How to ...boost your wifi signal

Wifi black spots? Poor signal? These tips may help

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

Wireless internet access is both the biggest convenience and - for some of us at least - the biggest bane of our lives. That’s usually because there are areas in your home where your wifi signal either doesn’t seem to reach or performs so poorly it may as well not bother.

Your home doesn’t have be a palatial residence with more rooms than people, or an old house with thick walls to hamper your home internet access; new builds and small apartments are just as susceptible to wifi black spots as older, larger buildings. And it’s just as annoying to find you can’t access your wifi from all areas of your home.

Sure, the closer you are to your modem the better, as wifi signals obviously have a limit on range - typically around 32 metres - and that is affected by things like thick walls, steel and and interference from other devices.

But there are some things you can do. You can seek advice from your provider, who may be able to shed some light on the matter, but here are some things you can do in the meantime.

Move your wifi hub:

It may sound simple but moving your wifi hub can have a big impact on your signal quality. In our old set up, we had our combined modem and wifi router located right next to where the connection point was - tucked behind the TV and out of sight. Unfortunately, it also meant there was a lot of interference from the equipment around it, and it was right in against the wall.

Put simply, wifi equipment does better in an open space, near the centre of your house if possible. That means not tucked away in a corner, like we had it, or inside a TV unit, or beside walls or other obstructions. Baby monitors, phones, TVs - they can all negatively affect your signal. If possible, put it somewhere a bit more central, and away from other electronic equipment. It can make a huge difference to your signal quality.

Change the channel:

Your wifi hub has channels that you can change through your router’s admin settings, usually accessed by typing 192.168.0.1 into the address bar on your web browser. You can change the channel on your wifi until your find one that works best for you - ie not the default one all your neighbours are probably on too.

Change frequency:

Most modern wfi hubs will offer 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands, and use them simultaneously, so there’s a chance you’ve connected to both in the past without noticing. The 2.4Ghz band is by far the most commonly used. It has a longer range and it’s compatible with more products that its 5Ghz counterpart. But that means it can also become more congested and prone to interference. If you switch to the 5Ghz channel, that should eliminate some of the interference, and also give you faster speeds.

Two things to remember though: not all wifi hubs will have 5Ghz capability, and not all devices will connect to the 5Ghz frequency - for example, some wifi enabled home appliances will only connect to 2.4Ghz - so you may find one or two devices that won’t work with it.

You can also try switching the security on your device to WPA2, from WEP or WPA. Aside from being more secure than WEP, it can also speed things up.

Wifi range extenders:

If the free tweaks aren’t solving the problem, it might be time to invest in some extra hardware.

Range extenders link in with your existing wifi network and rebroadcast the signal around your home. Getting the set up right can be a bit of trial and error - you need the extenders to be close enough to our wifi hub to pick up the signal but far enough away that they will rebroadcast and cover the areas you need.

We found a more convenient solution was a powerline kit. This uses the electrical wiring in your home to extend your broadband signal to another part of the house. You plug one part into your wifi hub, and place a second plug in the area you want your wifi to reach. They can cost from €40 to €70 or more.

Upgrade your equipment:

How old is your wifi equipment? And how about the devices you are trying to connect? Devices that use 802.11n or 802.11ac will be faster than 802.11a, b or g.

If your hub was supplied by your broadband provider, it might be worth putting in a call to see if they will offer you a new one to take advantage of both their inevitable speed increases in the past few years and the latest wifi technology.

But there’s no point in having the latest wifi standards in your hub if your computer is still running older, slower wifi technology. That may be more of an investment than you’d like to make.