10 tips for solving Wi-Fi problems

by Peter Griffin / 10 March, 2016

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Is your Wi-Fi signal constantly dropping out? Are you sick of having to restrict your web surfing to certain parts of the house because you can’t get decent Wi-Fi coverage?

Figuring out what is causing problems with your wireless connection can be a complex task. But this top 10 list of tips and the associated resources cover most of the common points of failure in wireless networking and offers answers on how to get yourself out of a wireless dead zone.

1. Get the basics right: You’ll be mortified if all your Wi-Fi dramas turn out to be the result of a loose cable or wrongly entered password. Make sure the physical components of your network are all plugged in and connecting properly and that you’ve entered your router settings correctly. This will involve you delving under the hood of your router by accessing the software interface on your computer that gives you access to router settings. From LAN and WAN configuration, to TCP/IP and security settings, any one single conflicting setting can keep you offline. Follow this troubleshooting list to make sure you identify router and access point configuration issues that may be at the heart of your problems.

2. Change channels: in the 2.4GHz range where most Wi-Fi routers operate, it is a fairly crowded space with your internet devices competing with cordless phones, baby monitors and even microwaves. Your router is likely to default to one of three channels, but many other devices may be attempting to use that channel too. Switching channel manually through the router’s software interface may be a quick fix. Learn how to change channel on your Wi-Fi router with this set-by-step guide.

3. Beat congestion: If moving to a new channel doesn’t help, it is worth downloading an app such as Wi-Fi Analyzer which will examine network usage, identify congestion and tell you the best channel to switch to. You can then access your router software to make the change. Select one of these apps to analyse your available Wi-Fi channels.

4. Reposition: you may be able to move your router to a more central phone jack, or use a long ethernet cable to move it away from thick walls, metal pillars and other aspects of your house that can cause radio interference. If you have a router with protruding antennae, spreading them out at different angles can make a difference to signal quality. If you are in a two-storey house trying to cover both floors, placing the router as close to the middle as possible is a good idea. Check out this guide for finding the best spot to place your Wi-Fi router.

5. Extend yourself: A Wi-Fi range extender is a relatively cheap addition to your wireless network that can boost coverage around your home to fill in coverage blackspots. You can connect multiple extenders, but make sure they are compatible with your router. Scan this list of Wi-Fi range extenders (check that your model of choice is on sale in New Zealand).

6. Upgrade: How old is your router? If it is more than three to four years old, it could be time to upgrade to a new one. Router technology is developing quickly, with newer models offering better range, signal reliability and software tools. First make sure that your router has the latest firmware installed so it can live up to its full potential. If that doesn’t make a difference, look at replacing it. Watch this video guide for buying a new router (check these models are on sale in New Zealand).

7. Is your device the culprit? These days, so many of our devices are Wi-Fi enabled, from laptops and TVs, to cameras and smartphones. Most of those devices will easily connect to Wi-Fi if you select the right network and enter the correct password. But some devices will have their own quirks, which are exacerbated by them running out of date software. Make sure your wireless device has all the necessary updates applied and check that security, anti-virus and firewall settings aren’t interfering with your wireless network’s ability to transfer data to and from your device. Check some of these potential points of failure to ensure your device isn’t causing the problem.

8. If you can, plug-in: It may be that you are getting reasonable Wi-Fi performance for web surfing on wireless devices, but video and video games stutter and end up buffering. That could be because your Wi-Fi router is a bit older and can’t handle high wireless data throughput or other factors are interfering with the signal. But you may be able to plug the router into your TV or video game console so you can enjoy top speeds, while using the wireless function to serve the rest of the house. Here’s a guide to home networking using Ethernet and wireless connections.

9. Dial up your ISP: Everyone hates calling helpdesk support - they can leave you on hold for ages and some of them even charge you for phone support. But the reality is that they have thousands of customers so encounter the same Wi-Fi problems all the time and know the routers they supply inside out.

10. Get a geek in: Your time is too precious to spend it messing around with Wi-Fi routers and software settings. If the basic fixes don’t work, consider hiring a wireless expert to check out your wireless set-up and suggest fixes. There are wireless specialists all over the country and while many of them focus on commercial wireless networks, many handle home Wi-Fi issues as well. Here’s a list of wireless network experts.

This article was first published in the March 16, 2016 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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