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How to improve your Wi-Fi signal at home

A family at home uses devices connected to Wi-Fi.

October 6, 2022

If you’ve accumulated devices and gadgets that need wireless connectivity, you might wish you had a stronger home Wi-Fi signal.

Despite strides in coverage, you may still notice your Wi-Fi signal at home dropping off or grinding to a halt every now and then. 

With everything from laptops and phones to security systems and smart thermostats relying on home Wi-Fi, connectivity issues aren’t a big surprise. The question becomes this: What can you do to ensure you don’t lose your Wi-Fi signal when you’re on that video conference call while working from home?

You can take steps to help improve the strength and coverage of your Wi-Fi signal at home. This article includes tips on how to get the most from your home service. These steps include positioning your router for optimal performance, checking your router and software, extending your Wi-Fi coverage, boosting your Wi-Fi signal and speed, and in some cases using a mesh network.

Think about your router location

To start, Wi-Fi waves are a lot shorter than the ones used for radio and mobile phone data, so most routers can probably manage about 150 feet, while a radio mast can probably manage several miles.

In this vein, think about the size and shape of your home. Do you have a larger home that might make it challenging for a traditional, single router to reach all floors? Or do you have a less traditionally shaped home that makes it difficult for your router to reach all spaces?

If so, the first step could be moving your router to a more central location that helps your router reach more if not all the floors and spaces in your home.

If you still have a weak W-Fi signal, think about potential structural impediments. Is your router in the basement, low to or on the floor, stuck in a closet, or hiding behind a concrete wall? Many routers transmit downwards or horizontally rather than upwards, so it makes sense to place your router higher and toward the middle of your home, preferably out in the open, so access to your router isn’t blocked.

The next step is to look around to see if your router is close to any televisions, DVD players, microwaves, or other electronic devices that can dampen or block your Wi-Fi signal. Wi-Fi waves do not work well if their signal is blocked by metal objects.

Those places where computers or other devices can’t connect to your Wi-Fi network are known as dead zones. If you have dead zones, you should move your router, your computer or other device, or both.

Check your router and channel

Be sure to check your router. Is it an old router that needs to be replaced? Newer routers will have newer software, which often means better signal quality, speed, strength, reliability, and overall performance.

Part of this checklist includes noting the channel that you’re using. For example, if you’re in a populated neighborhood, are your neighbors on the same channel? It will be worth a look and a change to make sure your neighbors aren’t interfering with your signal connection.

Similarly, you also should check to make sure those neighbors aren’t piggybacking off your Wi-Fi. With that in mind, be sure that you’ve set up a strong password that protects your Wi-Fi network and your privacy.

Update router software

While you’re checking the router, be sure to check your router’s firmware as well. Just like any other software, your router software can contain flaws that could turn into major vulnerabilities unless they are quickly fixed by manufacturer firmware updates.

Installing the most recent software updates and security patches can immediately help to protect you against hackers trying to access your Wi-Fi network. Ensuring your router and its software are up to date will help keep your home Wi-Fi safe as well.

You also can check the privacy and security settings of your Wi-Fi network to make sure they’re giving you the greatest protection.

Try a Wi-Fi signal booster or extender 

If you find your Wi-Fi signal dropping off, one thing that can help is to boost or extend your signal. One way to compensate for a weak Wi-Fi signal is with a signal booster that essentially extends your Wi-Fi signal range. These range extenders will do just that — receive and extend the signal from your router to your devices. This involves rebroadcasting and could give you that extra boost you need. 

One thing to note about Wi-Fi range extenders is that they could be a simple and effective fix if you’re just concerned about losing Wi-Fi connectivity in a small dead zone — only one or two rooms. However, if you’re having connectivity problems and encountering dead zones throughout your home, you likely need something more expansive like a mesh router.  

Use a Wi-Fi mesh network

A mesh Wi-Fi system can help the strength and coverage of your Wi-Fi connectivity, and it can be even more effective than a range extender. Mesh networks can solve many of the problems of traditional Wi-Fi, where the router is the only link broadcasting the wireless signal between your modem and the devices throughout your home. The farther a device is from that one router, the greater the chance you won’t have a strong connection.

A mesh Wi-Fi system, on the other hand, can give you multiple access points. How does this work? The closest access point can act as a gateway, thereby allowing the other access points to rebroadcast the signal to each other.

This group coverage helps eliminate connectivity problems, ensuring access to and the strength of your wireless signal.

Why does Wi-Fi mesh give you a stronger wireless signal and faster internet speed? The nodes don’t have to be close to or rely on a single access point. Rather, these nodes act like little satellites, optimizing Wi-Fi coverage for all devices by allowing them to communicate with whichever node or access point works best.

Remember to maintain privacy and safety

No matter what route you take, always be sure to keep your Wi-Fi system and data safe. If left unprotected, your home Wi-Fi network could be left vulnerable to scammers, hackers, and other cybercriminals. This means that all the devices that connect to that network could be vulnerable.

Giving another nod to the mesh network are its safety features. If you have a smart home that’s filled with security cameras, thermostats, and other smart devices, a mesh system will have security features that can help protect these vulnerable devices from cyberattacks.

Depending on the setup of your home, another thing you can do is to use the Ethernet. This could not only avoid wireless issues but also be more secure.

Another good way to encrypt your information and keep it private both at home and in public is a virtual private network, or VPN. VPNs like Norton Secure VPN create a secure tunnel for any information you send or receive from your Mac, PC or mobile devices while connected to public Wi-Fi.

Takeaways to improve your Wi-Fi signal at home

What are the key takeaways from this Wi-Fi checklist? Think about the structure and set-up of your home, the number of smart devices you have, the level of Wi-Fi signal strength and coverage you need, and your router itself.

Taking a closer look at all these factors will help you decide what steps you need to take to ensure your Wi-Fi network at home is strong, safe, and secure.

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