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 MMOs, 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.
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. 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. 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 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.
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 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 a gateway from your ISP, you can request new equipment if yours is out of date as well—especially if it’s causing poor network performance.
But buying your own modem and router saves you money over time versus renting. Plus, it gives you more control over the features, speeds, and security of your 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 and a Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 router like the Google Nest Wi-Fi or ASUS RT-AX86U.
If you need some more recommendations for a new modem or router, check out some of our favorites:
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.
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 that speed. So even if you have a 100 Mbps plan, you might not always be getting that much bandwidth. In that case, you might need a bit of a buffer, or a speed plan that is actually higher than you think you would need. That way, network slowdowns will still happen but you’ll probably notice them less.
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 main PC, 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.