How to create a faster, do-it-yourself wi-fi network

How to create a faster, do-it-yourself wi-fi network
April 25, 2016  |  BY

A lot of us assume that the wi-fi we pay for is the best we can get. If the service provider tells us it’s the fastest they offer, we accept it on face value. But what we believe about service providers isn’t always the truth.

These days, there’s no reason you need to accept slow wi-fi, especially with that substantial check you write each month. Here are some tricks to boost performance.

Don’t forget about the channel
Even though your wi-fi is password protected, the actual signal can interfere with other networks in your neighborhood. As such, you should switch the broadcast channel. Typically this happens without you having to do anything, but we recommend that you do it manually.

This trick works well for parts of the house that are the most distant from router. First see if there’s an open channel, then choose a channel that gets less interference in that spot. To do this on Mac OS, use the Airport Utility; for Windows, perform a Wi-Fi scan using the free Acrylic Wi-Fi app; and for Android use Farproc’s Wi-Fi Analyzer.

The problem might be your house – maybe
You can tinker for weeks with wi-fi technology and still not get improved performance. In this case, you just may have bought too big of a house. Try using a powerline to boost the signal. A powerline is used to carry data from the electrical wiring, so connect one to a modem or router, then another where there’s a weak wi-fi signal. This should supply coverage from room to room.

Put some cash in your router
Just as laptops and smartphone improve, so do routers. Chances are the router you’ve had for 5 years is slowing you down, especially if you’re using the same one when Internet first got installed at your house. Open up your wallet to open up your wi-fi signal.

Try out Google OnHub, which includes adaptive antenna technology. This can dramatically increase signal strength from room to room, throughout the house, even into the backyard in some cases. The 60-degree beam sends data directly to your device, which is more effective than a 360-degree, omni-directional beam.

Power or speed?
Even if you do get a new router, you still have a key decision on your hands. Do you go with 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz? Those are two new frequencies with the new generation of routers.

As a rule of thumb, lower frequencies deliver a more powerful signal, which is a smart choice if there’s a wall or large object between the router and the device.

If you want pure speed, however, go for the 5 GHz and the higher bandwidth it provides, as well as more channels. But if you can’t decide between power or speed, a good option is the Apple Airport Extreme – it works on both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz all at the same time.

Reduce interference even more
You may have heard of RTS (request-to-send), which is a setting on many routers. RTS is used to eliminate problems if you have more than one (or two) access points on the same channel. See if there’s a RTS function in the software that came with the router. Lower that setting and assess if there’s a change in performance. If not, start at zero and work your way up until you notice a difference.