The degree to which we rely on the Internet for everything from work to entertainment means slow Wi-Fi speeds are unbearable. Here are some common causes of Wi-Fi problems and what to do about them.
First, assess your overall network
Before we dive into the common reasons why your Wi-Fi performance is lower than expected, let’s weed out a few things so you can better troubleshoot your Wi-Fi speed issues.
First, don’t rely on a smartphone (or Wi-Fi enabled laptop) for your speed test. Speed testing with a smartphone is not an accurate way to test the speed of your Internet connection.
So before you point fingers at Wi-Fi as the source of your problems, be sure to run a proper speed test on your Internet connection first to rule out any larger issues with your ISP or broadband modem.
Second, Wi-Fi speeds are misleading. What your Wi-Fi hardware says it can do, in terms of advertising and tagging, and what it can do in real-world conditions are different.
Even with a fiber connection that meets or exceeds the advertised speeds of your Wi-Fi router, you won’t get the advertised speed on your phone or laptop.
Instead of approaching your Wi-Fi problem from the point of view of “Am I getting the full capacity of my Internet connection on each device?” that this is not how Wi-Fi works, approach it from the point of view of “Am I getting the expected performance based on my Internet connection and the hardware I have?” and “Has the quality of my Wi-Fi experience recently degraded?”
You can’t make a 5 Mbps DSL connection faster with newer Wi-Fi hardware, and even with newer Wi-Fi hardware and a fiber connection, you won’t break the inherent limits of the Wi-Fi standard. Phi. .
But what you can do, if the performance isn’t what you expect, is to go through the list below and rule out the artificial bottlenecks that lead to a poor Wi-Fi experience.
Outdated Wi-Fi routers affect performance
Everyone hates spending money, and it’s frustrating to replace working, yet underperforming, hardware. But the reality is that Wi-Fi hardware has advanced fairly steadily over the years.
If you’re still using an old router you bought at Best Buy ten years ago or the lackluster Wi-Fi router built into the cable modem/router combo unit your ISP gave you, you’re not going to have a great time. Also, while some of the tips below may help you if you have an old Wi-Fi router, there’s really no replacement for biting the bullet and buying a new router.
Especially for people with new hardware (newer smartphones, a new smart TV, etc) it makes sense to upgrade, as pairing newer devices with older hardware is hampering their performance.
Poor router location dampens signal strength
The only thing worse than having an old Wi-Fi router is parking your Wi-Fi router in a terrible location, and if you have an old, poorly placed exterior, you’re in for a hell of a time.
If you need bright task lighting in your living room, don’t put your high power LED task light in the corner of the basement.
And by the same token, if you want a really strong Wi-Fi connection where you really use your Wi-Fi devices, like your living room and bedroom, don’t put the Wi-Fi router in the basement with the washing machine.
Moving your Wi-Fi router is an easy solution. Just be sure to place it where the signal is most central to your daily activities, and avoid placing it near these Wi-Fi-blocking things.
Too many devices bog down underpowered hardware
One of the biggest advantages of newer Wi-Fi hardware is not just the improved speed that comes with each new generation of Wi-Fi, but an overall increase in power and the number of devices the Wi-Fi router can handle.
Even if you’re not looking for performance benchmarks to show off your new 2 Gbps fiber line, you’ll benefit from a newer Wi-Fi router if you have a large number of devices in your home.
We want to emphasize that it is the number of devices and not the number of users that you want to focus on. Increasingly, devices, even when not in use, have a fairly high bandwidth overhead and place demands on your network that you might not expect.
Cloud-based security cameras use a lot of bandwidth, just like a variety of other smart home devices; you’d be surprised how many bandwidth vampires there are in your home. People think of bandwidth-intensive when they worry about going over their data limit, but all those bandwidth-using devices also often use Wi-Fi.
Add up all the computers, tablets, smartphones, game consoles, streaming devices, smart TVs, smart home accessories, and more found in a modern home, and you’ve got a list that easily exceeds the capacity of older routers. .
While we are talking about too many devices on your Wi-Fi network, we recommend that you consider removing devices from your Wi-Fi network. No, we don’t mean living a life with an Xbox or a smart TV completely disconnected from the Internet; we mean switching any device you can to Ethernet to free up airspace for your remaining Wi-Fi devices.
Old hardware and cables slow you down
This one is really easy to miss if you’re not a huge network nerd. While the Wi-Fi router itself and the Wi-Fi capabilities of endpoint devices like your smartphone or smart TV are a big part of the Wi-Fi performance puzzle, you don’t want to neglect the physical bits. simple that unite your network. together.
If you have outdated Cat5 cables or an outdated 10/100 network switch mixed in with your network hardware, you are inadvertently limiting your network speeds.
For people with slower sub-100Mbps broadband, you may never realize that the old switch ruins your performance, but if you have faster broadband, those old cables and hardware will reduce your potential top speed.
To avoid this, check the physical network cables connecting the different components of your network to make sure they are at least Cat5E, or better yet Cat6. And if you’re using network switches, upgrade from 10/100 switches to gigabit switches. Unmanaged gigabit switches and Cat6 patch cables are dirt cheap these days.
Channel congestion dings Wi-Fi performance
Wi-Fi channel congestion occurs when multiple Wi-Fi devices use the same frequency or channel in the same airspace.
If your neighbor has their Wi-Fi router configured similarly to your Wi-Fi router, and you live close enough that your router broadcasts to your living space and vice versa, it can negatively affect your network.
This is a bigger problem for devices on the 2.4Ghz band than on the 5Ghz band, but you should pay attention to it regardless of whether you live in an apartment or a densely populated neighborhood. You will need to identify which channels are the most congested and refer to the documentation for your particular router to switch to less congested channels.
Wi-Fi extenders increase range, but slow down
If you’ve been struggling with Wi-Fi issues like slow speeds or lackluster coverage, there’s a good chance you’ve considered using a Wi-Fi extender and may have one in your home right now.
Despite their popularity, from a sales standpoint, Wi-Fi extenders get a bad rap when it comes to actual network performance.
While they can certainly extend the reach of your network when implemented correctly, they can also lead to a lot of network congestion, latency, and reduced speeds.
To rule out your Wi-Fi extender as a source of Wi-Fi network headaches, temporarily disconnect it. With the extender disabled, check your overall network performance with devices connected directly to the main Wi-Fi router. If performance improves significantly, there are likely two issues at play, possibly in tandem.
First of all, your Wi-Fi extender may be misconfigured and implemented; use these tips and tricks to get better performance. Second, the extra coverage provided by the extender and all the extra devices you added to the network thanks to that extended coverage might be too much for your main router, even with the help of the extender.
In that case, it’s probably a good idea to ditch the router + extender setup and replace it with a more robust mesh network. Upgrading to a mesh network is like simultaneously upgrading your router and pairing it with supercharged Wi-Fi extenders at the same time.