If you have a slow WiFi connection, and you have trouble getting a good WiFi signal in every part of your home, then you are not alone. This is a common issue that most people face. You get a strong signal closer to your Wi Fi router, and a weaker signal or a dead zone in rooms further away from the router.
You might be seeing a lower signal strength on the WiFi bar on your devices. You feel your internet connection is slower than expected, or file transfers over the Wi Fi connection are slow. So let us understand the reasons why WiFi is slow and how to boost WiFi Speeds by improving the effectiveness and reach of your existing WiFi router.
Before deep-diving into potential issues with your WiFi, it might be good to get some of the basic checks out of the way and eliminate them from consideration.
Check Internet Speed from ISP
The first thing to do would be to check the internet speed that you are getting from your ISP or Internet Service Provider. For that, it would be best to plug in your laptop or computer directly to your router using a wired network cable, and run an internet speed test using popular speed testing tools on the web like SpeedTest, or Fast. After running a speed test, If you are getting slow internet speeds, then you will need to change your ISP or upgrade to a faster internet plan. If the speed matches or is close to the speed from your broadband plan (and assuming you are on a plan that meets your needs), then you know the ISP is delivering the speed that it promises. On to the next one.
Rebooting Your Router
I know this sounds basic, but then again electronic devices running non-stop day and night can tend to develop some inherent degradation in performance. Nothing like a reboot, to freshen up those electronic circuits. I would also recommend checking for updates available for your network drivers or if there is a firmware update available for your router, and updating it to the latest version. After completing the driver or firmware update (if any) and rebooting your router, reconnect your devices and check your WiFi speed.
Check Bandwidth Usage
If you have multiple devices connected to your router, with each device actively using the WiFi at the same time with high bandwidth activities like video streaming or gaming, then the available bandwidth from your ISP may be insufficient to meet the demands resulting in slow WiFi speeds seen by connected devices. The solution for this would be to upgrade your broadband plan to meet your bandwidth needs, or alternatively, adjust the Quality of Service (QoS) settings in your router’s administration panel (more on this later in the article).
If you want to understand a little more about the basics of WiFi, you can read our article on WiFi Basics and FAQs before proceeding.
The Reasons for Slow WiFi
If you have completed the basic checks, and still have slow WiFi, then let us look at some of the other reasons why this happens. The most common reasons are:
- Physical obstructions in the path of the WiFi Signal – The reach of the RF (Radio Frequency) signal from the router is affected by physical obstructions in its path; mainly walls, trees, and furniture. They are further impacted by the number of physical obstructions and their density. For example, walls of wood, or dry walls have a lower density and interfere less; whereas concrete or steel walls are of higher density and have more impact on the signal trying to pass through. The further the room or location where you are trying to use WiFi-connected devices is from your WiFi router, the more obstructions or walls it needs to pass through, resulting in a poor WiFi connection
- Radio Frequency Interference – Every home has multiple electronic devices and many of them like Microwaves, cordless phones, wireless speakers, baby monitors, neighbors’ WiFi interfere with your WiFi signal. More so, if they are transmitting on the same frequency as your WiFi (usually 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bandwidth). The higher the interference with your WiFi signal, the weaker it gets, again resulting in a poor WiFi connection on connected devices on the network.
- Power Sources – Computers, lighting, fans, etc can also generate electrical interference if they are in close proximity to the wireless router.
- Older Router – If your router is based on older WiFi standards, or is a basic router provided by your ISP with the broadband connection, then it may not able to provide the high speeds that today’s devices and applications expect. It may be time to change your router and upgrade to a faster one based on newer WiFi standards.
How To Improve Your Slow WiFi Signal
Here are some of the recommended ways to improve the strength and reach of your WiFi signal and boost WiFi Speeds
Change the Location
- Set your router in a central location so that it can reach all rooms of your home/office. It will also reduce the number of physical obstacles that the WiFi signal will have to pass through; especially walls and other barriers. If you place it in one corner of your home/office, the WiFi signal will have to travel further and through more barriers to reach every room.
- Locate the router at a height, giving your router the best chance of avoiding obstacles that might interfere with its signal. This is also ideal if you are in a multi-story home; with WiFi needed on the upper floors.
- if your router has multiple antennas, then position them such that they are pointing in different directions, so as to improve the potential coverage area.
- If relocating the router to a central location is a challenge or if it doesn’t solve your issue due to the size of your home, then it might be time to consider installing a WiFi Repeater
Check out this useful video by Jason Cole below, which gives an excellent visual perspective on how a wireless signal emits from a router and gets distributed across your home or office, and the impact of obstructions like walls on the Wi Fi signal. If you are mathematically inclined, you can read his full article.
- You can reduce RF wireless signal interference by locating any devices or equipment like microwave ovens, cordless phones away from the WiFi router.
- Where possible, move your computer and other key devices using your wireless network closer to the router.
- Change channels of your 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band on your wireless network. This is typically available under the advanced section of the wireless menu on your routers administration page. Changing the channel will reduce overlap from other wireless devices using the same channel and minimize interference, and boost WiFi speeds seen on connecting devices.
Quality of Service (QoS)
Quality of Service is a feature that allows you to prioritize the traffic on your router. For example, if you are on frequent video calls, or watching HD movies, then you can adjust the QoS settings on your router to prioritize video streaming to ensure that you have uninterrupted and glitch-free video. By using QoS, you are ensuring your most critical activities are prioritized and getting the required bandwidth to operate efficiently. Please note that while adjusting the QoS might solve specific usage issues over your WiFi, it may not solve a broader WiFi speed issue that you may be facing in your home or office.
Upgrade the Router Or Add a WiFi Extender or Repeater
The above recommendations should help improve your WiFi signal and speed. It might either solve your WiFi speed issues or improve the WiFi signal in certain parts of your home/office.
If there is no significant difference in your WiFi signal, then it might be time to consider upgrading your router to a more powerful router. Alternatively, you can explore the option of using a WiFi Extender or Repeater, which can be placed between your existing Wireless router, and your devices, and act as a bridge, by generating a stronger WiFi signal closer to where your devices are located and boost WiFi speeds for all devices within its range.