Improving the WiFi signal in your home

Whether you’re working from home, are a die-hard gamer, or simply have a busy household, a strong and stable WiFi connection is important to keep all your devices up and running. Check out these tips for improving your WiFi signal in your home. 

WiFi setup illustration - multiple devices connected to wireless router

Internet connection speed vs. WiFi speed

The speed you get over WiFi is really a combination of two parts:

  • The wired connection speed sent from the network to your modem (over DSL or fiber-optic cables); PLUS 
  • The wireless connection speed sent from your router (or mesh WiFi system, etc.) to your WiFi devices (over radio signals).

Want to know what speed you're getting over WiFi? An internet speed test can help you determine the connection speed you're getting to your device. Based on the results, you can then optimize and improve the WiFi connection. Please note: This speed test will not tell you the speed to your home or business. It will tell you the speed you are getting on the specific device you use to run the test.

Tips for optimizing your WiFi signal

As you set up a WiFi network, there are a few things you can do to maximize your signal strength. 

Tip #1: Find an optimal spot for your router

One easily overlooked way to improve your WiFi connection has to do with the position of the router (often combined with the modem). Find a spot for your router that's as centrally located as possible. Places that are higher up (e.g., bookcase, shelf or upstairs) will typically get you better coverage.

Also, do your best to move the router so that no heavy walls, thick windows or large appliances (especially refrigerators) are blocking the path between your router and your devices. 

Here's why: You might be surprised by how much your internet speed can be impacted by where your router sits. For example, if you’ve placed your router on a bookshelf, tucked behind books and other objects, this could cause interference in transmitting the signal. 

Illustration of WiFi signal stronger when router is placed in the open

Place your router out in the open for better connection strength. Avoid closets and crowded bookshelves.

The distance between the router and your device has a major impact on your WiFi connection speed and performance. 

Illustration of walls, floors, and distance weakening WiFi signal strength

Distance, as well as obstructions like walls and floors, can weaken your WiFi signal strength.

Physical obstructions can also slow down your WiFi. Try to avoid having your router close to any of these barriers:

  • Brick or concrete walls or floors
  • Thick, heavy doors or windows
  • Large containers of water (such as fish tanks) 
  • Large metal appliances (especially refrigerators)

If moving the equipment isn't an option and there are doors between you and your router, try opening doors between rooms to get as clear a path as possible.

Graphic showing that fridges and fish tanks can hurt WiFi signal strength

Avoid placing your router close to heavy, dense appliances and large metal or glass objects.

Finally, heat sources can cause problems as well. Make sure your modem is in a place that has good air circulation, and is away from radiators or windows that get full sun exposure. Excessive heat can cause it to work poorly or malfunction.

Tip #2: Reduce electronic interference from other devices

If you have a newer modem, opt for a 5 GHz frequency signal to get a stronger connection and avoid congestion from surrounding devices. Put at least 5-10 feet of space between other devices and your router to help reduce interference and competition.

Here's why:  WiFi is just one of many radio frequencies all around us these days. Devices that use the same 2.4 GHz frequency range can hurt your internet speed. These include many microwaves, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, TVs, wireless security systems, baby monitors, garage door openers, and more. Some of these generate short range interference that can affect your WiFi even when the device is turned off. Many newer routers support automatic band-switching, meaning they will detect and switch devices to a faster frequency, but if your router is more than a couple of years old, you will want to manually change to a 5 GHz connection whenever possible. You can read more about the difference between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, or find out how to manually change the wireless channel on your router to avoid congestion.

2.4 GHz verses 5 GHz illustration, showing signal range and strength

5 GHz will give you more signal strength and faster speed over a shorter range, compared to 2.4 GHz.

Tip #3: Reduce bandwidth competition from other devices

Limit the number of devices in your home that share your WiFi network during peak usage hours. The more bandwidth is used in total, the less speed you see on each device. Try to power off or disconnect devices that you aren't using. If necessary for plans with lower speeds, develop a household schedule that helps you manage which devices or which members of the family can do certain activities at different times.

Graphic showing how speed goes down as the number of connected devices goes up

As you connect more devices to your WiFi, the signal strength and connection speed will go down.

Here's why: All the wireless devices in your home share your WiFi connection. So the number of devices running at the same time impacts your internet speed significantly. The more devices you start adding to the network, the less speed you'll get when working from home on your laptop, streaming on a tablet, etc. Gaming systems, video streaming devices and smart TVs, and a number of other smart home systems can eat up a significant portion of bandwidth. In addition, many connected devices are always on and may frequently run updates in the background that you aren't aware of, all of which can slow speeds down. 

Are you a Fiber customer? Check your router requirements.

Customers with Fiber Internet service have specific router needs. With a connection that fast, you need to make sure your gateway (modem) can keep up. If your service is connected using the wrong modem, you may not be getting top performance.

How to maintain strong WiFi performance

Protect your WiFi network with a good password

If you don’t have a strong password, anyone close to your home can access your WiFi network and cause it to slow down. Set a custom password for your WiFi to ensure a secure connection. Check our blog for more ways to make sure your WiFi network is secure.

Reboot your router

Routers can get bogged down after running for a while. The easiest way to fix many connectivity problems is to restart your router. If you find you're needing to restart frequently, it's easier than ever to set up a daily or weekly reboot to keep things running smoothly and maximize your WiFi connection.

Keep your router firmware up to date

Modems and routers typically run necessary updates automatically, but it's not a bad idea to check that you're running on the latest version, especially if you start to notice slow-downs or poor performance. Updated firmware is important to adapt to changing security threats and keep this all-important device running smoothly. And, since router technology changes rapidly, it's a good idea to replace your router every three to four years.

Add an extender to get better coverage

If you do everything above to improve your WiFi coverage and your signal is still not as strong as you'd like, you may want to consider a WiFi extender, repeater or mesh network. A WiFi extender works by taking the existing WiFi signal from your router, and rebroadcasting it throughout various spaces in your home. This option can be great for those with larger, multi-level homes, as you can place the access point in another part of your home, extending the router’s wireless signal from there.

How to measure your WiFi signal

Many devices come equipped with built-in settings that will help you see the strength of your WiFi signal. In addition, usually you can tell if your connection is weak, as you may experience lags as you load webpages, or buffering while streaming video, or choppy sound or picture when using videoconferencing.

Strong WiFi signal icon
Weak WiFi signal icon

Device icons show wether you have a strong or weak WiFi connection signal

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