We've all been there: Every gadget at home is running smoothly and we're streaming without a hitch. Suddenly, the dreaded digital slow down and then, the mental meltdown occurs.
There are plenty of reasons your Wi-Fi acts up including signal congestion, bandwidth issues, and hardware limitations. The truth is, most households and offices can't get away with a basic single-band router anymore. Personal devices have started to stretch available bandwidth, and each smartphone, tablet, television, desktop, gaming console, smart appliance, and laptop is competing for the same signal.
Whatever your Wi-Fi hiccups, here are surefire ways to speed things up.
1. Update your router's software
Most people routinely update their apps and operating systems, but they forget about their router's firmware. The advantages are twofold: You may make your Wi-Fi more efficient and also protect yourself from newly discovered security breaches.
Using your web browser, type in your router's IP address to visit your router's administrator page and check for updates. You will have to enter a username and password to log in. Crazy, but router default passwords are readily available online. Click here for the link you need to find just about any router's username and password.
Fing is a network tool that you should have in your tech arsenal even if you know your router's IP address. Sure, you'll learn your router's IP address but you can also see all devices connected to your network, check your internet connectivity, monitor the network and detect intruders. Click here for more information and the links you need for both Apple and Android devices.
Be sure to restart your router once the update is complete for the changes to take effect. Set an appointment in your calendar to check for router firmware updates every three months. We probably won't have to do this task much longer. Some newer routers update themselves without owners having to do a thing.
2. Look for interferences
You might be surprised by what kinds of household devices can affect your Wi-Fi speeds. Cordless phones are obvious. But what about microwave ovens? Did you ever suspect that a baby monitor could slow down your videos on Facebook?
This is particularly true for older routers running on a 2.4GHz frequency. This is the same frequency that many household appliances run on, so the signals tend to overlap. The easiest way to fix this problem is to move your router away from other 2.4GHz devices, or just upgrade your hardware.
If you're feeling ambitious, create a Wi-Fi "heat map," which can help you see where Wi-Fi signals are strongest (and weakest). Click here for a free program that will diagram the signals in your home or office.
3. Change channels
Another common tweak is to change the channel of your router. Again, this step is most helpful when you're running on a 2.4GHz frequency because these can get congested with other appliances. Moving from one channel to a less crowded one may speed things up.
How do you do this? The process is slightly different for Macs and PCs.
Apple provides a free tool called "Wireless Diagnostics." To use it, hold the Option key while clicking on the Wi-Fi icon on the top right-hand side of the menu bar and then choose "Open Wireless Diagnostics."
To access the Scan tool, ignore the actual Wireless Diagnostics window. Immediately go to the Window tab on the top left side of the menu bar and choose Scan.
You'll see a list of the Wi-Fi signals in your vicinity and the channel they occupy, among other useful information.
For Windows, download a free Wi-Fi utility called Acrylic Wi-Fi Home. Similar to the Mac's Scan tool, this application will instantly give you information about the Wi-Fi signals in your area, including the channels they occupy.
For Android users, there are a bunch of Wi-Fi scanning tools available, but a very popular one is Network Analyzer. Click here for more details and download information.
Once you have the channel info you need, to prevent trampling on other channels, the recommended channels for 2.4GHz are 1, 6 and 11, which don't overlap with each other.