Fortunately, there are ways how to fix slow Wi-Fi, and we explore them in this article.
To understand what makes your Wi-Fi slow and how to fix bad Wi-Fi, you first need to understand what Wi-Fi actually is. Essentially, Wi-Fi is a technology that allows various internet-enabled devices to connect to the internet over the air. A Wi-Fi network is created using a wireless router. Not all wireless routers create the same Wi-Fi network, however.
Here are some of the most common reasons for slow Wi-Fi:
Continue reading to learn how you can avoid these and other causes of slow Wi-Fi so that you can enjoy the internet without any limitations.
Older wireless routers only support older specifications for implementing wireless local area network (WLAN) computer communication, such as 802.11g, which operates at a maximum transmission speed of 54 Mbit/s and was adopted in the market starting in January 2003.
Newer wireless routers, on the other hand, support 802.11n (capable of operating at a maximum transmission speed of 600 Mbit/s on both the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz bands), 802.11ac (capable of operating at a maximum transmission speed of 1 Gbit/s), and the latest models now support even 802.11ax (capable of operating at a maximum transmission speed of around 10 Gbit/s), which is referred to as Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.
As you can see, it’s unreasonable to expect very high Wi-Fi speeds if you have an ancient wireless router. Similarly, it’s also unreasonable to expect high Wi-Fi speeds with a cutting-edge wireless router but old client devices that don't support the same modern specification for implementing WLAN computer communication.
If you know that your wireless router is past its primetime, you should consider upgrading to a newer model. While the other tips on how to fix slow Wi-Fi described in this article would be applicable even with a slow router, you might be wasting your time trying to implement them since the gains would likely be minuscule.
To determine whether your current wireless router is due for a replacement, we recommend you download and use NetSpot, a wireless network site survey application for Mac and Windows.
NetSpot will accurately measure wireless network speed, sending queries to random servers and calculating the time it takes for them to be sent and received. Using the obtained information, which includes upload rate, download rate, and wireless transmit rate, you can then decide whether your wireless router still has some life left in it.
Any Wi-Fi network is like an invisible party venue. When you’re on a Wi-Fi network alone, you can go wild and crazy and use it to its full capacity. When you invite just the right number of friends to join you, everyone can still have fun without bumping into one another too often. But when too many people come in, the network quickly becomes crowded and the options how to have fun become severely limited.
The total capacity of the invisible venue is determined mostly by your internet connection and the kind of specification for implementing WLAN computer communication you’re using. If you pay for fiber optic internet, you can naturally expect higher speeds than with a broadband internet services.
The problem with many Wi-Fi networks is that they are held at the same party venue as other networks. The Wi-Fi signal is transmitted on five distinct frequency ranges: 2.4 GHz, 3.6 GHz, 4.9 GHz, 5 GHz, and 5.9 GHz. Each of these five ranges is divided into several channels, with some channels overlapping others.
In practice, if your wireless router and your neighboring’s router both broadcast a Wi-Fi signal on the 2.4 GHz frequency band and the first Wi-Fi channel, it’s like two parties being held at the same party venue simultaneously.
Being a professional wireless analysis application, NetSpot can help you discover all nearby Wi-Fi networks and determine which of them might be interfering with your Wi-Fi network. In Discover Mode, NetSpot connects information about surrounding Wi-Fi networks and presents wireless data as an interactive table. NetSpot supports both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, making it effortless to locate the busiest and the least occupied channel.
Like any signal, the Wi-Fi signal has a limited range. There are several factors that influence how far from a wireless router a device can be and still have a good signal strength, and the router itself is one of them.
Low-end routers tend to have weaker, often internal, antennas that are not nearly as powerful as the antennas found on high-end wireless routers. What’s more, high-end routers support MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output) and MU-MIMO (multi user-multiple-input multiple-output), which are used for sending and receiving more than one data signal simultaneously over the same radio channel by exploiting multipath propagation.
MIMO and MU-MIMO are often used in conjunction with beamforming, a signal processing technique that allows for directional signal transmission or reception. In other words, a wireless router with support for beamforming can focus the signal to the device that needs it the most, which results in a longer transmission range and higher maximum transmission speeds.
Wi-Fi 6 introduced OFDMA (orthogonal frequency-division multiple access), a wireless frequency modulation technology that provides a significant boost in performance when data are transmitted simultaneously to and from multiple clients.
But even the most state-of-the-art router equipped with all the latest and greatest technologies is limited in terms of its range to a certain degree. And when solid obstacles and large metal appliances are thrown into the mix, the limitation can be quite severe.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to use NetSpot’s Survey Mode, which allows you to make a Wi-Fi signal strength visualization by walking, marking your position on the map, and giving NetSpot a few seconds to collect data samples.
To use it, simply open NetSpot and click the Survey button. Then upload or create a map of the area you wish to survey and let NetSpot guide you through the process. After you’re done, you will know exactly what the range of your wireless router is and how to fix slow Wi-Fi.
Dealing with Wi-Fi slowdowns is never fun, but there are many things you can do to improve the performance of your network. We recommend you go through the following steps in the order they’re written because you always want to try the most expensive and time-consuming solutions last:
Before you go any further, you should determine if the slowdown is caused by a local problem or your internet service provider. You can do that by running an internet speed test app like NetSpot on your Android and iOS device and comparing the results with the speeds advertised by your provider.
Modern routers are basically small computers with fairly complex operating systems that are guaranteed to contain more or less serious bugs capable of causing all kinds of performance problems. A simple router restart is often enough to leave the buggy state and resume normal operation.
It's always a good idea to find out which Wi-Fi channels are utilized the most in your area and avoid them. If you can find a non-overlapping Wi-Fi channel that’s not used by any other network, you can consider yourself lucky. If not, use the second least utilized non-overlapping channel available.
You can not expect your Wi-Fi network to perform great if your router is tucked away in some corner, far away from your devices. If you’re not sure where to place it, create a Wi-Fi signal heatmap first to gain better understanding of Wi-Fi coverage in your area.
Bandwidth hogs are like vampires, sucking out the blood from your poor Wi-Fi router. To keep human bandwidth hogs away from your router, use a strong password. To prevent malware from taking advantage of your internet connection, install a reliable antivirus solution.
Some routers are not powerful enough to support a large number of simultaneous connections. To ensure that all users can achieve reasonably fast speeds, you can limit the number of devices that can connect to the router at the same time.
A VPN can speed up your connection if there's some kind of obstruction on the path your data packets would normally travel. Essentially, it provides an alternative route that may come in handy if the route provided by your ISP suddenly start to take up too much time.
Sometimes, it’s simply not worth troubleshooting an old router that uses outdated wireless technologies and has very limited transmission power. Instead, buy a new one and instantly enjoy improved signal strength and faster download and upload speeds.
Besides replacing your existing router with a newer model, you can also fix slow Wi-Fi speeds by adding a Wi-Fi repeater or mesh system to your network. A repeater is great for extending your signal further in one direction, while a mesh system can cover multiple additional zones with a strong, seamless signal.
Wi-Fi slowdowns are among the most annoying problems internet users deal with on a regular basis. The good news is that learning how to fix slow Wi-Fi is seldom difficult, especially if you're familiar with the methods described in this article and equipped with a wireless network analyzer like NetSpot.
There are many different things you can do to make your Wi-Fi faster, including:
To fix slow Wi-Fi at home, you first need to figure out what causes it to perform so poorly. We recommend you use a Wi-Fi analyzer like NetSpot to determine your network’s configuration and coverage. Then, use the information provided by NetSpot and combine it with the tips from this article.
If your Wi-Fi network has suddenly become very slow, you might be dealing with the so-called bandwidth hog, a user or application that uses substantially more bandwidth than other users and applications on the same network. There’s also a chance that your ISP is experiencing issues, so take your time to analyze the problem and don’t jump to any conclusions.
You should start by determining why your Wi-Fi is performing poorly. For example, it's possible that your router is tucked away in a distant corner, or perhaps there's too much wireless interference in your area caused by other networks using the same Wi-Fi band and channel. Once you know the cause of your Wi-Fi issues, it's time to take the right steps to fix them, which could be as simple as moving your router to a better location or switching to a different channel.
If your Wi-Fi speed is considerably slower than the speed advertised by your internet service provider, then you can do the following to speed it up:
There are many causes of Wi-Fi slowdowns, including: