I was talking to a client the other day who complained that his home internet used to work well — until he began to work from home.
It’s no surprise. You’re putting your network through its paces. The whole family is working, schooling, procrastinating on social media, streaming movies, and so forth — all at the same time.
Your network has never been through anything like this before, and now the cracks are showing.
What can you do make your wi-fi faster and more reliable?
The bad news: You may need to upgrade your internet pipe or the router, modem and wi-fi hardware.
The good news: Before you spend on upgrades, there are several things you can do — for free — that could help.
Optimize Hardware Settings
Your network hardware has “firmware” that functions like a built-in operating system. For many products, firmware updates automatically. But you may have products that require manual updates. If your firmware is out-of-date, the hardware may not be working as well as it could. Check the user manual for instructions.
Your network hardware also should have a way for you to control settings that might affect system performance. For example, wi-fi signals move over channels — some faster than others. Try switching the channel your router uses. That may help. Also, some wi-fi routers distribute signals over multiple channels — some faster than others. You may have some control over which devices connect to which channels. Explore whether you can adjust those settings so your critical devices (work computers, for example) connect to the faster channels.
Move Your Wi-Fi Hardware
Most of us have one or more routers and/or boosters to distribute the wireless signal around our house. If those are buried in a cabinet or closet, you’re probably reducing the signal. If you can, move those wi-fi machines into a more open place, the higher the better, with no obstructions.
Unplug Smart Devices You Don’t Need
We can now control lights, sound systems, and other electronics in our house with smart online devices. That’s cool, but that drains network resources. Unplug what you don’t need and see if that makes a difference.
Turn Off Computers, Televisions and Other Wi-Fi Devices When You’re Not Using Them
Many of us now have television systems that run on our home wi-fi networks. When the TV is on but you’re not watching, you’re wasting bandwidth that you might need for that Zoom conference. When you leave on that laptop that you’re not using, you’re wasting bandwidth that your desktop needs.
The closer you sit to the wi-fi device, the better. This may not be possible in all cases. But maybe you can rearrange to create a web conferencing space closer to that router.
Plug In to the Network
We love the convenience of wi-fi. But the wireless network has limits. A wired network is faster and can handle much greater capacity. If you can, plug directly into the network. You’ll need an ethernet cable, a network port on your computer (or a network adapter) and proximity to your network router (or a network outlet if you’ve distributed those throughout your home).
Change Your Wi-Fi Password
An uninvited guest may be “borrowing” your wi-fi signal without your knowledge. Change the password to make sure you don’t have a leech sucking bandwidth from your system.
Check Your Wireless Camera Settings
Wireless cameras such as Arlo and Nest are often set to record motion only while you’re away. If your cameras have been set to a schedule and not revised to life under quarantine, then they may be recording a lot of motion that you don’t want (like your child playing peak-a-boo with the camera). These recordings can be a significant drain on your upload bandwidth, which will be very noticeable during two way communications, such as a video chat.