Improve Your Wi-Fi Speed in 10 Simple Steps
In our world of instant connections, no one likes slow Wi-Fi. So if your home network is acting sluggish, try these simple steps to get faster Wi-Fi. We’ll explain how to do each one and why they work along the way.
Before we begin, take an internet speed test. This isn’t part of our official list of ten things, but it’s good for context. You want to know the speeds you have now so you can compare results as you go through each step—that way you know if it’s helping.
After you get your results, compare them to the speeds you’re supposed to be getting from your internet service provider (ISP). You can find this in your online account or on your internet bill. That way you know if your speeds are actually underperforming, or if it’s just time to upgrade to a faster plan.
If your speeds are near where they should be, but you find yourself running into internet speed issues, you’re probably overwhelming your current connection and need a faster internet plan. Find out how many Mbps you need to support your network with our How Much Speed Do You Need? Tool.
If you suspect your internet speeds are slow because of your ISP, it might be because the ISP’s network is simply slow or your speeds could be getting throttled. Our guide to ISP throttling will help you figure out if you’re experiencing throttled internet speeds.
1. Turn things off and on again.
Do it to your router. Do it to your modem. Do it with the devices you have connected to Wi-Fi. Everything needs a break once in a while—but especially your modem and router.
Your modem translates internet signals between your home network and the ISP. If your internet is acting up, resetting your modem is a good place to start troubleshooting. You may be able to fix modem issues with a quick power cycle. Sometimes you have to call your internet provider to reset your modem on its end to make sure your modem is properly calibrated to be compatible with your ISP’s signals.
Your router could also benefit from a quick reset to clear its memory and give it a fresh start on tasks that were bogging it down before.
It 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.
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. They can also get interrupted by radio waves from other devices, including cordless phones, baby monitors, microwaves, and Bluetooth speakers.
So if your router is stuck in a corner of your home, you may have issues with Wi-Fi at the other end of your home. The best place for your router is in a central 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.
If your router is already in a great location but you’re still having troubles in specific areas of your home, skip ahead to step nine: extend your network.
3. Adjust your router’s antennas.
Many routers have internal antennas—meaning that they’re built in to the body of 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.
4. Make sure you’re on the right 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.
The 2.4 GHz band has been used for Wi-Fi since the beginning, but it’s also used for a ton of other wireless communications, so the airwaves in this frequency can be a little crowded. This band also has slower max speeds than 5 GHz, but its range is better.
The two frequency bands often appear as two separate Wi-Fi networks. So to reorganize your connections, you should log off incorrect bands and reconnect to the correct band 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
5. Prune unnecessary connections.
If you’re running low on bandwidth, you should prioritize your connections. Everything connected to your network should be essential.
Going through all your network connections may take a while, but the simplest way of doing it is to change your Wi-Fi passwords. Then you’ll have to log back in to your network with the new password on every device you use. This is a good way to clear unnecessary connections that you may have forgotten about—for example, that emergency cell phone you keep turned on that has been quietly downloading 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.
6. Change your Wi-Fi frequency channel.
Beyond making sure your connections are on the correct Wi-Fi frequency band, you can also change your router’s frequency band channel. Basically, there are a few different channels within each frequency band, and you can choose which one to use. Most routers automatically choose this for you, but they sometimes choose wrong.
Frequency channels can get crowded, so if you and all your neighbors are using the same channel in the 2.4 GHz frequency 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 (hold the option key and click the Wi-Fi status bar in the top right corner of your screen to access). For Windows, you’ll need an app like NetSpot. Both of these should recommend the best Wi-Fi channels to use.
To change your Wi-Fi to the best channel, you’ll need to go 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.
7. Update your router’s firmware.
Since you’ve already logged in to your router’s interface to check your Wi-Fi channel from step six, you might as well check to see if there are any available firmware updates. Updating your router keeps it as secure as possible and up to date with the latest software fixes for known problems.
Many newer routers have automatic firmware updates, but if your router doesn’t, you should periodically check for them to make sure your router works as fast as possible.
8. Replace your router.
Tech advances quickly. A top-of-the-line router from just a few years ago may not cut it anymore, especially if you’ve added more devices to your network or have moved to a larger home. And if the last time you replaced your router was before 2014, you’re probably working with one that’s two Wi-Fi generations old.
Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) is still fairly new, but it’s much better at organizing connections between multiple devices than its predecessors. That also makes it better for home networks juggling multiple smart home devices, computers, tablets, and smartphones at the same time. But Wi-Fi 6 routers are still pretty expensive.
Routers with the previous Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) standards are more accessible and still good buys. When shopping for a new router, we recommend looking for one that uses both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands, uses a network management app, and is capable of handling top speeds that are faster than your current internet plan.
If you need some recommendations for a new router, check out some of our favorite routers:
9. Extend your Wi-Fi network.
If your router is in a perfect, central 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 Wi-Fi network that covers your whole home from multiple points.
While all these work to push your Wi-Fi farther, the best one for your network depends on what your home is like. 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.
10. 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 Wi-Fi speeds.
Author - Rebecca Lee Armstrong
Rebecca is a natural techie and the friend you turn to when your Wi-Fi randomly stops working. Since graduating from the University of Evansville with a degree in creative writing, Rebecca has leveraged her tech savvy to write hundreds of data-driven tech product and service reviews. In addition to HighSpeedInternet.com, her work has been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ and iMore.
Editor - Cara Haynes
Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.