Wi-fi is a wonderful thing. There was a time when the only way to surf the web was by firing up your dial-up connection on a desktop computer. Today, we can enjoy the benefits of online on our game consoles, smartphones, and many other devices without having to plug them into a router.
Of course, a pleasant experience can quickly turn frustrating as soon as your Wi-Fi signal starts failing on you. Whether it’s a connection that keeps dropping or painfully slow speeds, you’ve probably suffered Wi-Fi issues before. If you’re tired of your Wi-Fi acting up during an important Skype call, heated online video game match, or in the middle of a Netflix binge session, keep on reading.
With this guide we’ll help you get the most out of your Wi-Fi connection by covering a number of things:
- 1 The 3 Most Common Wi-Fi Issues
- 2 11 Simple Ways To Fix Your Wi-Fi Troubles
- 3 Why You Should Get A Wi-Fi Extender
- 4 Best Wi-Fi Extenders To Buy
- 4.1 NETGEAR AC1200 Desktop WiFi Range Extender (EX6200)
- 4.2 TP-Link AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Range Extender
- 4.3 Linksys AC1200 MAX Wi-Fi Gigabit Range Extender / Repeater (RE6500)
- 4.4 NETGEAR N300 Wi-Fi Range Extender, Essentials Edition (EX2700)
- 4.5 NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Desktop WiFi Range Extender (EX7000-100NAS)
- 5 Buying A New Wi-Fi Router
- 6 Best Wi-Fi Routers To Buy In 2017
- 6.1 Linksys WRT3200ACM Smart Wi-Fi Router
- 6.2 ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100 Dual Band Gigabit Router
- 6.3 TP-Link AC1900 Wireless Wi-Fi Router (Archer C9)
- 6.4 NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router (R7000)
- 6.5 Linksys AC5400 Tri Band Wireless Router, Works with Amazon Alexa (Max Stream EA9500)
The 3 Most Common Wi-Fi Issues
When people talk about having Wi-Fi troubles they’re usually experiencing one of the following three. As annoying as they are, there’s usually a reason why it’s happening to you. Knowing why is the first step to solving your Wi-Fi woes.
Bad Wi-Fi Range
Unless you live in a small studio or do most of your internet use in one room, it doesn’t matter how impressive your speed is if your Wi-Fi gets wonky a few feet away from your router. Using your tablet or laptop is fine when used in the same area, but take a trip to the kitchen or living room and your connection suffers.
This is a tough issue to diagnose since there can be a lot of things causing your range to degrade where it shouldn’t. From owning an outdated router to having metal objects nearby, it may take some trial and error to pinpoint the problem. If this is the issue you’re having, keep reading to check out our list of solutions to the most common Wi-Fi troubles.
Slow Wi-Fi Speed
There are few things more frustrating than knowing you’re not enjoying something you’re paying for. Even though you’re giving that internet service provider big bucks each month, your online games always end up laggy or your streamed movies take forever to load. Although many things can cause this issue, usually it’s one of two reasons.
The first one could be that you simply don’t have enough bandwidth for all your devices. Even though 50/50 Mbps is great, it’s not enough if you have several devices all feeding off your Wi-Fi at the same time. It’s easy to forget how many game consoles, laptops, tablets, and smart phone we might have in our place that are all fighting for the same signal.
The other reason your Wi-Fi speeds may be slower than they should is due to interference. There are a lot of things that can mess with your router’s Wi-Fi Signal, forcing you to get closer to it to enjoy better speeds. Keep reading this guide to discover the many types of materials and objects you should keep your router away from.
Poor speeds and range aren’t great, but at least you can still use your internet. It’s when you keep getting kicked out of a match or internet pages refuse to load when people start pulling their hair out. Just like the other issues, there can be a number of things causing this one.
The easiest thing to test for is devices that release electromagnetic waves. Move your router away from things like microwave ovens and cordless phones to see if your sudden Wi-Fi drops go away. While it may seem to easy to be true, sometimes all it takes is a router reboot to allow your network to refresh. Remember that your router is probably on 24/7 and constantly in use— giving it a break might make all the difference.
11 Simple Ways To Fix Your Wi-Fi Troubles
Wi-Fi issues can be tricky businesses. Just like when your ‘check engine’ light turns on in your car, it’s rarely obvious what could be hindering your signal. Try the following tips to see if one of them solves your your Wi-Fi problems:
1. Move your wireless router away from signal-disrupting objects
There are a lot of things in your home that may be affecting your Wi-Fi range and speed or causing drops. The biggest perpetrator is metal, a powerful conductor of electricity and magnetism. Since metal absorbs radio waves, which are electromagnetic energy, it may be the reason your Wi-Fi signal isn’t great. The fact that most Wi-Fi routers handle data via copper wire antennas only adds to the issue.
- We suggest keeping a good distance between your router and the following:
- Remotes for TVs and other wireless devices
- Security alarms,
- Baby monitors,
- Cordless phones
- Other Wi-Fi routers
Since metal doesn’t play nice with the average Wi-Fi router, the kitchen is one of the last places you want to keep yours. Other materials known to sabotage Wi-Fi signals include solid concrete, bricks, and water. If you live in a small area and it’s difficult to keep your router away from these kinds of materials, consider a dual band router with 5.0 GHz. Compared to 2.4 GHz, a 5.0 GHz frequency is far more resistant to interference.
2. Relocate your Wi-Fi router to a central location
One of the worst things you can do with your Wi-Fi router is stick it in a corner where no one can see it. This is even more problematic if doing so means it’s now behind a cabinet or other object. Unless you spend all your time in that that area of your place, we recommend placing your Wi-Fi router somewhere in the middle of your home.
Doing so will give you a better signal strength no matter where you are in the house. Wi-Fi routers are omnidirectional, which means the Wi-Fi signal is being sent to every direction at the same strength. Placing it in a central location will allow your signal to bounce throughout your place, reaching more areas. On the other hand, keeping it in a corner means you’re sending part of your signal toward your home and the other into outer space.
3. Keep your router high
Although Wi-Fi signals are sent out in every direction, they have a much easier time traveling downward and sideways as opposed to upward. This is due to other appliances also sending out signals upward For this reason it’s a bad idea placing your router somewhere near the ground such as a low entertainment cabinet or table.
To increase your Wi-Fi signal strength and range, place your router on a high bookshelf or desk. If necessary, add extra height with books or game/movie cases. If you have a second floor, set up your router there so your signal can be better distributed to everywhere else in the home.
4. Adjust your antenna’s position
If relocating your Wi-Fi router to one of the places we’ve recommended didn’t do the trick, you might also need to reposition the antenna/s. You’d be surprised by the impact tweaking your antenna’s direction can have on your signal’s range and strength.
People who live in two-story homes or have a basement will want to improve their Wi-Fi signal’s vertical reach by positioning the antenna sideways. Otherwise, stick the antenna/s directly up to maximize vertical coverage. If you own a router with two or more antennas, give yourself the best coverage possible by pointing half of them up and the other half parallel to the ground.
Doing will give also your various wireless devices better signal strength since different devices vary when it comes to internal antenna placement. For instance, most laptops have horizontal internal antennas while desktops are outfitted with vertical antennas. Mobile devices are mostly unaffected since they’re designed to receive signal no matter what position they’re held.
5. Change your wireless channel
Wireless routers come with several channels for you to select in order to avoid interference with other routers and wireless devices. But since most people leave theirs on the default channel, their signal is probably being disrupted by everyone around them who did the same— especially if they live in the city or apartments.
The trick is to find out which channel is being used the least by other Wi-Fi networks. To do so on a PC, type in “netsh wlan show all” in a command prompt to see other wireless networks and the channel they use. If you’re having trouble doing this, switch around between channels 1, 6 and 11. They’re known to work best with most 802.11n and 802.11g routers.
We also recommend using one of the many excellent programs out there that can help you discover the best channel. Programs like Heatmapper, Netspot, and Wi-Fi Analyzer can do just that while also offering valuable information, such as showing you what areas of your home have the best and worst signal strength.
6. Assign devices to one of two frequencies (dual-band)
There are many benefits of owning a dual-band router. Having both a 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz.frequency means better range and signal strength because there’s more bandwidth for all your devices to share. But if you feel that your dual-band router isn’t working as well as you had hoped, it might be time to assign your devices to a specific frequency.
All it takes is a visit into your network’s administrator interface and see if your router supports this feature. If so, we recommend assigning big devices like gaming consoles and computers to the 5 GHz while keeping things like smartphones and tablets on the 2.4 GHz frequency. This way, using your phone or iPad will never interfere with any online tasks you’re doing on your laptop or Xbox One/PS4.
7. Upgrade your router antenna
Some Wi-Fi routers come with antennas that can be swapped out for another. Getting rid of an outdated antenna in favor of a new one can work wonders when it comes to your Wi-Fi signal range. It’s also important to find out what type of new antenna would work best for your home.
For example, a high-gain antenna is perfect for an apartment or small place since they allow you to focus your signal toward your living space as opposed to outside. Since your signal is no longer being sent out all over the place, it could also reduce the chance of people mooching your internet connection if you live in a crowded area.
8. Make sure no one is stealing your Wi-Fi
There’s nothing worse than having slower Wi-Fi speeds simply because an unwanted guest decided to share your internet connection. While they download huge file sizes and download illegal content, you’re stuck dealing with slow speeds. This is why the first thing you should do after obtaining a router is changing the default password into something else.
It’s always recommended that your password include an elaborate combination of letters, numbers, and symbols so it can’t be guessed. You should also avoid obvious things like your street name, pet names, phone numbers, etc. There’s a breakdown of the three main types of internet security to consider:
- WEP: Wired equivalent privacy is the most basic form of protection and not recommended if you live in a crowded area, but still better than nothing.
- WPA: Wi-Fi protected access was made to address all the weaknesses of WEP. It offers stronger encryption via two technologies: TKIP and AES.
- WPA2: Wi-Fi protected Access 2 is currently the best form of wireless protection today and highly recommended if you to keep your network all to yourself.
9. Reboot your router
Sometimes we get so caught up with a problem that we forget about the simplest of solutions. Believe it or not, all your router might need to restore it to its former glory is a quick break, especially if yours is on 24/7.
Unplugging your router (also called power cycling) gives it a chance to resynchronize with your ISP. Before you do, turn off all your devices that use your Wi-Fi connection. Unplug the router or modem for at least a minute and voila, hopefully your wireless range and speed is better than before. Do this a minimum once a month to allow your DNS cache to remove memory leaks, outdated pages, and corrupted packets slowing down your bandwidth.
10. Upgrade your router’s firmware
One of the benefits game developers have today is the ability to address technical issues even after the game has been released. This is done by preparing patches that players can download at home to fix known problems. Today, a lot of routers also receive support in the form of firmware upgrades to take care of any problems that appeared after the router went on store shelves.
To find out if your router has a new firmware version available, visit the manufacturer’s website and check their support/downloads section. There should be instructions there that allow you to download the new firmware with no problem.
11. Use an older router as a repeater
If you have a fairly new router but are still suffering from drops or bad range, consider transforming an old router into an extender. Doing so allows the older router to rebroadcast the signal from the new router, thus eliminating dead zones and providing a better signal. Note that not every router supports this ability.
To see if yours does, check the router’s network page. If not, we strongly recommend investing in one of the Wi-Fi extenders we’ve recommended in our “Wi-Fi Extenders” section below. A Wi-Fi repeater is one of the best ways to enhance your router’s signal strength and range.
Why You Should Get A Wi-Fi Extender
These days the average household is packed with devices that use Wi-Fi to stay connected. With all those tablets and gaming devices fighting for bandwidth, even the top-of-the-line dual band router you just purchased may not be enough to provide the signal range and strength you desire. A Wi-Fi extender might just be what you need to satisfy your home’s Wi-Fi needs.
A Wi-Fi extender (also called repeaters) is a device that picks up your router’s wireless signal and then rebroadcasts it to ‘extend’ its range. If your router’s signal barely makes it into your basement, placing Wi-Fi extender in between can allow you to finally enjoy Wi-Fi down there.
Recommended Wi-Fi Extender Locations
One mistake a lot of people make is keeping their Wi-Fi repeater too close to their router. The assumption that keeping the extender close to the router allows it to reproduce a stronger signal is wrong. Instead, you’re pretty much just wasting its use since both signals will just overlap.
On the other hand, placing your Wi-Fi extender too far from your router is also no bueno. If it’s too far then it will only be able to pick up and reproduce a very weak signal. Many of the tips we suggested for your router also apply to extenders as well, including keeping your Wi-Fi extender in a high location and away from any metal appliances.
Other Things You Should Know
While most modern Wi-Fi extenders are powerful enough to send a signal throughout your home, one might not be enough if you’re trying to cover a big office with multiple floors. Having a guest house that’s a good distance away from your home might mean you’ll need two extenders to get your router’ signal out there.
It’s also a good idea to buy a dual-band extender to pair with your dual-band router. This way, both your 5GHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies are being extended as opposed to only one. Lastly, it’s important to remember that even the best Wi-Fi extenders won’t compare to the original signal straight from your router. This is because the more distance a signal has to be rebroadcast, the more strength is lost as data is sent back and forth. Keep your favorite internet devices near your router for the best online experience.
Best Wi-Fi Extenders To Buy
Below you’ll find our list of the best Wi-Fi extenders to buy. Remember that if you own a 802.11n or 802.11ac router, it’s better to buy an extender that’s the same to get the most out of it. While not necessary, it’s also a good idea to try and own a router and extender that are both made by the same manufacturer.
You’d be hardpressed to find a Wi-Fi extender as good as this one that’s also very affordable. Netgear’s AC12000 offers dual band Wi-Fi up to 12000 MBps and 700mW for incredible range and signal strength. A dual-core processor offers the best Wi-Fi performance while Beamforming technology makes sure your router’s signal remains stable.
Other features include 5 GB ethernet ports to give your wired devices the fastest speeds possible.With an excellent review rating left by more than 7,000 customers, you know you’re getting a high-quality product with this purchase.
Boasting a 1 GHz dual-core processor along with dual band speeds of up to 1900 Mbps, this is the best Wi-Fi extender to own. It was designed with enough power to handle everything from the latest online games to 4K HD streaming. You can even plug in your go-to devices into the 5 GB ethernet ports for the best internet speeds possible.
The AC1900 comes with a Smart Signal Indicator to help you find the best location for it in your home. Did we mention the three external dual band antennas that each deliver 700mW of signal boost? Universal compatibility plus a 2-year warranty with unlimited 24/7 technical support only sweeten this amazing deal.
This dual band extender allows your 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies to reach up to a 10,000 square feet radius, covering your entire home and eliminating dead spots. Wireless-AC technology means all a/b/g/n routers are compatible and 4 GB ethernet ports let you plug in your favorite internet devices to get the best speeds.
Innovative crossband technology that allows one band to transmit data to the other, reducing the amount of dropped information and thus improving your signal. Support for 128-bit encryption (WEP, WPA, and WPA2) also means your connection will have cutting-edge protection from Wi-Fi thieves.
This Amazon bestseller is the perfect choice if you’re strapped for cash but still want a device that can extend your Wi-Fi across your place. It’s ability to extend Wi-Fi up to 300 Mbps makes it perfect for all your mobile devices used to connect online.
The Netgear N300 is compatible with all standard routers and features an ethernet port to connect wired devices. Before you let the cheap price convince you that this router is no good, consider the amazing Amazon rating left by nearly 18,000 customers. It’s not the most powerful router out there but still worth considering if you’re mainly looking to extend your router’s range for smaller devices.
Powerful 5dBi dual band antennas and 700 MW amplifiers deliver up to a whopping 1.9 Gbps of speed. Combine it with a 1GHz processor and you’ve got yourself one of the most advanced wireless extenders on the market today. Despite all the technology this fantastic NETGEAR product won’t leave a huge dent in your wallet.
The Nighthawk also comes with 5 GB ethernet ports along with FastLane Technology that lets you combine both Wi-Fi bands to create an enhanced high-speed connection. Wi-Fi Analytics App support means you can also optimize your network by discovering dead zones, identifying crowded Wi-Fi channels, and more.
Buying A New Wi-Fi Router
Maybe you’ve tried some of the tips we provided above but your wireless internet is still subpar. You even went out and purchased one of the Wi-Fi extenders we recommended but you still aren’t seeing the signal strength and range you want. If this is the case then perhaps it’s time to upgrade that router of yours entirely.
When It’s Time For An Upgrade
You’re probably due for a new router if it’s more than five years old. Remember that routers are mechanical and usually on 24/7, which means that over time they lose performance due to heat and constant use. If your router only supports 802.11g or even 802.11n you’re missing out on the speed and range a superior 802.11ac model offers, especially today when we use so many online devices.
Picking up a dual-band router can also make a significant difference if you’re still rocking an old one that only supports one frequency. Dual-band means you have a stronger signal and more bandwidth for all your your consoles, computers, smartphones, and more to share.
If you’re convinced that you need a shiny new router, check out our list of the best ones to pick up this year:
Best Wi-Fi Routers To Buy In 2017
As the first company to sell more than 100 million routers, it’s no surprise that Linksys consistently provides incredible home routers. This one is no exception thanks to its powerful dual-core 1.8 GHz processor and state-of-the-art dual-band technology. A combination of MU-MIMO technology and Tri-Stream 160 guarantees the fastest Wi-Fi speeds possible even when several devices are in use.
The WRT32000ACM offers ports for just about anything you can think of, including USB, network printers, eSATA, and flash drives. Open source firmware also allows more technical users to customize their router with DD-WRT and OpenWrt. All in all, this is arguably one of the best Wi-Fi routers to buy in 2017 if you want performance and reliability.
This incredible Asus router is loaded with enough features to satisfy even the most advanced internet users. You’re getting 8 GB LAN ports that let you connect up to eight devices at the same time. 1024-WAM technology also offers an incredible 21000 Mbps on the 5 GHz band and 1000 Mbps on the 2.4GHz.
The router itself runs on an advanced 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, allowing download/upload speeds to reach up to 1.8 Gps. A few of the many other perks include ASUS AiProtection powered by Trend MicroTM, a built-in game accelerator, 4T4R antenna design for unmatched Wi-Fi range, and advanced MU-MIMO compatibility.
If there’s one router on this list that performs so well it should cost double of what it does, it’s this one. The Archer C9 offers excellent internet speeds, incredible range, and even a few handy features you’ll only find on much more expensive routers.
802.11ac support on this dual-band router offers speeds of up to 600 Mbps (2.4GHz) and 1300 Mbps (5 GHz), making it perfect for gaming online and streaming 4K Ultra HD video without delays. It sports 3 detachable antennas, beamforming technology, an advanced 1 GHz dual-core processor, USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, and even a two-year warranty. If you’re on the hunt for a new router and want the most bang for your buck, TP-Link has got you covered.
With NETGEAR’s Nighthawk AC1900 you’re getting an advanced dual-core 1GHz processor capable of delivering speeds of up to 1900 Mbps. The combined force of Beamforming+, high-powered amplifiers, and three external antennas do their part to make sure you can enjoy those high speeds from anywhere in your house.
The Nighthawk AC1900 is also perfect for gamers and online video streamers thanks to QoS support that helps optimize your signal for lag-free Wi-Fi. Other features include access to the OpenVPN Connect App and ReadySHARE Vault so your data is backed up automatically. Worth mentioning is the near perfect Amazon review rating left by more than 13,000 customers.
This is easily one of the best Wi-Fi routers if you want the best signal range and strength possible. The Linksys AC54000 boasts three powerful Wi-Fi bands that work together to deliver speeds of up to 5.3 Gbps. While one band covers older wireless-N and -G devices with its 2.4 GHz (1000 Mbps), the other two deliver blazing-fast Wi-Fi speeds via 5 GHz frequencies.
This excellent router also boats 8 GB ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 ports, eight adjustable external antennas, and an advanced 1.4 GHz dual-core processor. This may be the priciest router on our list but that’s because it offers everything you need to enjoy 4K streaming, online gaming, and any other Wi-Fi task without ever suffering from lag or connection drops.