength to help you find the ideal place for the WiFi booster. The light turns red when you get too far away from your router and blue when the connection is good.
You can also transform the TP-Link RE350 AC1200 WiFi booster into an access point by plugging an Ethernet cable into its Ethernet port. When in the access point mode, the TP-Link RE350 AC1200 can be controlled using a smartphone app.
WiFi boosters are great for extending WiFi coverage to a room that’s too far away from your router, but they don’t work properly if the distance is too large. For example, if your WiFi router is on the ground floor and you want to extend your WiFi to the attic, a traditional WiFi booster would most likely struggle. That’s where the D-Link PowerLine AV1000 WiFi AC comes in.
This unique WiFi booster uses your home electrical wiring to extend your home network. You simply plug the receiver unit near your router and connect it using an Ethernet cable. You than plug the transmitter unit in any location in your home that shares the same electrical wiring and enjoy a strong WiFi signal.
The D-Link PowerLine AV1000 WiFi AC supports all modern WiFi standards and can support even 4K video streaming and online gaming.
Despite its unassuming design, the Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900+ is packed with modern WiFi technologies, including Multi-user MIMO, which allows multiple Wi-Fi devices to simultaneously receive multiple data streams. The WiFi booster also supports Cross Band Technology to maximize the utilization of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless bands for combined speeds of up to 1.9 Gbps.
The Linksys RE7000 Max-Stream AC1900+ is designed to extend the range of your WiFi router up to 10,000 square feet. The setup process is a piece of cake because you’re guided from start to finish by the Spot Finder app. All you need to do is connect the WiFi booster to your router by pressing the WPS button and follow the app’s instructions.
With these ten tips, you should have no problem boosting your WiFi network without buying a new router. Make sure to have NetSpot at hand to check whether our tips helped each time you try one. We guarantee that by the time you get to the number ten, your WiFi will feel faster than ever before.