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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in many ways, with people working from home and students attending classes online. Because so many people are home at once, we’re all making more video calls, streaming more video and playing more games, putting a lot of strain on our internet connections. If you’re finding that things have slowed down, use the following tips to boost your WiFi signal.
Start by checking to see if your WiFi is actually the problem. If you have a laptop with an Ethernet port, plug this directly into your router and run a speed tester—Ookla’s Speedtest is a popular one. If you don’t have an Ethernet port or cable, then carrying out the test on a device right next to your router is the next best thing. If you’re still getting slow speeds, then the problem is with your broadband service, not the WiFi.
For all other speed tests, make sure you’re testing it out from different rooms in your home when you connect to the internet.
Using a cable to connect to the internet might sound a bit old-fashioned, but it still gives you the fastest, most reliable connection.
If you do need to boost your WiFi signal, the simplest place to start is to adjust your router position. You want it as far away from walls and other electronic devices as possible. Usually, a higher position is better than a lower one. You may have limited options, but even moving it a foot or so can help a lot.
Experiment to see which position gives the best signal when you’re in your usual place. While you’re at it, if there are flip-up antennae, make sure these are upright.
Using a cable to connect to the internet might sound a bit old-fashioned, but it still gives you the fastest, most reliable connection. If you’re using a laptop with an Ethernet port and your desk is close enough to connect a cable to your router, this can be a very simple solution.
If your laptop or tablet doesn’t have an Ethernet port, you can get USB adapters and then connect through a USB port. Just make sure you buy the right type of USB adapter. If you have a rather new device with small, oval ports, you want USB-C; if you have an older one with larger, rectangular ports, you want USB-A.
The next thing to check is a bit technical: You want to know which frequency band your router is using.
Take a look at the name of your WiFi connection. It may say either 5GHz or 2.4GHz after it on your device, and if you have the option to switch to the other one, hop onto a different frequency and do the speed test again. The 5GHz band offers faster speeds, but 2.4GHz has longer range; therefore, the best option for you may vary.
Another thing to try changing is the WiFi channel. The steps are different with every provider. If you have a tech-savvy friend or family member, they may be able to do it for you, otherwise if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provided it, you might need them to talk you through it. It’s best if you have a laptop or tablet in front of you when you call them.
If you’ve had your broadband service a long time, you may have a very old WiFi router. A newer model will often give you a much better connection. Ask your ISP if they can swap it out for you. If they say no, ask if there is a better antenna available for it.
Alternatively, you could buy your own router; however, your ISP won’t help you repair or replace it if any issues arise.
If nothing else has worked and you’re willing to spend $20-40 to fix the problem, the next option is a range extender. These plug into an electrical outlet in part of the home which has a poor signal. You might have your router downstairs, and plug in a range extender upstairs. Or, if your router is at one end of your home, you might plug in a range extender toward the other end of the home. One drawback is that you might need to connect to a different WiFi name depending on where you are in your home, as the extender will have its own SSID (SSID is the technical term for your network name).
A much better option than a range extender, but considerably more expensive, is a mesh WiFi system. You typically get either two or three units to scatter throughout your home. They all communicate with each other and work together to blanket your home in WiFi.
If the free fixes don’t work, and you don’t want to spend money on extra kit, then it might be time to consider a new internet provider. Find Your Internet can help you find the fastest and cheapest deals available in your area. These cover both standalone internet service and bundles with TV and phone plans. You’ll be streaming your favorite shows while a family member hops on a conference call in no time!