I was just asked about a WiFi issue, which made me realize I get decent amount of WiFi and router questions. I will now be able to point to this post!
If you are having WiFi issues or slow internet speeds there are a few tests you can do even if you are not a tech person.
- If your internet is slower than usual or slower than the speed you are paying for, you need to consider COVID has a lot of people working and schooling from home. A lot ISPs are under more strain than normal. You may also not get the speed you are paying for since a lot of contracts have a bit of a disclaimer that says speeds “up to.” So it can be anything from close to zero to whatever maximum speed you may get.
- I recommend you test your internet speed with a service provided by your internet service provider (ISP). For example, Frontier customers can use speedtest.frontier.com. If you Google yours and cannot find it, I like this the speed test at http://www.dslreports.com/speedtest. I would not recommend testing during peak times if this will be the only test you do. It would be best to test at various times of the day and night to see how it may fluctuate. Be sure to document when you did the tests and the speeds you had.
- Connecting directly to your router by ethernet cable is recommended for the best result. Some WiFi may not be fast enough for the internet plan or have interference. If you cannot do this, I recommend being on 5GHz WiFi (if you have it) and be close to the router to ensure the best possible signal.
- 5GHz WiFi is faster than the older and more common 2.4GHz. 5GHz has been around long enough that most routers a few years old may have it. You also must have a device (phone, computer, etc.) that supports 5GHz WiFi. Look for your network name (SSID) and look for a second WiFi signal that may have the same name and something like 5G at end. If you see 5GHz WiFi listed, it means your computer is capable of connecting.
- If you were having slow WiFi speeds and not using 5GHz WiFi, you may see faster speeds if you switch networks. 5 GHz is capable of much faster speeds than the older 2.4GHz. It also has more WiFi channels (frequencies), so it may have less chances of interference from other WiFi networks or wireless signals around you. The only real drawbacks is that the signal does not go as far as 2.4GHz and older devices may not support 5GHz.
- If you do a speed test over ethernet and the speeds are much faster than your WiFi, the problem is your WiFi. This means you may need to get a little geeky and troubleshoot you WiFi!
- First things first, where is your router (with your WiFi signal)?
- Is it located in the center of the home or closest to a side everyone gathers? You would not want in the farthest corner of the house if people are not usually in that area. I have my router almost dead center in the house on the second floor. I get a great signal anywhere in the house and it is 3,000 square feet.
- Is anything near the router that could interfere with the WiFi signals. Something like an old cordless home phone or some other type of wireless device could be causing interference.
- Is the WiFi signal weak only in certain areas? For example, I mentioned my signal is strong everywhere in the house, however, it was somewhat weak in the garage. The garage is attached to the home and mostly covered by bedrooms, so it’s not like it is extended out from the house where the signal may become weak. I had to put a wireless access point in the garage or else my garage door opener would not work the app on my phone. See how speeds vary on your WiFi in different parts of the house. You may need to get an access point, extender, or mesh system to deal with weak areas. This may be necessary if you cannot relocated your router if it is not in an optimum location in the house.
- The building materials in your house can also be an issue. I had a friend with an old house that had wood and plaster walls – not the common drywall. Internet speeds tests near the router were fine, but go to the opposite side of the small house and WiFi was horrible not good. We added a wireless access point to boost the signal so smart home devices would work.
- It is also common for WiFi to not have strong enough signals to transmit video from some wireless surveillance cameras outside the house. My WiFi signal is strong throughout my house, but the small antenna in my Ring doorbell was not sufficient for the WiFi signal outside the house. I could get it to work on 2.4GHz, but it was very slow to connect. The doorbell could not connect to the 5GHz because the signal was too weak. The exterior of my house is basically chicken wire and cement stucco, which was enough to weaken the signal a bit. I added a mesh router downstairs, which acts like an access point or WiFi extender and allowed the doorbell to connect to the 5GHz WiFi.
- If you want to be very techy, you can scan the WiFi signals around you to look for interference or to measure your signal strength at various locations. You can do this on an Android phone by installing a free WiFi analyzer app. Apple used to prohibit this on iPhone, so it still may not be possible.
- Using this type of app, look at the signals around you. Are there strong signals (other than yours) on the same channel (frequency) as your WiFi signal?
- You should test your WiFi where you use your devices the most or where you experience problems.
- If you know how to log into your router, check to see if there is a way to increase or decrease your WiFi signal strength. I have the wireless access point in my garage turned down to avoid interfering with my other WiFi signals. I only need it strong enough to reach devices with 20 feet or so.
- If you have signal interference or cannot check, you can experiment with changing your WiFi frequencies. This will require you logging into your router and figuring out how it works.
- 5GHz has a lot of channels, but 2.4GHz only has 12. When dealing with interference from WiFi nearby on the same or close channel, you want to be selecting a channel far from the interfering frequency. If your neighbor has an incredibly strong 2.4GHz signal on channel 12, you can try channels 3, 2, or 1.
- If your WiFi already had a channel manually selected, try changing it to auto and see if that resolves the issue. If not, try the manually changing the channels.
- If none of the suggestions work and you decide to get a new router, I highly recommend the Synology RT2600ac. This router has a great WiFi signal, has a lot of useful features, and can work with the Synology MR2200ac Mesh WiFi Router to create a mesh network.
- You can start with the cheaper MR2200ac and use it alone or buy more than one to make a mesh network save the extra cost of the RT2600ac. However, I recommend just starting with the more expensive, but more powerful, RT2600ac to see if it can meet your needs by itself.
- In simple terms, a mesh network uses multiple WiFi signals from different locations within a property but displays only one network name. Your devices can be connected and move to different signals without you ever needing to do anything. I have a mesh network with an access point upstairs and downstairs. My phone can be connected to the one downstairs in the living room and then connect to the one in my closet when I go to bed and I am only a few feet away. There’s no need for it to stay connected downstairs when I’m so close to the other signal upstairs.
- More coming soon.