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How to improve your Wi-Fi signal

Paying for a rapid connection, but still not getting the broadband speeds you need?

Following these simple steps should help you boost wireless signal around your house and make using the internet on your smartphone, tablet, PC and TV a more enjoyable experience no matter where you are.

1. Check what sort of Wi–Fi your router offers

BT Home Hub - No Phone

If your speeds are slow, you may want to look at your wireless router first. If it's old, chances are that's the culprit for slow speeds.

There are different kinds of Wi–Fi, known as wireless standards. As a rule of thumb, if your router has Wireless A, B or G, then it'll offer slow speeds and likely be too old to function properly with fast connections.

Most routers handed out by internet service providers (ISPs) these days use the newer Wireless N or Wireless AC standard. If you're unsure, call your ISP to ask or look on the back of your router to see what standard it uses.

Regardless of what brand you have, routers that support Wireless N and AC will help improve Wi-Fi signal in your house.

2. Make sure your gadgets have the right Wi–Fi

wireless ac standard

It's no good having the latest router with the best wireless standards if your computer doesn't have the same Wi–Fi capabilities.

The latest PCs, Macs, tablets and phones all support Wireless N, with more expensive kit offering Wireless AC. PC owners can check what wireless standard they have in their Device Manager, under the network adapters menu.

3. Put your router in the right place

home interior

Rather than hiding your router away in a cupboard, make sure you keep it out in the open and ideally in a spot where its range can reach into rooms easily. Think hallways and landings. If it has antennas, make sure they're kept standing up so they can send out a strong signal and improve Wi-Fi reception.

Most importantly, try and keep them away from cordless landline phones and appliances like microwaves. These kind of devices can cause interference and leave you struggling to get the speeds that your ISP promises.

4. Switch channels

This trick will make you feel like a tech wizard, but it's actually easy to do and could fix all your broadband woes within a matter of minutes.

Routers use channels to send data and if you live in a crowded area, you’ll find that many use the same channel. The result is that things slow down considerably.

Download a Wi–Fi stabiliser app — there's a selection for Android here or you can grab Ofcom's official iPhone app here, or one of many just like it, to see what the best channel is for your house or flat.

Once you’re done, you'll need to log into your router on your PC, tablet or smartphone. This varies depending on ISP, but if you search "change router channel", Sky, Virgin and TalkTalk all offer advice on how to do so. It's as easy as typing in a set of numbers (the IP address) into your web browser. There you'll see a drop-down menu to change the channel. Pick one that your neighbours aren’t using and you should see an uptick in speeds right away.

5. Update your software

Updating apps and software on smartphones, tablets and PCs has become second nature. That's because it largely happens automatically.

What you might not know is that your router's software can be updated, too. Look on the back of your router to get the model make and name and use this to search for new software, also known as firmware, online. You can update this via your router's web interface, too.

As with changing the channel, you can access this by typing in the IP address for your router, which can be found on the manufacturer's website.

6. Who’s using what?

boy using laptop kids children

If you live in a household where one person is streaming tunes via Spotify, two are watching Netflix on the smart TV and another is flipping through Facebook on the iPad, then chances are that's what's slowing things down.

You can either limit this by telling people to stop using their favourite web services (not ideal), or you can set up Quality of Service (QoS) rules by logging into your router. This means you can optimise your router for intense tasks like gaming and video streaming or simpler ones like web browsing.

7. Invest in a wireless booster

netgear wifi extender

It may be that you live in a large house or one with thick walls which interrupt your router's signal. This can be fixed by investing in extenders, also known as wireless boosters, to extend Wi-Fi range.

To get one working, there are several ways you can get started. The easiest is to simply plug an Ethernet cable into your router and one of the supplied plugs, put that into the mains, and then plug in the second plug wherever you need Wi–Fi. Otherwise, you can also set them up via Wi-Fi networks and your browser. There are many guides on how to do this if you search the internet.

Just remember that these create a new network, meaning you’ll need to set up a new password to ensure it is secure.

Extenders start from around £20 but at least mean you don’t have to pay extra each month for faster Wi–Fi that may not work in your building.

Find out more about the wireless routers that are bundled with providers' broadband packages here.