Working from home has shown just how telecommuting-unfriendly a living space can be for someone used to working in a typical office. Although sitting in a bad office chair or sitting under dim overhead lighting can be uncomfortable, a bad internet connection can really hinder your productivity. With more household members hogging up bandwidth, you may have observed a painfully slow link on Zoom meetings or during remote learning.
Perhaps you have a subpar router, maybe your signal doesn’t reach to your garage or the far corner of your house that you’re trying to connect from. While every case is different, the symptoms of a poor connection are the same. Smart speakers disconnect from the internet, teenagers complain about buffering when swiping to the 15th TikTok in a row, or you encounter choppy audio and video during a work meeting (the worst sin of all).
Here are five things to help speed up the Wi-Fi connections on all your devices.
Purchase a new networking package for a Wi-Fi router, extender or mesh
Often the problem is a poor signal in one section of the building, not a sluggish internet. A Wi-Fi extender like the products you find on sites like Top5-Wifiboosters.com can help. This is an economical way to boost Wi-Fi signals if you have a dead zone in the middle of your home or a far-off guest bedroom.
They’re an inexpensive solution because they simply repeat the signals to your router, but remember that because of the hop, extenders can also slow down overall performance. For an isolated trouble spot, they make the most sense. If you have multiple problem rooms or areas in your house, consider a new router or a mesh networking kit.
With extra boxes (called nodes, satellites or Wi-Fi points) that act as additional wireless Wi-Fi routers in your house, mesh networking kits help distribute the signal across your house. Each node communicates intelligently and wirelessly with the others, ensuring that your devices are connected to the node with the best signal instead of trying to connect to the main router in the house. They work especially well for larger homes, but they’re costly.
Positioning your router
Wi-Fi signals appear to be stronger from the router horizontally, even when the router is on the same level as the connected devices. Try to move your router (while still connected to your modem) to a more central position in your house, such as right outside the main hallway, if possible. If that’s not possible, at least try to put the router as high up as you can, as long as the cables can reach it. It is much safer to put the router on a high bookshelf than to conceal it low on the ground in a cabinet. Your experience will be enhanced by less obstructions between the router and the antennas inside your laptop.
Use of an Ethernet Cable
It’s counterintuitive to go back to a wired link with all the advances in wireless technology, but connecting your laptop directly to the router with an Ethernet cable strengthens things in two ways:
- Wired connections in your home are still quicker and more reliable than wireless.
- You also cut the Wi-Fi off your laptop, freeing up the signal for other gadgets that can’t plug in, such as your smart speakers in the den or your childrens iPads in the living room.
Any homes constructed over the last 10 to 15 years are Ethernet pre-wired. Next to the cable TV connector or phone jack on the wall in each room, look for an RJ45 Ethernet jack. RJ45 can be easily identified, since it is about twice as large as the RJ11 phone jack. If you are fortunate enough to have this installed, the easiest way to get your laptop or desktop PC on the internet is via a connection through this wired network. Most business laptops have an integrated Ethernet connector, or you can buy a USB-to-Ethernet adapter for around $20 if you don’t.
Use a Wi-Fi hotspot
For a fast Internet hit on the go, just about any smartphone will allow you to use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot or connect a USB cable to your laptop. When the power goes out, this extra functionality comes in handy. Just remember that on some plans from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon, data caps when tethering your phone appear to be on the small side, from 3 GB to 20 GB. (Streaming HD video for an hour on Netflix eats up about 3 GB for reference.)
If you need a more permanent option for business travel, consider a mobile hotspot rather than your telephone. Hot spots have their own bucket of data separate from your phone (usually 10 GB to 30 GB). If you have vital needs, including frequently having video meetings while on the road or filing essential documents away from your home office, I would suggest a different hot spot.
Upgrade your internet plan
You could be due a new broadband package if you’ve been in the same home for over a decade, or if your household has grown recently. The speedtest.net website recorded that the peak download speed of CenturyLink in January 2016 was around 39 megabits per second, which is appropriate for one or two users streaming to a laptop, a tablet and their phones. At the time, you may have been happy with that contract, but today a multitude of other devices such as smart speakers, cameras and streaming boxes are all competing for the same bandwidth, and a 300-megabit, 500-megabit or even 1,000-megabit (gigabit) contract may be more suitable. The default plan you started with remains the one you’re subscribing to unless you upgrade your service, so it’s worth consulting with your provider. Just make sure your router and cable modem (if needed) are upgraded at the same time.