More and more people are being forced to work from home these days, and that means that the Wi-Fi networks in your home are more important today than ever. And let’s be honest: we already have enough reasons to be stressed. The last thing you want right now is having to deal with a Wi-Fi signal that’s not up to scratch.
Fortunately, you have options. Even if you don’t know much about your router configuration or the best way to modify it, there are some easy steps you can take to make sure your speeds are as fast as possible. Because, as we well know, there is no better time than a pandemic to learn new tricks, right?
Read more: The best Wi-Fi routers of 2020
Take speed tests
If you want to make changes to your home network, we recommend that you do so in an informed manner. And the best way to do this is to do some speed tests to get a good idea of the weak points of your Wi-Fi connection. Fortunately, there are many free services on the web that can help you with this.
Among the available options, the service Ookla Speedtest It is the most used and with which I would recommend you start. It has a large number of servers around the world, allowing you to choose between several geographically close options to measure the speed of your connection. And, like most speed tests, it’s very easy to use: just click the big button that says “go” and wait about a minute.
How to make your Wi-Fi connection faster [fotos]
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After this time, you will see the current upload and download speeds for any device where you are doing the speed test, as well as the ping, which is a measure of latency, that is, how long it takes for the data to travel to and from the server you are testing with. Focus on the download and upload speeds first: do a couple of tests at various places in your home where you go to work and calculate the average to get an idea of how your speeds are. If you see download speeds that are less than half of what your Internet plan offers, or if your upload speeds are considerably lower than download speeds, this may be a place where things should be improved.
When it comes to latency, you shouldn’t worry too much about it, unless you have many devices connected to your network, or if you share bandwidth with family or roommates. In that case, do some tests while your roommate makes a FaceTime video call or while your children play Fortnite: That will give you a good idea of how their activity could be affecting your speed. If the ping number seems to be firing, the best recommendation is to separate that side traffic from yours. We return to this topic below.
Check the essentials
If you can work near your router, then a wired Ethernet connection to your computer is the best way to ensure you get the fastest speeds. But if you don’t have that option, you may need to work in a room where the Wi-Fi signal is not as strong as you need. This happens when you are too far from the router, or when there are too many walls or other obstacles separating you from it.
But, before buying something, the first thing you should do is change the location of your router to make the connection stronger. For best possible results, place it in an open location, ideally as high as possible. If your model allows you to change the position of the antennas, try doing it too. Sometimes sandwiching them at various angles is all that is required to increase your speed.
There is one last thing you should check before buying something: your router channel. The 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands that your router uses to send its signals are divided into multiple channels, similar to the TV channels that you can capture with an antenna. Your router uses only one channel at a time, and if you are using the same channel as your neighbor, for example, that interference could slow down your connection.
To change the channel, enter your router settings from your computer. The best options are channels 1, 6 and 11, which do not overlap each other, but it is also possible that your router has an “automatic” configuration that is responsible for determining the best channel for your situation.
Extend your range (or upgrade your router)
If none of the above works, it might be time for you to do a hardware upgrade. Plug range extenders are a good choice, and you have several inexpensive models. It is best to choose one from the same company that manufactured your router. It doesn’t have to be incredibly fast, most of them are not, but as long as you keep your speeds above 50 Mbps or more, you should be able to use the web normally, including video calls.
I will be testing the new range extender models in the coming weeks and soon I will have more information on which ones work best. When this happens, I will update this post with some recommendations.
Another option is to update your router completely. If your main concern is signal range, you can put multi-point mesh routers at the top of your list, which come with satellite devices that extend their range. There are many and varied options to choose from, and we have already tested and reviewed several of the newest systems on the market. Among them, I like the Asus ZenWiFi AX $ 450, which obtained the best results. Other equally robust, but less expensive, alternatives available are the Nest Wifi, the Eero and the version Netgear Orbi AC1200.
If you don’t need a mesh router and all you want is something fast, simple and affordable, the D-Link DIR-867 is an excellent option, and my choice as the best value for money among standalone routers (i.e. , without satellite devices). You can find it around US $ 100 in Amazon.
Prioritize your work traffic
Let’s go back to that scenario where your children have returned from school and are at home watching Disney plus and playing Fornite while you try to work. There are a couple of things you can do to prevent their Internet traffic from affecting yours.
The first, and easiest, is to make sure that you are using different frequency bands. Most routers operate on the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands, and many divide those bands into two separate networks that you can connect to. The 5 GHz band is faster, while the 2.4 GHz band offers better range. If you target one of those two gangs only for work-related traffic, you’ll have a much better experience than sharing a gang with your family or roommates.
Most routers also allow you to create an optional guest network, sometimes with maximum speed settings, which can help prevent your children from consuming too much bandwidth. Some will even allow you to set a schedule for the network, in case you want to completely cut access at certain times. Similarly, your router may allow you to program access for specific devices or groups of devices.
Another feature worth looking for is quality of service, which allows some routers to prioritize traffic to specific devices or for specific purposes. For example, Netgear’s Nighthawk RAX120 lets you specify that video calls have a higher priority than video game bandwidth. If you have these options on your router, they are worth experimenting with.