After a long day of work, you settle in for an evening of catching up on the latest Netflix offerings. You kick back and power up your 70-inch 4K UHDTV, thinking of what to watch first. Things take a bad turn when you realize that the video is not streaming correctly, and when you check your tablet, your email is taking forever to load, and your Google Drive is just sadly telling you that it is having issues getting any functions to load. Gritting your teeth and taking some deep breaths, you think of your Internet service and decide to return to the kitchen and have that ice cream.
What can you do to get the most out of your home’s Internet speed? Here are eight simple tips that might help get you back on the couch, relaxing with the remote.
1. Is Your Router Up to Date?
Take a look at your router. If you use an older model Wireless G (802.11g) or Wireless N (802.11n) router, your equipment is outdated. Your router should perform as well as your devices, and if you have phones, tablets, TVs, or other devices that you have purchased in the last couple of years, you should look at a Wireless AC (802.11ac) router to ensure the most reliable and fastest performance for your Wireless AC devices. Even with older devices, a new Wireless AC router will enhance performance, and any new devices you add over time will take full advantage of the power of a Wireless AC router.
Upgrading your router will also help ensure that you are receiving current support and firmware updates to address performance and security. A Wireless AC router may not have greater range than your old router, but you will notice much greater performance throughout the router’s range, all the way out to the coverage fringe. Modern Wireless AC routers analyze and manage the way that multiple devices connect, maximizing speed across all devices.
2. Stick With Wires When You Can
Even with the latest WiFi equipment, wireless connections cannot compete with a solid wired connection for speed or signal reliability. Think of positioning your router close to the devices you use that pull bandwidth. Your TV, gaming consoles and streaming media devices will produce the best performance your router can supply when connected directly to the router with a networking cable.
Depending on the size and configuration of your home or apartment, a central location for your router may also work as the hub for your most speed-dependent streaming media devices. To the extent that you can save your router’s wireless connections for your truly mobile devices, your entire system will operate at higher speeds.
3. Are You Getting Dinged with a Data Cap?
Sometimes slow speeds are not the fault of your equipment but are the responsibility of your ISP. Successful marketing usually means emphasizing the positive, and it is no wonder that ISPs do not go out of their way to talk about data caps. A data cap can leave you with a connection with significant speed issues affecting every connected device.
Data caps apply when your service period renews each month. While ISPs heavily advertise their fast speeds, they may also have caps in place. A plan may provide for a data limit at a higher speed and a significantly lower speed after reaching the limit. ISPs will advertise there are no “hard caps,” which means you will not lose all service. The problem is that the speed you have after the cap may be unable to supply your devices.
Check your bill or call your ISP to determine what data cap, if any, applies to your service. You may need to consider changing plans or providers to get the service you need at a price you are willing to pay.
4. Give Your Router Some Routine Maintenance and TLC
Many times we think of our routers as we think of our refrigerators–plug it up and forget about it. Internet connections are a bit different than electric motors, however, and a quick rest and reboot can make a huge difference in performance.
At least once a month, you should reset your router to give it a short rest and to refresh your Internet connection from the source through to the router and all connected devices. If you have a modem that is separate from your router, you should reset it as well. If you are forgetful or do not like keeping up with these routine tasks, you can get a programmable timer that powers the router and modem down and back up at pre-scheduled times.
You may also want to check the firmware version of your router, even if it is a modern Wireless AC one. Upgrading the firmware version can provide performance and security upgrades.
5. Consider Your Router’s Position and Range
If your router is stuck in a back bedroom or out in the garage, lack of sufficient range may be the source of your speed problems in the parts of your property that you use most of the time. If your router and TV have a few walls and several feet between them, your streaming speed and signal consistency are likely to suffer. Whenever possible, position your router in a central location in your house or as close as possible to the majority of your connected devices.
If you have problems finding a suitable position, or if you have a large house and backyard you would like to supply with adequate WiFi coverage, consider buying one or more WiFi extenders (also called repeaters). The small devices receive your router’s signal where it is strong and then retransmit the signal to other parts of your property. The issue with extenders is that they create another level of connectivity that is naturally less resilient than a simple wired or one-jump wired connection.
6. Use Both of Your Router’s Bands
Most modern routers transmit their radio signals on two different frequencies, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. This allows you to have two separate networks running off of your router at the same time. Each device connected to your router will only use one of the two running networks, and some planning on which devices use which frequency can improve speed and performance.
The 5 GHz frequency is normally less congested and works better with high bandwidth consumers like video devices and gaming consoles. The dual-frequency design is intended to allow your router to more effectively handle bandwidth traffic on your system, so take advantage of it.
7. Keep Your Home Network Secure and Free From Hackers
Neighbors who connect to your router can create significant speed issues in addition to the obvious security concerns. If data caps are a problem, you certainly do not want your neighbor to click the gigs off of your plan like an electric meter playing video games.
Make sure your router’s firmware is always up to date. Change your router’s default login and password, and update your personalized password anytime you notice any suspicious activity. Be sure that your WiFi network is using WPA2 encryption, and turn off WPS if your device connections allow connection otherwise.
8. Update Your Antivirus and Malware Protection Software
We usually think of viruses and malware causing problems with our PCs and the programs that they run. Malicious software is also designed to infect and compromise your router and all other connected devices as well. In addition to affecting your Internet speed, malicious software can create significant security issues. Set your protection software to regularly scan your entire system and address any issues that are identified.
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