This is part of the story Home TipsCNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home and inside.
I’ve spent the last few years at CNET Testing and reviewing Wi-Fi routersand if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: The most sensible way to improve Wi-Fi connectivity in most homes is to upgrade to a network. mesh router.
The reasoning here is quite simple. Traditional routers turn off the Wi-Fi signal from one point in your house, but mesh routers use several devices to get the necessary signal from many points in your house. This makes them look like a team of routers working together to relay your traffic back to the modem. This is a better approach to home networking, especially in large, multi-story homes, where a traditional, single-point router will leave you with dead zones in the most distant rooms. They can make a significant difference even in smaller sized homes, especially if you have dead zone rooms where speeds aren’t as fast as you’d like them to be.
Getting started with most network routers is pretty simple: Just connect a device to your modem with an Ethernet cable, plug it in, and then follow the instructions in the system’s application. From there, you’ll need to select points for the remaining satellite extenders, which are sometimes called nodes (or “Points” if you’re a Nest Wifi user). Again, you’ll want to put some thought into where you place items, as their specific location will have a significant impact on system performance. There are some rules you should keep in mind when you go. (You can also see our tips The best place for your Wi-Fi routerand How to protect your home Wi-Fi network from hackers.)
The best location for your mesh router
As with most wireless transmissions, it doesn’t take long to disrupt your Wi-Fi signal and slow it down. That’s why it’s important to strategically place your mesh extenders where they can perform at their best.
Move the main router
First, you’ll want the main router in your setup—the network device connected to the modem—to be as centrally located in your home as possible. that’s it same approach with a routerand the rationale is the same: Routers emit Wi-Fi signals in all directions, so placing your router in a central location in your home will make the most of your connection.
This goes double for mesh systems, where the strength of the connection near the extenders will largely depend on the strength of the signal from the core router. A stronger connection between the two will help you achieve the fastest possible Wi-Fi speeds throughout your home.
Your options for moving a router may be limited by location your modem, and incoming wiring for your home’s internet connection. An extra long Ethernet cable can come in handy here and gives you the freedom to move the router away from the modem location if needed. If that’s not possible, you’ll at least want to get that main router out in the open, and preferably as high off the ground as possible.
Experiment with these extensions
Once you’ve placed the main router in the best possible location, you’ll want to choose good locations for the extenders. In most systems, you can connect each device to the main router with an Ethernet cable for the highest possible speed, but most users prefer to connect everything wirelessly. In this case, you’ll want to be extra strategic about where you place the extenders in your home.
Again, being outdoors and above ground is the best option for a clear signal, but you may also want to give some thought to your home’s layout, as there may be physical barriers between the main router and extenders. slow things down.
A good rule of thumb is to generally try to keep the devices in your network setup no more than two rooms apart. This can vary from home to home, especially if yours is built with dense materials like brick or concrete on walls that can be difficult for Wi-Fi signals to penetrate. You may also want to watch out for electronic interference from TVs and other large appliances, so if you’re sticking a range extender in the kitchen, resist the urge to hide it above the fridge and move it away from your appliances. as a whole.
Furniture can also block Wi-Fi signals, so if there’s anything large or bulky between your two mesh devices, consider relocating them. Aquariums are another classic antagonist for your mesh setup, as Wi-Fi has difficulty transmitting through water.
The best way to ensure your mesh network is as well connected as possible is to open its app and check the signal strength of each device, something most systems offer. You can also find system manuals online at the following links:
Don’t aim for dead zones
If you have a signal dropout in the back corner of your house, it can be tempting to stick a mesh extender in the middle of that dead zone to boost your speed. In many cases, this would be a mistake.
Remember that just like your phone or laptop, your network extenders must be connected wirelessly to the main router in your setup. If that back corner is a dead zone for your phone or laptop, then it’s likely to be a dead zone for your mesh extender as well.
A better approach is to deploy that extension adjacent into a dead zone where it would be easier to communicate with the main router. In some cases, this may be somewhere between the dead zone and the main router, but you may have to experiment a bit. Hit the sweet spot and the Wi-Fi signal it gives off should be healthy and extend into the dead zone to bring it back to life.
Speed tests are your friend
Aside from the diagnostic tools in your mesh router’s app, the fastest way to check your system’s performance is to run some speed tests. There is many free online services we recommendany of these will tell you the upload and download speeds on the device you’re using in a minute or less.
To get the best data, grab your laptop or phone and run multiple speed tests in every room of your home where you need a usable Wi-Fi signal. Finally, you should have a good ballpark of where speeds are most stable and where they sink. From there, you can try moving your expanders to try and balance things out, or consider buying an additional expander to fill in any gaps. Either way, your home should be equipped with a strong signal wherever you need it.
Other things to consider for your mesh router
Remember that your network router can only offer you speeds as fast as you pay for them ISP. If the speeds in your home aren’t quite enough, it might be time to think upgrade to a faster plan (and it might be worth seeing if your provider will let you try a faster plan for a few days to see if that’s really the problem). Your internet service provider can also provide you updated modem this will bring better, faster speeds to your network system to begin with. It can’t hurt to ask.
If speeds still seem slower than you’d like and your ISP isn’t responding, there are a few other things you can try. For starters, if your ISP’s modem is a gateway device that acts as a router, you may want to disable its Wi-Fi so that the network does not interfere with your system’s Wi-Fi.
Speaking of interference, maybe your neighbor’s Wi-Fi network is interfering with yours. To overcome this, go into your network router’s app and look for channel settings that allow you to tune your network to a different part of Wi-Fi waves, potentially moving away from any channels that nearby networks are using. You’ll also want to make sure your mesh system’s firmware is up-to-date, which should be easily checked within the software.
See our options for more information the best Wi-Fi 6 routersand How to find free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world.