Each time somebody sends me a query about learn how to repair their Wi-Fi, I wince. It’s not that I dislike serving to folks with their router issues. In reality, there are few geeky endeavors I discover extra rewarding than fixing Wi-Fi connection points at a buddy or member of the family’s residence.
However Wi-Fi has at all times felt extra like a darkish artwork than a science, and it’s an artwork that’s onerous to conjure with out being bodily current. Potential factors of failure are in every single place, and what works properly in a single residence won’t in one other. Even the reviewers of networking gear can attain drastically totally different conclusions about the exact same product.
Wi-Fi is essentially at odds, then, with my need to reply questions with particular suggestions. The perfect I can do is stroll your via how I diagnose Wi-Fi issues myself. That approach, you can also make higher selections on whether or not (and the way) to improve your personal gear.
Measurement up the Wi-Fi downside
Step one to fixing Wi-Fi points is to see if the slowdown is coming out of your cable modem (which brings web service into the house) or from the router (which distributes Wi-Fi connectivity all through the house).
Begin by plugging a pc immediately into your modem with an ethernet cable and working a pace check. (The simplest approach is to do a Google seek for “pace check,” then hit the blue “Run Pace Check” button atop the search outcomes.) A USB-to-Ethernet adapter shall be vital for testing on computer systems that don’t have an ethernet port, but when that’s an excessive amount of bother otherwise you don’t have a correct pc in any respect, you may also strive calling your web supplier and asking them to check your web pace remotely.
Jared Newman / Foundry
If wired connection speeds are on par along with your web supplier’s marketed speeds, the following step is to start out working pace exams all through the home. Measure speeds across the space the place connectivity feels sluggish, then work your approach again to the place the router is situated, working a number of exams in every space as you go.
The aim right here is to determine the place your connection troubles are occurring. Constantly sluggish speeds all through the home could also be an indication of an outdated router, whereas useless zones or vary points could require a extra highly effective router or mesh Wi-Fi system. (Extra on that shortly.)
Discover your Wi-Fi router’s 802.11 model
To determine whether or not a router wants changing, it helps to understand how previous it’s. A method to do that to find the router’s mannequin quantity—it’s possible printed on the router itself—then search the online for information about which model of Wi-Fi it helps. Listed here are the main Wi-Fi variations to find out about:
802.11a/b/g: Extraordinarily previous and virtually actually the supply of all of your Wi-Fi issues.
802.11a/b/g/n (or simply 802.11n): Outdated at this level and a strong candidate for substitute. Many of those routers solely help a single frequency band that’s slower and extra congestion-prone, and “dual-band” variants have restricted vary on the quicker 5 GHz frequency band.
802.11ac (additionally marketed as Wi-Fi 5): Not the most recent normal, however nonetheless broadly out there even in some high-performance routers.
802.11ax (or Wi-Fi 6): Routers utilizing this normal began delivery in late 2020, so your router is probably going fairly new.
Wi-Fi 6E: Congrats, you in all probability simply purchased a brand new router (and perhaps even spent $1,200 on it).
Wi-Fi variations alone aren’t an indicator of high quality—an inexpensive Wi-Fi 6 router will be worse than a high-end mesh system with Wi-Fi 5—however every successive model has launched new options that enhance connectivity, and we’ve typically seen a push towards higher efficiency over time.
Strive some smaller router fixes
Simply to rehash a tip I mentioned again in July, generally altering your router’s channel and bandwidth settings can work wonders for lowering Wi-Fi interference, particularly should you’re seeing inconsistent speeds on units that aren’t too removed from the router. By digging into your router’s settings, you may bypass computerized channel choice and discover a channel that could be much less congested.
You may as well strive another little tweaks, like getting your router off the bottom and clearing some house round it—however I wouldn’t begin rearranging your room for the router’s sake. Chances are high the enhancements shall be minimal. After all, transferring your router to a extra central location within the residence can assist, however that might possible require having the cable firm rewire your house web connection.
Wi-Fi extenders: a final resort
As a result of changing a router is a ache, quite a lot of people surprise if they will simply clear up their issues with a Wi-Fi extender or repeater, which take the wi-fi sign from a router and rebroadcast it farther away. (“Extender” generally refers to a tool with a wired connection to the router, although I usually see each phrases used interchangeably.)
My expertise with Wi-Fi extenders is hit and miss. Wi-fi repeaters will at all times degrade no matter sign they obtain, so the advantages can cancel out should you’re attempting to deal with a useless zone or interference from different close by wi-fi units. The identical is true with powerline adapters, which ship a wired ethernet connection out of your router to a different a part of the home via your wall shops. Relying on how your own home is wired, this method can provide you a weak connection or not work in any respect.
I don’t inform folks to keep away from extenders outright, as a result of they will work in some eventualities, however preserve your expectations low and be ready to return the gadget if it doesn’t assist.
Choosing a brand new Wi-Fi router
When you’ve concluded that it’s time to switch your router, then what?
A mesh Wi-Fi system would be the surest option to clear up your Wi-Fi issues, particularly in bigger houses or ones with plenty of useless zones. These programs allow you to plug in a number of entry factors all through the home, creating one huge community. They’re higher at managing connections than a router with an extender, and programs marketed as “Tri-Band” can join every entry level with out congesting the remainder of the community.
Such programs won’t be vital, although. In the event you haven’t changed your router shortly, even a brand new standalone router could be sufficient to energy via useless zones in the event that they’re not too far-off. Standalone routers are typically cheaper than mesh programs, and a few have options that mesh programs lack, similar to USB storage help or numerous ethernet ports.
In the end, although, there’s no option to inform for positive if a brand new router will work with out attempting it your self. You may learn all kinds of critiques—PCWorld critiques each Wi-Fi mesh programs and the most recent Wi-Fi 6E routers—however even the most effective recommendation isn’t one-size-fits-all. Shopping for a brand new router will at all times contain a leap of religion.
A be aware on modem/router combos
Lastly, there’s another complicating issue: Though cable firms used to distribute web modems and routers individually—the previous bringing within the web from exterior the home, and the latter to distributing Wi-Fi via the house—it’s more and more widespread now to get each features in a single field. That makes set up simpler for the cable firm, however makes router substitute trickier for you.
In case you have a combo field and are paying for it in rental charges, contemplate changing it with two units: A brand new router and a separate cable modem. However remember that some firms—significantly fiber-optic web suppliers similar to AT&T and Verizon—make changing the modem element tough or inconceivable.
If changing the modem isn’t doable or vital, you may simply disable its Wi-Fi options in order that they don’t intrude along with your new router. The directions for doing so can differ by supplier, so count on to do some Googling of “modem mode” or “bridge mode” plus the identify of your web supplier.
And should you’re nonetheless having Wi-Fi issues in any case that, ship me an e-mail and I’ll do my greatest to assist. You may as well try my Advisorator publication—the place a model of this story first appeared—to get extra sensible tech recommendation each week.