Is your connection slow? If so, the problem could be your wireless router. There are a few things you can change about your router that can significantly increase your speed—here are the most important ones:
Internet Connection Speed
Before you mess around with your router, make sure your Internet connection can support faster speeds. Most Internet connections are measured in MegaBits Per Second (Mbps). Use any online bandwidth testing tool to get the current speed of your connection and then compare it against the advertised speed your connection should have. If you get about 50% of the advertised speed or faster, then making your router faster probably won’t significantly boost your online speed.
Almost all the ways to boost the speed of your wireless router come down to increasing your signal strength. The stronger the signal strength, the more data can be sent on the same connection, increasing your bandwidth.
The easiest way to increase your signal strength is to put your wireless devices near your router with nothing but air between them and your router. Of course, if all you’re going to do is keep your devices next to your router, there’s not really any point in having a wireless router—you could use wired ethernet for your laptops and desktops to enjoy gigabit speeds.
Realistically, your goal should be to find the location in your home or office which is closest to the places where you commonly use your wireless devices. Many homes have a kitchen or dining room centrally located, so this is often the best room to install your router.
If you have a large home, consider using wireless range extenders. Alternatively, you can use a directional antenna to allow you to aim your wireless router at the location where you always use your wireless devices—you can buy standard wireless directional antennas online or make one yourself out of a Pringles potato chip can.
When placing your router, mentally draw a straight line from your router to where you plan to use your wireless devices, and try to place your router in a location with the fewest possible obstacles on that straight line. If there are obstacles, try to avoid thick and metallic obstacles. For example, if the straight line goes through your refrigerator, you’ll probably get bad signal strength. If the line goes through an interior wall, that’s a bit better.
If you look at professionally-installed routers in businesses, you’ll see that they’re almost always attached to the ceiling. That may not be possible in your home or small office, but often putting a router on a top closet shelf or other high point will eliminate many obstacles to that imaginary straight line. This is just one simple way to tweak settings to increase speeds.
Some routers include power settings, and often they’re set by default to less than full power. This makes sense on some routers—such as portable wifi hotspot routers which are often powered by batteries. But for a home or office router which is powered by wall-socket power, you will want to go to your router configuration screen and increase the power to maximum. This will boost signal strength.
You may also want to check the settings for your wireless devices to make sure they broadcast at full power. Often you can’t change their settings, as mobile devices are designed to use the minimal amount of power when they’re running on battery. However, it won’t hurt to at least check your wireless configuration settings. (But note that using full power will drain your battery substantially faster.)
Disconnect Other Devices
Your wireless router can only broadcast to one device at a time for each antenna it has. (Most wireless-n routers have either one or two antennas.) It can also only receive from one device at at time for each antenna it has. That means the more devices you currently have using wireless, the less bandwidth your router has available for the device you’re currently using.
Inactive devices shouldn’t be using much bandwidth, so there’s no reason for regular users to disconnect them under normal circumstances, but if you really want to boost your wireless speed to the maximum, you should set each wireless device in your home or office to disconnect after a few minutes of inactivity. Most devices can reconnect within seconds once they become active again, so this doesn’t make those devices harder to use.
Also, if you have a desktop computer or set-top box that never moves and has an ethernet (LAN) connection, you may want to consider having it connect to to your router using an ethernet cord. These connections are fast and don’t take away from your wireless bandwidth, making them win/win in boosting your wireless speed and also the speed available to your desktop computer or set-top box.
Use Wireless-N Exclusively
The final thing you can do to boost speed is to set your router to only use the wireless-n wifi protocol. This protocol has been supported by all new devices for several years and it’s several times faster than older wireless protocols (802.11 a/b/g).
The downside of setting your router to only wireless-n is that older devices that only support 802.11 a/b/g will no longer be able to connect to your router. For this reason, you definitely want to test all of your devices to make sure they’re compatible. Although you can read each device’s technical specifications, I simply suggest you set your router to wireless-n only and then test each device separately.
(If you often have guests over, you will probably want to skip this step as many people have older devices that only support 802.11 a/b/g.)
Increasing the speed of your wireless router is almost all about boosting signal strength. Remember to keep devices near your router when possible and to avoid obstacles. If you can do that, you’ll easily maximize your wireless speed and ensure you get your data as fast as possible.