Six feet. That was all that it took to change the signal strength in the house I was visiting. It was a two story home, and the people struggled to connect devices in the upstairs bedrooms to the WiFi. When they could connect, the signal was so weak that watching a video was like seeing a slideshow roll by.
It turns out the router was on the floor on the other side of a couch, and for whatever reason (perhaps the couch had a metal frame, or springs inside) it was weakening the signal. We knew this because we were able to use a WiFi strength app to measure how the network changed as we moved the router from place to place.
Moving the router six feet to the other side of the couch onto the end table changed everything — we could see that the signal strength upstairs was strong at every point we wanted to connect. We didn’t need to buy a bunch of hardware or new devices. We just needed to know what the signal looked like as we moved things around.
Every company today needs access to the Internet to connect with its customers and vendors. Every home uses the WiFi to access the Internet — and at some point, every place will start having problems. For people who are having issues with their WiFi signal, there are three things they need to do:
As with any problem, knowledge is power. The more we can understand the network as it is now, the more powerful we can make it.
It’s easy for people when they have a problem to just go out and buy the latest and greatest equipment and expect that to solve their problems.
Usually, everything they have is right there. Manufacturer’s recognize that they can make errors with their systems, or new discoveries in their code can make their systems more efficient than they were before.
Because of this, make sure that the devices that are being used are up to date. This can vary depending on what kind of device we’re talking about.
Updating computers are probably the easiest thing to do in this situation. In each case, make sure the device in question can connect to the Internet. Having the operating system update itself will typically update the operating system and drivers that it uses.
Once the updates has been made, perform a WiFi signal test by simply reconnecting the device in question and seeing how the WiFi communications works.
Updating routers can be a little more tricky. Every system has its own method, but most of the time we can log in through a browser. We’ll need to know the IP address of the router in question. For most home systems, this is going to be HTTP or HTTPS connection.
Then we need to log into it. Usually, the side of the router will have a printout explaining what the administrator username and password are. For example, this ARRIS router we can connect to https://192.168.0.1 (a typical gateway address), and then log in with the user Admin:
Check the manual for the specific model in question. Some will allow us to upgrade the firmware from this web system. Others will need us to download software from the company website. In those cases, we’ll need to know:
Whatever else we’re connecting through WiFi, usually there will be a way to update its firmware or other systems. Tablets like the iPad, game consoles like the Playstation 4 or Nintendo Switch — all of them will have a process to update their systems. Check the manual or the company website to see how. Most of the time, it’ll alert you that it needs to be updated when the manufacturer releases new updates.
All right, we’ve updated all of the devices in our place, but we’re still having issues. What we need now is some knowledge of what the WiFi network looks like across the building.
The best way do this is with a WiFi strength test — we measure and record the strength of the network across a location. A really good WiFi test app for this situation is NetSpot. It’s available as a free download here. One of the great strengths of NetSpot is it can chart the signal strength across a location.
Using NetSpot, we can measure one or several different WiFi signals and get a reading on their strength. Here’s a short description on how to do it:
As the signal changes, we’ll be able to figure out where in the building has weaker sections or more noise. We’ll also be able to see what other WiFi networks are running, so in case someone is running a rogue network in our location, we can triangulate it’s position and route it out.
Now that we have the knowledge, finding out the best way to upgrade our WiFi signal strength will be a snap. As we move the router, we can redo our survey and then use NetSpot to perform another WiFi site survey to see in real time how it affects signal strength. Perhaps we need to use a WiFi booster or go to a mesh network to get a better connection. But instead of guessing — now we’ll know.
But whatever it takes, making sure our systems are up to date, and actually being able to see how the network looks across our location helps us increase the WiFi strength.Knowledge is power. Use it, and the knowledge of the Internet will be at your hands.