Wireless internet connection is one of the greatest household creations in the history, right about the same level of bacon or sandwich. I still recall the first day when I was able to get my Netgear wireless router to work with the 56k dialup modem from Earthlink ISP. Speed, was amazing. Very performance.
Today you can enroll in FIOS 120Mbps package from Verizon, while surfing on a $9000 Custom PC, because you’re rich; YET at the end of the day, you still have a crappy worthless wireless connection inside the house due to the spotty reception. For instance, an usual situation is having the wireless router in the basement and the kids in the room upstairs are whining because they can’t
play games do their homeworks; or when NASA is able to receive data from a 4.67 billion miles far away spacecraft, and you lose wifi signal once you walk into the kitchen. Thing like that easily goes from being annoyed to having a complete psychotic break on your neighbor.
But before you are driving your car through the wall, try few of the advice below and see if that could remedy the situation first. If all else fail, crashing car into the walls probably open up most signal blockages, according to recent statistics.
1. Change to a Less Crowded Channel
Most wireless transmission operate at 2.4GHz frequency, unless it supports Dual-band. Unfortunately, if your router is single-band -your microwave, age-old cordless phones, baby monitors or even for some car alarm- also play on the same channel.
The interference can significantly reduces the transfer rate or completely prevents a stable communication between the computer and the wireless router. On the other hand, car alarm sometimes overlaps channel 6 and 11 of the 2.4GHz frequency that stutters wireless traffic. These two channels which are known to be most commonly used by wifi networks.
Now knowing that, perhaps you want to logon to your router’s configuration panel and switch to a less crowded channel other than the typical 1, 6 and 11 spectrum.
If you do not know which channel is best, I highly recommend to try the free open-source software called inSSIDer. This application is extremely helpful once you get the hang of it.
The main window includes the detail list of all surrounding networks, their unique ID addresses, type of network, router vendors, security measurement and of course, what channels are being used most. Once you decided, you can change the channel number in the Wireless setting page of the router’s configuration panel (refer to the manual or ask Google). My setting is currently set to Channel 5.
2. Position of the Wireless Router and why does it matter?
Imagine how an airplane takes people from one location to another. First it takes off to a certain height above cloud level, then flies its way until it reaches the destination. Now you do not see airplanes fly too close to the ground because if they do, they will hit tall buildings and crash and kill people and destroy stuffs everywhere.
The concept is simple yet it has a point. It makes sense when you leave your wireless router too low to the ground, or on the floor and you cannot get a good coverage. The reception is like an airplane, it becomes worse because there is too much interference at the lower ground and those items potentially prevent the signal from reaching the destination. This does not mean you should move your router to the roof, but it is highly advised to place it somewhere higher inside.
3. Make Use of Aluminum Foil
If your router has an antenna then you can try to make an amplifier using Aluminum Foil that could be found in any kitchen. In many instances, you can quickly see a 10-15% boost of signal strength overall. I also find this DIY Wifi Extender topic is quite practical by using the Tin Can to amplify the connection.
p.s Beer can can work just as well! If succeeded, you’d tell your lady — “bae i’m opening a business involves selling innovative aluminum foil wireless range booster device”. And she’ll be like “are you tripping?”.
4. Antenna Replacement
This method applies to only router/adapter that has detachable antenna, however you still can get some helpful tips if your router or adapter doesn’t have removable antenna.
All default internal or external wireless antennas are Omni Directional (unless specified otherwise). That means the reception is sent in the shape of fan-like to all the directions. This is very good in a closed-room but if you have a big home you may have very poor coverage on the furthest ends. Thus, you should relocate the router to the center of the house (if possible). If that is unlikely to happen, you will need to get a better antenna.
This solution is not free like others above, but it guarantees a stronger improvement on the router wireless transmission. The best choice of atenna is the TP-Link USA 2.4GHz 8dBi Desktop Omni-directional Antenna.
You could also try the stronger antennas by AMPED Wireless such as High Power 12dBi Omni-Directional Wi-Fi Antenna or ASUS Omni High Gain 9dBi Antenna. It is very rare that you need to go with anything above 12dBi because when it is more powerful, it is also dumping a lot of noise in to the reception. What you will eventually get is a very sluggish connection. So stick with the optimal said antenna options.
5. Adding a Wireless Repeater / Range Extender
In order to extend the network, the Wireless Repeater will be positioned in the middle distance between the router and the end-devices.
Keep note that Wireless Repeater IS NOT a Client Bridge. A Client Bridge connects wired computers under the same network and joins them into the same Internet connection, very different to a Wireless Repeater.
By using a Wireless Repeater, you create the secondary network from your original one. For example, my original wireless network named “FBI Flower Van”, the Wireless Repeater will connect to this connection and create a new network name, such “ur mama wifi”.
As you could have guessed, the wireless reception in this setup is stronger and more powerful. However, there will be a little latency in the connection; because now the data have to hop from your computer to the repeater then to the router and modem before it finally travels elsewhere on the Internet. The lag is not totally unacceptable and sometimes unnoticeable for daily use, but online gamers may not be able to tolerate the situation.
These following repeaters that I got my hands on are by AMPED wireless and Hawking Technology. They are very decent options in the market and very easy to use for non tech-savvy person. You will need to connect one of your computer to the device for the initial setup and after that it should be the set-it and forget-it plan.
6. Other Recommended Tips
- Always keep your router firmware up to date. Most routers have an auto update checking button, so should you run it often to get the latest firmware for your device. These fixes usually improve performance and other important security measurements.
- Use the Same Wireless standard throughout the network. If you have wireless N router and force it to run in compatible mode with a/b and g, you will experience a bad drop in transfer rate.
I once tested this theory on my old Neatgear router by running on two different modes : a/b/g/n and N-only separately. The difference is 600-800kbps vs. 1.2mbps accordingly, on a slow cable connection. This means the impact has a greater hit on faster Internet connection, therefore you should totally be aware of this setting on your router. Strike for the best mode your router can support. On the other note, since my PSP only accepts Wireless b while PS3 takes Wireless g standard, I have to stick with compatible mode as long as I’m still playing them. *sigh intensified* …
- It’s preferred to use the same branded products. However, it’s actually more important to have good set of router and adapter, despite what brand it comes from. Keep an eyes on those that offer single or double external antennas.