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7 Tips to Increase Wi-Fi Performance
By Eric Geier
March 08, 2012
With a few basic changes you can get better performance. If these don't work, it might be time to upgrade to one of the newer standards.
Having connection or performance issues with your wireless network? Do you have poor or intermittent Wi-Fi signals or poor video or audio streaming? Here I share some tips on increasing Wi-Fi performance. And most don’t even require spending money.
Reposition your router - First try simply moving your wireless router. Ideally you want it placed in the center of your desired coverage area, but keep in mind you’ll probably need to move your modem as well. Moving it to an optimum spot can help increase range and speeds.
If you have cable Internet you can usually simply move your modem/gateway to another cable outlet. DSL modems can also be moved easily to another telephone jack, but if there’s a DSL filter installed on the new jack it should be moved to the old jack.
If you don’t have any cable or telephone jacks in the spot you want to place the router you could consider buying a longer Ethernet cable to run between the modem and router.
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You also want to place the router on a high unobstructed spot for optimum range, not buried in or under your desk or other furniture.
Use only one wireless standard - Though the wireless standards (802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and soon-to-be 802.11ac) are backward compatible with each other, you should stick with one standard for your router and Wi-Fi devices for best performance. And obviously try to use the latest standard, which supports the highest speeds and best performance.
You can easily upgrade a computer’s wireless adapter, but upgrading other Wi-Fi devices like smartphones and gaming consoles aren’t so easy. If you upgrade your router, consider keeping the old router to support older standards and use the new one just for Wi-Fi devices supporting the latest standards.
For instance if you have a wireless G router, buy a wireless N or AC router to replace it, but then plug the wireless G router into the new router. You can even place them close to each other but make sure they’re set to different channels as far as possible if on the same (2.4GHz or 5GHz) band. Then on the new router, login to the control panel and set it to wireless N or AC only. Therefore Wi-Fi computers and devices with the newer standard will connect to the new router with the best performance possible while others will connect to the older router.
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Use WPA2 security - For the high speeds on wireless N or AC routers you must use WPA2 security with AES encryption. Using WPA or WEP security with TKIP encryption will dramatically reduce bandwidth. Most routers offer a mixed WPA/WPA2 mode, but you should use WPA2 only. Homes should use the personal (PSK) mode, which is the easiest to setup and businesses should use the enterprise (RADIUS) mode which requires an external authentication server.
Most devices you have should support WPA2 security, but if you have some that don’t consider using an older router with a newer one as mention in the previous section.
Change your wireless channel - Changing your wireless channel might help increase range and performance, especially if you have neighboring networks set on the same channel or interference from other electronics. It’s best to check channel usage with a program like Vistumbler or inSSIDer, but you can simply try other channels as well to see which one is best.
For 2.4GHz routers (the most common), channel 6 is the default for most routers, so stay away from it. Try channel 1 or 11, the other two other non-overlapping channels. For 5GHz wireless N or AC routers, you shouldn’t have much of an interference issue since it’s less commonly used. But you might try changing to another channel as well.
Change default channel width of router - The higher speeds of wireless N and AC can only be achieved by using the 40MHz wide channels. For wireless N (and possibly wireless AC), the default channel-width set on routers is only 20MHz. But you can login to the control panel of the router and in the wireless settings change the channel-width to auto 20/40MHz.
Upgrade your router - If your router isn’t the latest and greatest, consider replacing it. Look for a newer wireless standard, like 802.11n or 802.11ac. Also keep in mind there are varying configurations. The cheaper routers might not employ all the technologies that the higher priced ones do, like MIMO which helps increase range and speed or support the 5GHz frequency band that’s less congested.
As mentioned earlier, consider keeping your old router and connecting it to your new one in order to support the older Wi-Fi devices and using the new one just for newer Wi-Fi devices. This will help increase your wireless performance on your new router.
Upgrade your wireless adapters - Upgrading your router alone to 802.11n or 802.11ac may help increase performance, but to take full advantage of these newer standards you should upgrade the wireless adapters of any computers you want full performance on. Depending upon which slots your computer has you can upgrade your computers with PCI, PCIe, or PC wireless cards or use USB wireless adapters. Other Wi-Fi devices like smartphones and gaming devices might not be upgradable as easy.
Eric Geier is the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which helps businesses easily protect their Wi-Fi networks with the Enterprise mode of WPA/WPA2 security. He is also a freelance tech writer. Become a Twitter follower or use the RSS feed to keep up with his writings.
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