January 4th, 2017

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By Jennifer Tuohy

The internet. We all use it, need it, love it and hate it when it doesn’t work properly. You might rely on the web for your home-based business, or your family might need access for homework and entertainment. Most likely, it’s an equal dose of both. Every household today needs a strong, reliable internet connection.

Family in living room with laptop smiling

But what happens when your home’s Wi-Fi is painfully slow, your devices keep dropping the connection, or your streaming videos constantly “buffer”? Frustration ensues, deadlines aren’t met and family movie night becomes an exercise in futility. Parenting in the digital age is hard enough as it is. This article will share five simple tips that, taken together or implemented on a step-by-step basis, are sure to pick up your speeds and bring harmony back to your home.

A quick Wi-Fi 101: We are connected to the internet courtesy of our Internet Service Provider (ISP), which pipes the web into our homes through cable or fiber-optic. Once inside, our internet router picks up the wired connection and feeds it to a wireless router (these two devices may be one in the same), which turns that wired connection into a wireless one. Now we have Wi-Fi, and all our wireless devices— smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs—can connect to the web.

The key in this scenario is the wireless router, and if you want good Wi-Fi, you’ve got to take care of your router. Try out these tips to improve your speeds:

1.     Choose Location Wisely

Is your router hiding in a cupboard? Set it free. Your Wi-Fi router needs room to breathe and send its signal around the house. Make sure it’s in a central location and put it on a shelf or table—the higher up, the better. You’ll see an instant bump in performance.

2.     Check for Devices

Wi-Fi speed is dependent on bandwidth. The more use it’s getting, the slower it will be. If you’re surfing the web and your son suddenly hops on Netflix in the living room while your husband starts streaming Spotify, you might see a sudden drop in speeds. But what if someone else is using your bandwidth? Using your router’s web configuration page, you can see a list of devices connected to your Wi-Fi. If you spot someone unauthorized, kick them out and change your password immediately.

3.     Limit Your Load

If surfing the web, watching Netflix and listening to Spotify often happen simultaneously in your household, consider hardwiring any devices you can (connecting them directly to the router with an Ethernet cable) to lift some of the pressure off your bandwidth. Devices to consider hardwiring include desktop computers, smart TVs and gaming devices such as Playstation or Xbox. You’ll get better performance on those devices (hardwired internet is almost always faster than Wi-Fi) and free up your bandwidth—a win-win.

4.     Ditch Those Dead Zones

Do you find you’re all huddled around the coffee table with your devices, as that’s the only place that has strong Wi-Fi? The further a room is from the router, the weaker the signal. If you have brick walls or thick plaster, the signal has an even harder time getting through. Gift every room with a strong internet connection by buying a Wi-Fi range extender, an inexpensive device you plug into an outlet that will push your Wi-Fi signal further throughout the house.

5.     Buy a New Router

If none of the above works for you, or you’ve had your wireless router for a few years, it’s time for an upgrade. Wireless router technology has advanced a lot, and the new models are “dual band,” meaning they contain both a 2.4GHz band and a 5GHZ band. Having the extra band will help significantly if you have lots of competing Wi-Fi networks near your home. Many routers also offer a new protocol called 802.11ac, or AC. AC routers offer much faster speeds and larger bandwidth loads, which, put simply, is the solution to all your problems.

One (or all) of these tips is sure to fix your family’s Wi-Fi problems and help you all get your work and entertainment fix without frustration.

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Jennifer Tuohy is a wife, a mom of two children and a technology maven. She knows how inconvenient a sluggish Wi-Fi signal can be, and provides great tips on improving signal strength. To see some of the router and WI-FI extender options that Jennifer talks about in the article, visit The Home Depot. 

 

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