As long as your network is up and running, you probably don’t think about your Internet router very often. However, that little piece of equipment is the workhorse of your home Internet arrangement. Connecting to a phone line or modem, the router broadcasts a wireless network, allowing you to set up Wi-Fi enabled devices, from smartphones to home automation gadgets, on the same Internet connection.
But just as a router can be responsible for fast network accessibility, it may also be the culprit when you’re dealing with lagging speeds and poor connections. If you’ve recently noticed that your network seems slower than usual, here are eight easy ways to make sure you’re getting the most from your router and optimizing your Internet experience.
1. Reboot & Restart Regularly
Just like a computer slows down when managing a lot of demanding programs, a router can experience a similar problem when a lot of devices are connected. Before you start digging deeper into mechanical issues, try rebooting the device. A full restart can refresh the software within the router, allowing it to resync its processes and eliminate any delays.
2. Place Your Router in An Optimal Location
Too many people overlook router placement when they’re setting up a network. Recent Wi-Fi mapping tests have confirmed that the router should be placed in the center of the residence for the best connection speeds. Your Wi-Fi signal can be blocked by thick walls, furniture, doors, mirrors, microwaves or even a stack of books, so keep the router in a high spot, away from obstructions and other electronics.
If you live in a multistory house, use a powerline network adapter, a device that transmits networking signals via electrical outlets, to strengthen your signal on all levels.
3. Move the Antennas
Those two or three antennas sticking out the top of your router are not just there to look good. They can actually improve your Internet signal strength. For best results, put the antennas perpendicular to each other, with one facing vertical and the other horizontal.
4. Change the Channel
If you live in a high-density area with a lot of Wi-Fi use, changing the wireless channel on your router can help you achieve faster speeds. Think of the channels as individual lanes down a single highway. The lanes with the most cars are going to move slower than the lanes with fewer cars. Most routers automatically choose a default channel and when everyone is on those same default channels with you, you’ll run into more interference than if you switched to a channel that’s not as widely used.
If you’re curious which channels have less traffic, there are various programs that can scan nearby networks for you. Once you’ve found an option with fewer users, you can log in to your router’s web interface controls and switch to the more open channel.
5. Use A Wired Connection
Wireless connections tend to be more unreliable than wired ones, so if your Wi-Fi connection keeps breaking up, try plugging your device directly into the router. For this to work, you’ll need a device with an Ethernet port, like a desktop or laptop computer and an Ethernet cable. Plug one end of the cable into your router and the other end into your device. As long as you have the right drivers installed, you should see some notable improvement in both speed and reliability.
6. Set A Strong Password
Because routers broadcast a wide Wi-Fi signal, any device in range could hypothetically access your network. Luckily, you can prevent bandwidth leeches by setting complex passwords on both the router and the Wi-Fi network. To change your router password, open a web browser and enter your router’s IP address. You’ll be prompted to log in, at which point you can enter the username and password found on the bottom of your router. If you can’t find the password, default login information is easily found online. After you’ve logged in, follow the prompts to change the password to a more secure key or phrase.
Once you’ve adjusted your router login information, set up a secure Wi-Fi network. Take care to choose WPA2 as the encryption method and use a unique, hard-to-guess password here as well.
7. Upgrade Your Old Router
A router from 2006 is not going to be able to handle an Internet connection in 2016. Decade-old equipment and in some cases, equipment in the last five years, can’t keep up with the ever-evolving Internet. Check the model specifications on the bottom of your router, then compare them to your Internet package. If your old router can’t handle the bandwidth you’re paying for, you’ll need to upgrade.
8. Run A Speed Test
If you’ve tried the above tips and are still dealing with connectivity issues, your router may not be the problem. Try measuring your Internet speed to discover if something else is causing a delay. To do this, first determine the speed you’re paying for by logging into your provider’s website or calling the company directly. Then, conduct a free speed test online several times over the course of a month and at different times of day to get a good idea of your average speeds. If the results differ drastically from the plan you’re subscribed to, there may be something wrong on your provider’s end. If the results are the same, you might need to choose a new plan with a higher bandwidth.
To keep up with the evolving world of connected technology, you need fast Internet. Follow these router troubleshooting tips to maximize your services and don’t be afraid to shop around for a new provider if you’re not getting the speed you need.