1. Put your WiFi router in its (proper) place. The right place, not under the kitchen sink. For the strongest possible wireless connection, position your WiFi router on a flat surface off the floor, closest to the center of your home, if possible. Somewhere up high and out in the open is best, away from thick, dense brick, stone, metal, or concrete walls that could hamper the signal. Even some wallpapers hinder WiFi radio waves (and some are even designed to).
Be sure to station your router so that signals will go straight through walls, as opposed to at an angle. WiFi signals significantly weaken when they hit walls at angles, according to Verizon. If you’re in a multi-floor home or office, place your router on the top floor for maximum coverage.
You’ll also want to situate your router at least 10 feet from certain devices and objects that could interfere with your WiFi signal, like refrigerators, baby monitors, microwaves, cordless phones, garage door openers, speakers, halogen lamps, and mirrors.
2. Switch the channel. TVs aren’t the only gadgets that have channels you can change. To reduce interference from neighboring WiFi networks, switch the channel on yours (according to the instructions on your specific router model) to channel 1, 6, or 11. These are the best and most common channels for wireless networking, according to Best Buy. If you switch and your signal is still no bueno, try another channel (2 through 10) until you find one that maintains a strong connection.
3. Buy a high-gain WiFi antenna. Most WiFi routers come with an antenna or two, but sometimes they’re not strong enough to send signals to hard-to-reach areas and distant corners. Adding a high-gain or “booster” antenna to your router can fix the problem, instantly extending and strengthening your router’s range. Plus, they give you coverage over large areas, often throughout entire homes, offices, warehouses, and outdoor spaces.
A decent variety of high-gain antennas are available at most electronics stores, online and off. Consider buying a reliable, widely-used one, like the Cisco-Linksys High Gain Antenna Kit or Hawking Technology Hi-Gain 6dB Omni-Directional Wireless Antenna. Both retail for around $15.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a techie-type to install a high gain antenna. Simply unscrew your router’s existing antenna and screw on the new one. No cables. No drivers. No fuss.
Remember that beer-can hack? When done right, I hear it can work nearly as effectively as a high-gain antenna, and it’s a lot cheaper. I’m just saying. If you’re up for trying it, check out this step-by-step DIY instructional video. Soda and coffee cans reportedly work just as well. Good luck! (If you do try the beer trick, drop a comment below and let me know how you fared. I plan on rigging one up this weekend.)
4. Buy a plug-in extender. High-gain antennas broadcast your WiFi signal, and WiFi extenders, also called repeaters, rebroadcast them with improved range and speed. Buh-bye, WiFi dead zones. They can be used at the same time as high-gain antennas.
PC World contributing editor Lincoln Spector finds extenders more effective than their high-gain cousins, but he notes that they’re generally more expensive than them. He’s right. A decent electrical outlet plug-in WiFi extender, like the NETGEAR N300 Wi-Fi Range Extender, will set you back $70. On Networks offers an equally effective extender for just $40.
Full disclosure: This article was written in the cloud thanks to a WiFi leg up from the above mentioned On Networks extender plugged into my kitchen wall. I plug it in near wherever I work around the house and, when they’re lucky and when I’m off the clock, wherever my kids zone out on their tablets and smartphones.
The process of finding my extender’s sweet spot is a little hit-or-miss. I often have to move it a bit to find the best location, and I occasionally have to tilt the antennas on it. Also, I use only one extender, but you could use more than one, if needed.
5. Be a bad sharer. Stop sharing your WiFi network’s name with your neighbors. How? By turning off its service set identifier (SSID) broadcasting option. Doing so blocks people (strangers!) in your vicinity from seeing your network — and mooching off it and slowing it down. More importantly, it reduces your risk of getting hacked. Speaking of security, if you haven’t already, take a moment to password-protect your WiFi network.