Improve Your Wi-Fi Speed in 10 Simple Steps
Banish slow Wi-Fi with these expert tips.
Slow Wi-Fi can interrupt Zoom meetings, cause chaos in online worlds, and pause your video stream for buffering. When your world relies on near-instant connections, these little inconveniences add up quickly and become frustrating obstacles to work, school, and life in general.
No one wants that—so we’ll walk you through ten simple steps to get faster Wi-Fi connections.
Know your internet speed
Before you get started, run our internet speed test. It’s not part of our official list of ten things, but it’s good for context. Use your first speed test result as a baseline and compare the results as you go through each step—that way, you know if it’s helping.
You could also compare the results, to the maximum speed advertised with your internet plan. That way, you know if your speeds are actually underperforming or if it’s just time to upgrade to a faster plan.
Keep in mind, many ISPs guarantee speeds only over a wired Ethernet connection. It’s totally acceptable, even somewhat expected, to have a lower number than your advertised maximum speed, especially over Wi-Fi. What’s important is that you’re having a smooth browsing experience.
If your speeds are near where they should be, but you find yourself with sluggish internet, you’re probably overwhelming your current connection and need a faster internet plan.
Do you need more speed?
Use our How Much Speed Do You Need? Tool to see if you need more speed than what your current plan allows. If so, then enter your zip code below to find the fastest plans in your area.
1. Turn things off and on again
First, let’s power cycle everything to see if your Wi-Fi speed improves.
Restart your modem
Unplug your modem or wireless gateway, wait 30 seconds, and then plug it back in. This process allows the modem to clear its virtual head.
Your modem translates internet signals between your home network and your internet provider. If your internet is acting up, a power cycle is a good place to start troubleshooting as it often fixes connection issues. But sometimes you need a customer support agent to reset your modem remotely and make sure it’s properly calibrated to translate your internet connection’s signals.
Restart your router
Next, repeat the process if you have a standalone router. Like with the modem, a power cycle clears your router’s memory and gives it a fresh start on tasks that were bogging it down before.
Finally, turn off the Wi-Fi on all your wireless devices. Wait a few seconds and then toggle Wi-Fi back on. Allow these devices to reconnect and see if your connection improves.
A power cycle might seem simplistic, but turning your home networking equipment off and on again can really give your network a boost. We recommend rebooting your equipment regularly—at least once every few months. But keep in mind that doing this will leave you without internet for a few minutes, so plan to restart your equipment at a time when no one needs an internet connection.
2. Move your router to a better location
Wi-Fi can travel only so far, and its signals can get interrupted or blocked by walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, appliances, and basically any large physical object. These signals can also get interrupted by radio waves from other devices, including cordless phones, baby monitors, microwaves, and Bluetooth speakers.
So if you place your router in a corner, you may have issues with Wi-Fi at the other end of your home. The best place for your router is in a central and elevated location, near where you use the internet most often. Don’t relegate your router to a basement or closet—that’s just setting yourself up for connectivity issues.
Are you still having Wi-Fi troubles in specific areas?
Skip ahead to step nine—extend your network—if your router is already in a great location.
3. Switch your Wi-Fi frequency band
Modern routers work primarily on two radio frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The band you use for your connections can affect your speeds and the quality of your connections at different distances from your router.
Whatever frequency band you’re on may be experiencing some temporary interference, so try switching to the other band. It will show up as a different Wi-Fi network on your device, usually with a label in the network name that identifies the network as either 2.4 Ghz or 5 Ghz.
The 2.4 GHz band is the most commonly accessed Wi-Fi connection. It’s used for many other wireless communications other than Wi-Fi, so the airwaves in this frequency can be a little crowded. This band trades speed for range—meaning it’s better at passing through walls and other objects—whereas 5 GHz has better speeds but a shorter range.
The two frequency bands often appear as two separate Wi-Fi networks. To reorganize your connections, log off from the incorrect band and connect to the correct one on each device.
Connections best for 5 GHz band:
- Gaming consoles
- Smart TVs
Connections best for 2.4 GHz band:
- Smart speakers
- Smart home devices
- Security cameras
4. Adjust your router’s antennas
Many routers and wireless gateways have internal antennas—meaning they’re mounted inside the device, and you can’t adjust them. If that’s the case for you, skip this step.
But if you do have adjustable antennas on your router, try reconfiguring them. Router antennas are usually omnidirectional, which means they send out signals in all directions perpendicular to the antenna. For example, a vertical antenna sends out Wi-Fi signals horizontally and vice versa.
So if you need to stretch your Wi-Fi signals to multiple floors, adjusting an antenna to sit horizontally to spread Wi-Fi signals up and down could help.
5. Extend your Wi-Fi network
If your router is in the best location but you’re still having speed or connectivity issues in certain areas of your home, you may need to add a device that can stretch your network’s range.
There are a few different devices you can use to increase the reach of your network:
- Wi-Fi boosters sit between your router and the dead zone and either amplify or redistribute existing Wi-Fi signals into the new area.
- Wired access points connect to your router via an Ethernet cable and can distribute Wi-Fi and LAN signals as an extension of your router, similar to a Wi-Fi booster. Many devices can be used as access points, including old routers.
- Powerline extender kits come with two devices—you connect one to your router via Ethernet and plug it into an outlet. You plug the second one in where you want better Wi-Fi, and the internet signals travel through your electrical wiring.
- Mesh Wi-Fi systems replace your router with one or more devices that work together to create a single Wi-Fi web that blankets your whole home from multiple points.
While all these work to push your Wi-Fi farther, the best one for your network depends on your home’s floor plan. If you have just one stubborn dead zone, a booster would probably be a good fit. Mesh systems are better for full-house coverage if your home is particularly large or has a complicated layout. And using an access point would be ideal if your house is wired with Ethernet.
6. Prune unnecessary connections
If you’re running low on bandwidth, you should disconnect all unused devices. Everything connected to your network should be essential.
The quickest way to disconnect nonessential devices is to change your Wi-Fi passwords and reboot your router. You will then need to log back in to your network with the new password on every device you currently use. This method will purge all unnecessary connections, like the emergency cell phone you keep turned on that still quietly downloads updates.
Your router may come with a home networking app like NETGEAR Genie, TP-Link Tether, or Xfinity xFi that can show you what devices are connected to your network. If you have an app like this, you could easily find errant connections and disconnect them without having to disrupt your whole Wi-Fi network. Your router’s web interface should have a similar map of all your networked devices.
7. Change your Wi-Fi frequency channel
The 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands divide into channels: 11 in the former and 45 in the latter. Most routers automatically choose the best channel for you, but sometimes you need to change them manually.
Frequency channels can get crowded, so if you and all your neighbors use the same channel in the 2.4 GHz band, that could affect your Wi-Fi speeds.
To find the best Wi-Fi channel, you can use the Wireless Diagnostics feature on a Mac computer—just hold down the Option key and click the Wi-Fi icon on the menu bar in the top right corner of your screen. The Scan window will list the best 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels available to you.
On Windows, you can use a command in Windows PowerShell to see all the available channels or install an app like NetSpot. These methods don’t summarize the best channels for you but instead require you to determine the best channels by examining the scan’s results.
To change your Wi-Fi to the best channel, you’ll need to log in to your router’s online interface. You can do this by typing your router’s IP address into a web browser and logging in. Once logged in, look for your Wi-Fi settings. The option to change your band channel should be there.
8. Upgrade to faster internet
While we hope these tips will do the trick for you, sometimes your internet connection is simply too slow to sustain your internet consumption. If that’s the case, you’ll need to upgrade to a faster internet plan to get better speeds.
And if you’re confused because you’re sure you’ve paid for enough internet speed but your connection still doesn’t cut it, that might be because your internet connection doesn’t always perform at 100%.
Internet providers advertise speeds up to a certain speed—they don’t promise that you will always get those speeds. So even if you have a 100 Mbps plan, you might not always get that much bandwidth. In that case, you might need a bit of a buffer or a plan that’s actually faster than you think you would need. That way, network slowdowns will still happen, but you’ll probably notice them less.
9. Replace your equipment
Your router and modem process all your internet data—if either one isn’t up to that task, it can slow down your whole network. So if you’re dealing with older, out-of-date equipment, it’s time to get a replacement.
If you rent equipment from your internet provider, you can request new units if you believe they’re out of date—especially if they’re causing poor network performance. Internet providers supply either a single wireless gateway or pair a standalone modem with a router.
Buying your own modem and router could save you money over time, especially if you’re renting both. A store-bought router, for instance, usually gives you more control over the features, speeds, and security of your home network.
If you’re in the market to purchase a new modem or router, we recommend a DOCSIS 3.1 cable modem like the ARRIS Surfboard SB8200. It sets you up for 10 Gbps cable internet when the connection becomes available. A Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 router like the Google Nest Wifi or ASUS RT-AX86U are also great choices.
If you want more recommendations for a new modem or router, check out some of our favorites:
10. Update your router’s firmware
If you have a modem/router combo unit (also called a gateway), your ISP probably updates the unit’s firmware for you automatically. But if you have your own separate router, it may be worth checking for updates.
Your router is a small computer dedicated to network management and traffic routing. Like any computing device, it requires an operating system—in this case, firmware. Since no software is entirely perfect, developers release updates that optimize the code, stomp out pesky bugs, and fill security gaps.
Keeping the firmware current is a major priority for performance and security. Many newer routers have automatic firmware updates, but checking the firmware version can give you better peace of mind. Log in to your router and verify that automatic updates are toggled on. If not, update your router’s firmware immediately and then switch on automatic updates.
Bonus tip for faster internet
Wi-Fi is great, but wired connections are faster and more reliable. If you have high-priority devices like a desktop, gaming console, or smart TV, it might be worth your while to plug them in to your router with an Ethernet cable instead of relying on Wi-Fi.
Author - Rebecca Lee Armstrong
Rebecca Lee Armstrong has more than six years of experience writing about tech and the internet, with a specialty in hands-on testing. She started writing tech product and service reviews while finishing her BFA in creative writing at the University of Evansville and has found her niche writing about home networking, routers, and internet access at HighSpeedInternet.com. Her work has also been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ, and iMore.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has been editing and writing in the digital space for seven years, and she's edited all things internet for HighSpeedInternet.com for five years. She graduated with a BA in English and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University. When she's not editing, she makes tech accessible through her freelance writing for brands like Pluralsight. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span.