The Frustrations of Home WiFi and How to Fix Them

With all of our local telcos/ISPs beginning to offer numerous streaming content services that require fast internet, the little things that slow down your home WiFi network start to add up. There’s nothing more frustrating than buffering when you’re trying to enjoy your favorite music on Spotify or a Netflix binge, among other things. Slow internet also doesn’t help when you’re not just a content consumer, but a content creator as well on YouTube and other streaming sites.

Of course, it’s not entirely our ISP’s fault, especially if you have a home WiFi network. Their ability to deliver as-promised internet access speeds to your home plays a factor, but there’s a few things you can do to speed up your Netflix binges with a few tweaks to your home’s wireless network.

1. Your WiFi router is in a bad spot in the house

One of the most overlooked reasons your WiFi sucks is simply that your router’s been placed in a bad spot were the signal has to travel through to many walls, floors, and other obstacles. The laws of physics have to be obeyed after all.

You can use trial and error to find the best place to position your WiFi router, but the best thing to do is look for free heatmapping software to map your home’s signal coverage. From there, you can use this information to find an optimal location for your wireless access point.

And aside from walls, floors, and ceilings, other physical objects might be getting in the way of the signal as well. A sofa might not have as much impact as a steel filing cabinet, but every bit helps. So positioning your WiFi router higher than all these obstacles is a fairly good idea.

Only if this fails would I recommend getting a more powerful router or setting up a WiFi repeater or two. If you have a larger house, this might actually be an inevitable purchase.

2. You’re on a congested channel

You might not know this since a technician probably set your home WiFi network for you, but on the day that it’s set up, any good router will usually detect the least congested channel and makes it the default. There was a time when the only WiFi network my devices would detect was mine. Unfortunately, change is inevitable and the neighbors have begun to pop up with their own WiFi networks, some of which may have been configured to use the same channel as what I’m using. This might be an even bigger problem for you if you live in a condo. Again, you can use software to take the guesswork out of switching to a less crowded channel.

3. You’re getting interference

The problem with the 2.4GHz spectrum a lot of WiFi routers use is not only the fact that there’s a lot of wireless interference, not just from other WiFi networks near you, but devices like microwaves, cordless landlines, and baby monitors. Newer routers may have a dual-band capability, meaning they use both the 2.4GHz and less crowded 5GHz spectrum. Unfortunately, I don’t own a dual-band router, so in my case, limiting the frequency band to 20MHz would help boost the signal and limit dropouts.

4. You’re using old firmware/drivers

An often-neglected bit of network maintenance is the occasional update. Whether it’s your router’s firmware or your built-in WiFi adapter’s drivers, the updates manufacturers release help improve overall performance and security. Make it a habit to update your firmware and drivers regularly to keep your WiFi devices in tip-top shape even as time goes by.

5. Your WiFi router decides to go on power-saving mode

WiFi routers are generally always on 24/7 so some manufacturers try to take this into account and implement its eco-setting or power-saving modes into their offerings. Sure, you’re saving a few milliwatts, but the point of an always-on WiFi network is to be able to consistently access it at all times. So it’s a good idea to turn this feature off if you often have connectivity issues.

6. You’re sharing your WiFi network with bandwidth hogs

Streaming is popular, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, that means everyone in your household maybe into it in some form or another. I find my own connection slows to a crawl when my wife is binging on Orange is the New Black. The only solution to this is an awkward conversation and in my case, I’m more likely to be the one to compromise than the other way around.

7. You haven’t rebooted in a while

No, I’m not talking about your PC or smartphone. Your always-on router can benefit from the occasional reboot as well, allowing it to refresh itself and its connection. Just turn off your router, either via the power button or simply unplugging it. Wait about 10 seconds then plug it back in again. Better yet, some routers let you automatically do this every now and then.

8. Your WiFi router is too basic, weak, or just plain old

Most of us got our WiFi router from our respective ISPs and a lot of times they give us the most cost-effective (read: cheap) model they could find. That means it won’t likely come with a lot of features or support Wireless AC, which uses the 5GHz spectrum. There’s also a good chance you’ve stuck with the same ISP-issued router for several years now. I stuck with mine for roughly 5 years before it conked out and I had to ask for a replacement. Not a lot of folks have the know-how to buy and set up a new and more powerful router, but if you can, that’s great.

A lot of these are simple fixes, but I’m hoping that there will be an ultimate, long-term solution that can resolve intermittent internet connection in my home.

One thought on “The Frustrations of Home WiFi and How to Fix Them

  1. Well written piece and you are so right about cheap modems and being left with them too long by the service provider, when they would be obsolete in the retail market. I am a demanding PLDT customer and obtain a replacement every few years. I am always surprised at the improvement as the technolody moves on apace. There is limited demand for customer owned devices in the Philippines so choices are restricted too, outside of Metro Manila.

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