I know, we've experienced this more than we ought to - the sudden network slowdowns caused by an inconsistent Wi-Fi connection. There are plenty of reasons your Wi-Fi keeps bogging down (at the most inopportune times too, it seems) - signal congestion, physical location, firmware issues, hardware limitations or maybe your space is just too big for your router coverage.
Flashback to a few years back, most households could get by with a basic single-band router that kept a handful of devices connected to the home network. With the explosion of personal gadgets, however, it's tough to find a home that doesn't have multiple devices connected to it. Smartphones, gaming consoles, tablets and laptops now compete for the same bandwidth enveloping your space.
If you're constantly losing your wireless signal, experiencing slow streaming video with constant buffering, or have to wait longer than usual for webpages to load, here are five ways you can try to help speed things up.
1. Update your router’s software
This should be your first order of business - checking for your router's latest firmware.
Checking for updates is a critical step to your computer, gadgets and installed software and applications.
The reason for this is two-fold. First, you can take advantage of all the new features and improvements of the new version of the firmware. Second, your system is updated for security.
Usually, you will have the option to check, review, download, and install your router's new firmware on its administration page. It depends on your router model, so check your user manual for detailed directions on how to do this.
Keep in mind, though, that router firmware updates require a restart so make sure you don't have ongoing activities that require a network connection when you apply the update.
And lastly, for peace of mind, it is recommended that you check for router firmware updates at least once every three months.
Tip within a tip: Not sure how to access your router's administrator settings? Click here for the easiest way to find your router's password and IP address.
2. Look for interferences
Did you know that common appliances like cordless phones, Bluetooth speakers, microwave ovens and baby monitors can impact your Wi-Fi network's speeds?
This is particularly true with older routers that can only operate on the 2.4GHz frequency and interference from other appliances can cause slowdowns and unpredictable connectivity.
Also, as much as possible, avoid placing your Wi-Fi router near 2.4GHz appliances like the ones I mentioned above.
To make your life easier, you can create an actual Wi-Fi "heat" map of your area using free tools like HeatMapper. Wi-fi mappers like this helps you see where Wi-Fi signals are strongest in your home or office.
3. Change channels
The next tweak you could do is select the channel of your router, especially if you're on the 2.4GHz frequency.
As I mentioned earlier, the 2.4GHz frequency is particularly congested because, aside from other Wi-Fi routers in your vicinity, other appliances occupy this band. Moving from one channel to a less crowded one may help speed things up.
To check the optimum 2.4GHz channel for your area or the least used channel, try using a Wi-Fi scanner.
For Macs, Apple provides a free tool called "Wireless Diagnostics." To get to it, hold the Option key while clicking on the Wi-Fi icon on the right-hand side of the menu bar, then choose "Open Wireless Diagnostics."
To access the Scan tool, ignore the actual Wireless Diagnostics window then immediately go to the Window tab on the top left side of the menu bar then choose Scan.
This will open a list of all the Wi-Fi signals in your vicinity and the channel they occupy, among other useful information.
For Windows, try downloading the free Wi-Fi utility, 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 utilize.
For Android users, there are a bunch of Wi-Fi scanning tools available, but the most 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, since they don't overlap with each other. Just choose the one among these that is least crowded then evaluate your improvements.