Here’s how to get Wi-Fi humming when you have multiple devices on your home network.
Marc Saltzman, special for USA TODAY
Is buffering getting in the way of your binging? Kids blaming laggy Internet for losing online games? Wish your iPad could connect while curling up with an ebook in bed?
Good news: You have a few options to improve the speed, range, and overall performance of your wireless network.
The following tips and tricks should also help if you have multiple Wi-Fi devices on your network at the same time — such as a computer, printer, smartphone, tablet, Smart TV, video game console, multi-room sound system, and smart home gadgets.
It starts with your ISP
You could have the fastest router in the world, but it won’t be useful if you aren’t getting fast speeds from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Budget permitting, ensure you’re getting the fastest speeds offered by your ISP – especially if you like to stream video, play online games, and have multiple simultaneous devices on the network. Usually, the more you pay, the faster the download and upload speeds, and the more data you’re allowed to use per month (unlimited is the way to go if your ISP offers it).
If it’s been a few years since you’ve upgraded the modem you rent or bought from your ISP, confirm with them it’s the best they got.
Location, location, location
The next step is to ensure your router, which gives you your wireless Internet, is in an optimal spot in your home.
Keep it on the main or top floor and close to the center of the house for optimum reach. Refrain from keeping your router in the basement, if you have one, as it’ll be tough for devices elsewhere in the home to communicate with it. On a related note, don’t shove the router in a corner of a home, or locked away in a cabinet, because you don’t like the way it looks. Instead, keep it out in the open for maximum reach in and around your home. Make sure it’s off the floor and on a desk or bookshelf.
Also, keep your wireless router up to date with the latest downloadable firmware.
Newer routers, consider MESH
According to a recent IDC survey, nearly half the people surveyed use routers that are at least 12 years old. Yikes.
If it’s been a few years since you’ve upgraded your router, consider picking up a new one – with 802.11ac speeds instead of the older 802.11n — as it’s not only faster but covers a wider area and supports more simultaneous devices. For maximum impact, your devices, such as a laptop, should also support the newer speeds.
Often a number is associated with the router, such as an AC3200 router, which is faster than an AC1900 router, for example (the higher the number, the better).
Those in a larger home (or older home, with, say, concrete walls) might consider a MESH network, which is a more advance router, and includes multiple “bases” or “hubs” – wireless extenders, if you will — to place around the home. These devices all wirelessly communicate back with the router to blanket a broader space, and with faster and more reliable Wi-Fi.
Today’s Wi-Fi routers broadcast in two different frequencies: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Figuring out the best one for your situation can improve your network’s reach, speed, and reliability.
Devices on the 5 GHz frequency minimizes interference among devices also operating on the 2.4Hz frequency in the home, such as microwaves, baby monitors, and cordless phones. While the 2.4GHz frequency is able to reach farther distances than the 5GHz frequency, devices connected to the 5Hz frequency operate at faster speeds.
When joining your devices to your router (required once), you can choose which frequency you prefer.
Especially now that routers have a broader range than ever before, it’s critical to have a password on your home’s Wi-Fi connection. You don’t need a degree in computer engineering to add a good password. If unsure, contact your ISP for help.
Neighbors who secretly use your wireless network get a free ride, which can also slow down your Internet performance. What’s more, you might be liable if nearby web surfers download illegal content, such as pirated movies, from your Internet connection. A password also minimizes the chances of someone hacking into your computer and access your personal info.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. E-mail him at www.marcsaltzman.com.
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