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Wi-Fi tweaks for speed freaks: 2013 edition

Brian Nadel | June 25, 2013
How many devices do you have on your home Wi-Fi? That many? Here are some strategies for optimizing your wireless performance.

Finally, make sure you use the same level of encryption and passcode as before. I use WPA2 security and a 10-character code. An easy technique that can keep hackers at bay is to change this annually, something I'll do when everything is up and running.

It's a good idea to check the IP addressing of the new router and make whatever adjustments are necessary and/or convenient.

Of course, don't expect everything to go smoothly the first time. After setting up and restarting the new router, nothing on my network would connect the first time. Fear not. A good troubleshooting tip here is to restart the broadband modem and try again in a couple of minutes. In my case, after a reboot nearly everything connected, from tablets to PCs to Internet radios.

The results? Measuring the throughput 40 feet from the router with Speedtest.net's bandwidth meter, the network delivered 8Mbps, up from the 6Mbps I got with the old router. More to the point, its range improved from 75 feet to 90 feet, just about covering the entire first floor of the house.

However, there were still plenty of difficulties to deal with. The areas farthest from the router were still not fully with the program. The extreme south end of the house remained problematic, with the main floor getting less than 1Mbps of bandwidth.

Major parts of the second floor and basement were still Wi-Fi blank zones, including a basement guest room and the room where my sons do their homework, play video games and avoid doing chores.

I needed to get those areas online.

Repeat as necessary
One way around these difficulties is to use a Wi-Fi repeater to fill in some of the gaps. Think of a repeater as a small device that sucks in the router's Wi-Fi signal, amplifies it and then rebroadcasts it at full power to extend coverage.

Over the years, I've found that where you set up a repeater can mean the difference between success and failure. The repeater needs to be close enough to the router to get a strong signal that it can retransmit -- but far enough so that the repeater's sphere of connectivity extends farther into the house.

My best advice is to mentally draw a line between the router and where you want coverage to be and put the repeater roughly at the middle of the line using the closest AC outlet. If it helps fill in the Wi-Fi dead zone, you're done. If not, move to a new location and see if that helps. In other words, be ready for some trial and error work until you get a good spot.

 

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