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Six Wi-Fi problems and how to fix them

Jeff Bertolucci, PCWorld | May 23, 2011
Does your wireless network seem slow? Here are six common causes to wireless network interference, and what you can do to fix them.

Most problems with cordless phones and microwaves involve products that use the 2.4GHz band. Many baby monitors operate at 900MHz and won’t interfere with Wi-Fi. However, some wireless monitors are 2.4GHz, which can interfere with 802.11g or single-band 802.11n routers.

The solution: When choosing a wireless baby monitor, look for a 900MHz model such as the Sony 900MHz BabyCall Nursery Monitor ($45). Alternatively, get a Wi-Fi-friendly system such as the WiFi Baby 3G ($272), which connects to your existing wireless network.

Newer cordless phone systems like the Panasonic KX-TG6545B ($140) use DECT 6.0 technology and the 1.9GHz band, not the 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz bands.

 

Bluetooth devices

Older Bluetooth devices did interfere with Wi-Fi networks—but those days have passed. “Over the past several years, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi manufacturers have implemented specific techniques to minimize interference,” says Kalle.

The solution: “Most people replace their phones every couple of years, so unless you have a really old phone or Bluetooth device, it’s unlikely that [Bluetooth] will interfere with Wi-Fi,” says Kalle.

 

Humans

You might recall from science class that the human body is mostly water, anywhere from 45 percent to 75 percent depending on your age and fitness level. Water can hamper Wi-Fi speeds, too.

“For example, say your room is very crowded and you’re having a party. That can actually dampen your Wi-Fi signal—but that’s an extreme case,” says Kalle.

“When we’re doing Wi-Fi testing in the lab and trying to get very accurate results, we have to make sure that we’re not standing in front of the antenna, because we’ll measurably impact the performance,” he adds.

Humidity can affect Wi-Fi speeds too, but not enough for the average user to notice.

The solution: Relax. Don’t worry about humidity, or those bags of water called people. After all, you can’t control the weather, and it’s unwise to be antisocial just to get better Wi-Fi performance.

 

Security settings

In some low-end routers, a stronger security setting can moderately affect performance. However, that doesn’t mean you should turn off security completely, or downgrade to weaker protection.

In recent years, the WPA (Wireless Protected Access) and WPA2 protocols have displaced the older and less-secure WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol). On inexpensive routers that use WEP, upgrading to WPA may impede performance a bit. In contrast, more-robust devices generally have hardware specifically designed for WPA and WPA2 encryption; as a result, the stronger security protocols shouldn’t slow Wi-Fi speeds on higher-end routers.

The solution: Kalle stresses the importance of router encryption. “You always hear about data theft, and it’s so easy to enable security these days,” he says. Since today’s routers have security enabled out of the box, users don’t have to worry about configuring it. But don’t disable encryption, even if doing so may speed up your Wi-Fi a little.

 

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