You did your research and bought what you believed is the best Wi-Fi router you could afford. It served you well but after a while, your Internet speeds were not what they used to be when the Wi-Fi router was new. Needless to say, you’re not ready to buy a brand new router so you’re interested in ways to improve the performance of your current one.
Contrary to what you might imagine, you’re not alone. Reduced Internet speeds are a common problem with Wi-Fi routers, regardless of the brand and model. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to return your router to its former glory and perhaps even make it perform better than it ever did.
In this article, we outline 10 of the most effective methods of improving the speed performance of a Wi-Fi router.
Keep your software and hardware up-to-date
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless: make sure your router is up-to-date. Seeing as there are various router types (A, B, G, N, AC), it is imperative that you have up-to-date hardware. The A, B and G versions are old and slow. For greater speeds, you want to use the wireless versions (N and AC).
Likewise, ensure that your router’s firmware is updated. Manufacturers periodically fix bugs in software to improve performance. Admittedly, updating the firmware may not be a straightforward process for some routers. However, if doing so makes the Wi-Fi router considerably faster, then it’s worth the effort.
Position Your Router Well
As with all Internet-enabled devices, your Wi-Fi router needs to be in the best location for you to achieve optimal speeds. While it’s certainly neater to have the Wi-Fi router positioned somewhere out of sight, such as in a cabinet somewhere, doing so doesn’t help with the speeds.
It is advisable to as much as possible position your router somewhere elevated and central to the devices using the network. Additionally, the antennas should be positioned perpendicularly: one facing upward and the other facing sideways.
Prevent Others from Stealing Your Wi-Fi
The signal from your Wi-Fi router is broadcast over a wide radius that includes your entire building and possibly nearby ones. If you fail to protect the Wi-Fi network with a password, it’s likely that there are people freeloading on the signal and sucking your bandwidth dry.
The first step to preventing this is checking your router for unauthorized users. Many modern routers have a client that lists all the devices connected to the network. Some list details such as the IP address, MAC address and data usage of each device connected to the Internet through the Wi-Fi router. Once you identify the intruders, simply delete the device from the network and, if possible, block them completely.
Other measures to take to prevent theft of your Wi-Fi are as follows:
- Change the default admin password of your Wi-Fi router
- Use a strong password or passphrase
- Use the highly effective WPA2 encryption standard for your password protection
- Hide your SSID or rename it to something scary
- Turn off WPS
- If your router allows it, enable MAC address filtering
Implement Fair Usage Rules for Bandwidth-Heavy Activities
When Internet speeds reduce drastically, it is often the case that someone on the network is using the connection to undertake online activities that use up a sizable portion of the bandwidth. These activities include streaming content from a streaming service such as Netflix, torrenting large files, and playing online games. If this is the case, some rules may have to be defined on the times when certain users are allowed to undertake these activities to allow for fair usage of the Wi-Fi connection.
Check for Signal Interference with Nearby Routers
One of the main causes of a decrease in the Wi-Fi router speeds is clashing of router signals. Find out whether the signal from your Wi-Fi router and your neighbor’s router are clashing. This usually happens when the routers are using the same channel, which causes their signals to interfere with each other. Many people don’t realize that they can change the channel on which their router is operating.
Check for Signal Interference from Internal Sources
In some cases, the signal interference emanates from an internal source. These may be home appliances that rely on some form of a signal to operate. Examples of such devices include microwaves, baby monitors and cordless phones. The solution, impractical as it may appear, it to buy signal-based home appliances that offer the option of switching the band to a less crowded one. A quick fix for this problem would be to move the Wi-Fi router to a different spot.
Set Up Periodic Automatic Reboots for Your Router
Rebooting the router is usually the first recommended troubleshooting solution, and that’s because it usually works. You can take this method a step further and set up your router in such a way that it reboots based on a schedule. Most modern router firmware offers such a feature.
Tinker with the Advanced Settings
Alternatively, you can install third-party router firmware that will allow you to set up periodic reboots, among other neat features. It is for this reason that you should give preference to routers that support third-party firmware when purchasing a router.
DD-WRT and other third-party router firmware offer a variety of advanced settings that you can tinker with to improve the performance of your router. Making these changes is akin to rooting your Android device in order to gain root access with allows you to make changes to the low-level setting.
It is, however, important that we mention at this point that before you start altering the low-level settings on your Wi-Fi router, it’s a good idea to do so under the guidance of knowledgeable technicians or someone who has adequate experience with making these changes. Otherwise, you stand the risk of bricking (killing) your Wi-Fi router.
Boost the Signal with a Wi-Fi Extender
In case the performance of your Wi-Fi router becomes sub-optimal, you can boost it by using a device referred to as a range extender. As the name suggests, this device extends the range of the signal from your Wi-Fi router. To save on costs, you can install DD-WRT firmware on your Wi-Fi router and use an older router as a range extender that will enable you to extend the signal to the dead zones in your home.
Set Up a VPN on Your Router
It may be the case that your router’s Internet connection is slow because your ISP is intentionally slowing it down because of certain websites you’re accessing. These include streaming websites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer which demand a lot of bandwidth. ISPs typically monitor users’ data and limit the speed if they detect that you are using these services. This practice by ISPs is called throttling and it also happens when you’re gaming online or torrenting large files.
Fortunately, you can prevent your ISP from throttling your connection by using a VPN, which encrypts your traffic and makes it impossible for your ISP and anyone else on the network from seeing the content of your traffic. Setting up a VPN on one device works fine but for maximum utility, set it up on your browser so that all the devices on the network can freely access content without putting others at risk of throttling.
In addition to improving the performance of your Wi-Fi router, setting up a VPN on it improves the security of all devices on the network because all the data is encrypted. The beauty of this is that it also applies to devices that otherwise do not support the installation of a VPN.