Increase your home Wi-Fi speed in 4 easy steps

This is part of the story Home TipsCNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home and inside.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed our work. Logging in at home and spending more time online has become the norm; which in turn created a need for fast, reliable Wi-Fi. Even now, nearly three years later, our home internet connections are as important as ever.

In fact, a June McKinsey survey found that 58% of Americans still have the option of working from home at least one day a week. With important team meetings and presentations being held remotely, the last thing anyone wants to deal with is a spotty network and a dodgy Wi-Fi signal.

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Fortunately, you have options. Even if you don’t know much about your router settings or settings the best way to change them, there are still some easy steps you can take to ensure your speeds are as high as possible. Let’s go through them and see if we can speed things up for you. (See our recommendations for better internet the best ISPs, mesh routers and Wi-Fi extenders You can buy it.)

1. Run some internet speed tests

If you’re going to make changes to your home network, you’ll want to do so from an informed position. The best way to get there is to run a little speed tests To get a good handle on weak links in your Wi-Fi connection — and there are plenty of free services on the web to help you do just that.

Among your options, Ookla Speedtest is the most used and the one I would recommend to start with. It has a large number of worldwide servers that allow you to choose from several options nearby to measure your connection speed. Like most speed tests, it’s easy to use – just hit the big ‘go’ button and wait a minute.

ookla speed test

The Ookla speed test is free to use and provides a detailed look at the upload and download speeds, as well as latency, of any device you run it on. This is a great way to figure out where your connection is in different parts of your home.

From there, you’ll see the current upload and download speeds for whatever device you’re running the speed test on, plus ping, which is a measure of how long it takes for data to travel back and forth anywhere. server you are testing.

Start by paying attention to download and upload speeds. To figure out how your speeds hold up, run a few tests at a time in different areas of your home where you’ll be working and play ball with the average. If you’re seeing less than half the speed you see when connecting across the room at close range, this may be where you can improve things.

As for latency, if you don’t have a lot of devices running on your network or if you’re not sharing bandwidth with family members or roommates, you don’t have to worry about it too much. In that case, run some tests while your roommate is on a FaceTime call or your kids are playing Fortnite — this will give you a good idea of ​​how their activity might affect your speed. If that ping number looks like a jump, it is Here are some basic steps you can take, but the best thing to do if you can is to separate that side traffic from your own traffic. More on that a little later.

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2. Move your workstation or router

If you can work close to your router, then a wired Ethernet connection to your computer is the best way to ensure you get the highest speeds. But if that’s not an option, you might have to work in a room where the Wi-Fi signal isn’t as strong as you need it to be. This happens when you are too far away from the router or because there are too many walls or obstacles separating you from it.

A close up of a tplink range extender plugged into an outlet

A simple, inexpensive plug-in range extender like this one from TP-Link could be all you need to boost your home office signal.

Ry Crist/CNET

Before you buy anything, the first thing you want to try is relocating your router to strengthen your connection. For best results, you’ll want to keep it outdoors — ideally as high as possible. If you can reposition the antennas, try experimenting with that as well. Just break them at different angles to increase your speed. If the router is downstairs and you’re trying to boost the signal upstairs, try moving one or more antennas to a horizontal position. Antennas like these tend to throw off the Wi-Fi signal at a perpendicular angle, so a horizontal antenna will give a vertically oriented signal and is more likely to bounce it upwards.

There’s one last thing to check before you buy anything, and that’s your router’s channel. Each of the 2.4 and 5GHz frequency bands that your router uses to send its signals is divided into several channels, just like the TV channels you can pick up with an antenna. Your router uses one channel at a time, and if you’re using the same channel as a neighbor, for example, this interference can slow down your connection.

To change that channel, go to your router’s settings on your computer. The best options are non-overlapping channels 1, 6 and 11, but your router may also have an “auto” setting that can determine the best channel for your situation.

3. Get a Wi-Fi extender (or upgrade your router)

If none of these work, then it may be time for a hardware upgrade. Connection range extenders is an option, and you have plenty of options that don’t cost too much. Your best bet is to choose one made by the same company that manufactures your router. It doesn’t need to be blazing fast — most of them aren’t — but as long as it can keep your speed above 50Mbps, you should be able to use the internet normally, including video calls.

It’s the standard I used recently when I tested a few additional range extenders in my own home and the larger CNET Smart Home, where speeds are limited to 150 Mbps. With only one router running the connection, speeds in remote rooms fall well below the 50Mbps threshold — but with a good range extender boosting the connection, average speeds in the home are significantly improved.

The best performer It was a TP-Link RE605X, with continuous download speeds of at least 130Mbps to both Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 client devices throughout the venue. Available now at Target for $100, it’s my top recommendation in the category. For something cheaper, consider the TP-Link RE220. It doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6, but it performed well in my tiny home tests and usually retails for under $30.

Another option would be to completely upgrade your router. If it’s range you’re concerned about, then you’ll want to move multipoint routers that come with range-extending satellite devices to the top of your list. Again, you have lots and lots of options to choose from — and we’ve tested and reviewed several of the latest systems to market. I like it among them The $233 TP-Link Deco W7200 Best but similar systems from Asus, EeroNetgear and Nest are also worth a look.

Don’t need a mesh router and just want something quick, easy and affordable? The Asus RT-AX86U It’s a solid upgrade for $250, and you can check it out for more deals TP-Link Archer AX21, priced at less than $100. Both support Wi-Fi 6 and performed well in my tests at home.

4. Prioritize your business traffic

So let’s go back to the scenario where your kids are streaming from school Disney Plus and playing Fortnite while trying to work. There are a few things you can do to prevent their internet traffic from affecting you.

The first and easiest is to make sure you are using different frequency ranges. Most routers handle both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands, and many will split these bands into two separate networks that you can connect to. The 5GHz band is faster and the 2.4GHz band offers better range. Dedicating one of these two groups only to work-related traffic will return a better experience than sharing a group with your family or housemates.

The Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 is one of many routers that includes a Quality of Service engine that can prioritize specific types of web traffic, including important work-related services like Skype.

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

Most routers can also create an optional guest network, sometimes with maximum speed settings, which can help your kids consume too much bandwidth. Some will even allow you to control the network on a schedule if you want to cut them off completely during certain hours. Similarly, your router can schedule access for specific devices or a group of devices.

Another feature worth looking for is Quality of Service, which allows some routers to prioritize traffic to specific devices or for specific purposes. For example, Netgear Nighthawk RAX120 allows you to determine that video calls have a higher priority than game traffic. If this is an option for your router, it’s worth a try.

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