Easy Ways to Extend Your Wi-Fi Range

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There are times you freak out because your internet connection is just too slow. Nowadays, being online is crucial, at least for most of us, and the inability to download, surf or stream immediately ticks our patience. Your mobile data occasionally saves you from a bad internet speed, but your mobile plan has a cap. Hence, the only way for you to enjoy the liberties of being online is through a Wi-Fi router. Not that a router works as it should all the time, does it?

It is not rare you encounter connection problems while using a Wi-Fi router. You can only go for a certain distance to utilize its power. It’s a commonly known fact that a single router cannot cover the entire area of a big space. Walls or any physical dividers also impair the traveling speed of Wi-Fi signals. Not only these, but interference adversely affects your surfing experience as well. Have you noticed how sluggish is the internet connection in public places as compared to your home? Yes, the crowd density also slows down Wi-Fi speed. Mobile devices also induce some form of interference through their respective network signals.

Assuming you live in a neighborhood and your connection speed is still sluggish, keep in mind that unwanted users may be riding on your Wi-Fi router. You can view your router’s administration to see the number of devices connected. A network analyzer also helps the same way as your router administration. Simply set a strong password to prevent unwanted users. There are other reasons why your router is performing below optimal levels. Hence, Gizmo Snack hands these tips to enhance your surfing experience. You can do most of these for free, as they are DIY techniques.

Place Your Router in Optimal Places

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The optimal location of your router depends on whether you use a wired or wireless one. Some put routers inside their cabinets, so they won’t serve as obstructions. Others place them beside windows, or near cables. However, this doesn’t work all the time. You might have compromised your internet speed for placing these out of your sight. You must also remember that nearby heavy-duty and electronic gizmos affect your surfing experience.

In case of wired routers, you can place them wherever it pleases you. This is because they use cables to transmit data. The same cannot be said with wireless routers, though. These ones have to be set in open places, for a stronger mobile signal. As stated earlier, walls and other obstructions affect internet connections – wireless routers are most affected in this case. Orient routers vertically, if they have external antennas. You may also elevate them, by mounting them on a wall, or putting them on the top of a shelf.

There is also software to help you in determining the strong and weak points of your network coverage. However, this should be your last resort, because router analytical software may be expensive for your taste.

Change Your Router

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Before we proceed with the next tips, check whether your router is already an old model screaming for replacement. You will not get your network provider’s optimal performance if that is the case. Unfortunately, technological obsolescence renders old devices to wobble when new updates arrive. This logic applies as to why you cannot use your iPhone 4s to download the newest apps in Apple Store anymore. In case of Wi-Fi routers, the one you bought about five years ago is on the 802.11 g standard. This can only catch up to 54 Mbps, which has a lower bandwidth than most recent models today. The 802.11 g Wi-Fi router pales in comparison to the 802.11n (300 mbps) and the latest 802.11ac (1Gps). Hence, the rule “don’t replace it when it’s not broken” does not apply with these gizmos.

It is not only the Wi-Fi router you will have to consider, but the age of your PC as well. You are lucky enough if it has 802.11ac or 802.11n adapter. Nonetheless, buying a USB adapter is possible, if your unit does not have USB ports. This wireless counterpart even provides faster connections than the built-in ones. This is helpful for users who have 802.11ac adapters but are still experiencing subpar internet speeds.

Replace Your Antenna

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Adding an external antenna to your router gives a stronger boost to your Wi-Fi connection. Thankfully, router manufacturers installed built-in omnidirectional antennas. This means it sends signals in all directions. Buy a high gain one to amplify the strength of its built-in counterpart. Point the antenna to where the spot is weak and it will broadcast the signal accordingly.

The type of antenna you choose depends on your daily routine. Directional antennas are perfect if you go from one place to another regularly. Omnidirectional ones are enough if you are just going to surf in a large house. On the other hand, the Point to Point system allows your router to share its connection between two buildings. People at the receiving point can access the internet even in a relatively far place, as long as the antennas are configured. A more powerful variant of Point to Point system is dubbed as Point to Multi-Point Antenna. It allows a single router to distribute signal to various places. This one is used in large areas, like airports, malls and other public places.

The best advice is to buy antennas which features you think are overkill, especially with Point to Multi-Point System. Nonetheless, a home (or simple omnidirectional) antenna is enough for casual internet users. External antennas also provide less signal strength outside their range (your home for example). This makes your router less susceptible to cracking.

Avoid Interference

Microwave ovens and other appliances slow down your router's ability to transmit signals.
Microwave ovens and other appliances slow down your router’s ability to transmit signals.

As stated earlier, physical structures are not the only ones that slow down your Wi-Fi connection. Nearby routers and some appliances also cause interference. For the first reason, it may be because they also use the same channel yours use. Household items, like cordless phones, baby monitors and microwave ovens, induce strong interference. There are instances where microwave ovens completely cut-off signals transmitted by routers. Make sure the oven has good shielding before you place these two near each other.

For cordless phones and baby monitors, this issue can be easily resolved by buying ones that have different frequency from your routers. Buy a 900 MHz or 1.9 GHz cordless phone instead of a 2.4 GHz which is also used by most Wi-Fi routers. Or, you should use a 5GHz router, if you do not want to replace your existing gizmos. That action does not only avoid interference, but also ensures only few users are having this model.

Are you on a tight budget at the moment? Simply put these devices away from your router. Put large furniture in the exterior walls of your home. Signal won’t have to pass through these obstacles on that way. That’s it – your problem is solved.

Set Control Quality

Every application eats a portion of your bandwidth.
Every application eats a portion of your bandwidth.

Everyone experienced a buggy connection at some point, thanks to a user who downloads large files. Thankfully, you can control the amount of bandwidth an application uses, with Quality-of-Service (QoS), available in most routers today. You may sort applications and services according to their priority. You can also set downloaders in a much lower priority, at your preferred time. This comes indispensable for those of you who use the internet for making calls or video streaming. You would not want to have the quality of your connection hampered, just because someone is downloading an application.

The QoS is normally found in the advanced settings of your router. However, this can take a while if you want to carefully rank the applications for a share of your bandwidth. It is worth the time though, because it works wonders once you’re done. More modern router models simplify the filing process by offering a multimedia or gaming-styled setting.

Buy a Wireless Extender

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Distance is the main reason why you get weak signals from your router. After all, this gizmo only optimally works given a certain radius. There are times your wireless network covers a larger area than the router’s range. Therefore, you might need a Wi-Fi extender to boost the signal. It works by putting this between your router and the area where your connection starts to weaken.

Wi-Fi extenders copy the signal of your original router, without the need of cables. There are two types of this product – a dedicated extender and a wireless distribution system. The latter works similar to a Point to Point antenna where two buildings can be connected using the same network. Nonetheless, wireless distribution systems are hard to set up. A dedicated extender is easier to use, because it is connected just like any other wireless device. This means you have two different routers which give you a wider coverage area. Just make sure these networks do not overlap with each other. If you do not want Wi-Fi extenders, simply use another router to extend your range. This can be more complicated to do, though.

Lastly, it is not imperative that you buy the same Wi-Fi extender for your router. Just check the compatibility as regards the bandwidth. You cannot use an 802.11n extender to an 802.11ac router.

Take a Look at the Router’s Channel

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All modern routers support multiple channels, yet are designated with a single one per model. However, there are times people in your area use the same channel. This hampers the internet connection of everyone in the vicinity. On computers using Windows, you might see the available channels in your area. Go to Command prompt and type netsh wlan show all. For others, you may download scanner utilities to help you in searching channels. You may buy a scanning software on the internet, but Nirsoft’s WifiInfoView is available for free. Most commonly used channels are 1, 6 and 11, so avoid choosing these and pick one that is less congested. You have to manually change channels in your network. To do this, go to your settings, under wireless network’s administrator interface. The layout depends on the model you are using, but the main idea on how to change channels is there.

Alter Your Router

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Do you want some adventure? If so, you may manipulate the system of your router via third party applications. The open source DD-WRT router operating system is ready-to-install in Buffalo, Linksys, Netgear and D-Link. Just download and install this to your router, if that does not fall with the models above. It is compatible with all WLAN standards and with over 200 models. If you think the interface looks a little bit like Linux, you are probably right, since this is based on the said OS.

DD-WRT amplifies your signal strength and gives you access to more advanced networking settings. You also get a uniform interface while you enjoy the freedom of customizing your settings more than you did before. An online community is also available to answer your concerns. A Wiki page is also kept to guide a new DD-WRT user. Don’t be concerned with the fact that it can be hard to remove, because it is worth keeping if you want to make use of your router’s full potential. Plus, it is entirely free for private use. A professional version allows for more flexible customization of WLAN and special features tailored to users’ needs.

Do this DIY Technique

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Assuming you lack the IT skills to run DD-WRT, you may also work some DIY techniques, using household items. It only takes a tin foil to do the trick. Fold this in a parabolic shape and create some holes for putting the antenna in. Some users were able to boost the signal by 5 to 15 percent. You may monitor the changes by checking the Network and Sharing Center of your computer. While the result is not totally mind-blowing, this method does not need a rocket scientist to give results. You may also use a beer can or any other malleable material made from aluminum.

The mechanism goes as follows: metallic surfaces reflect Wi-Fi signal and you’re generally advised not to put your router near these. However, you may also use this to your favor, by placing these in your antenna. This will amplify your signal a bit farther from its range.

Have you tried any of these techniques? Voice your thoughts in the comments!

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