Whether you are in the midst of your latest Netflix binge or trying to download a big file for work, a sudden WiFi slowdown is a big deal. When your WiFi slows to a crawl and your stream starts to buffer, you wonder what you did wrong - and how you can optimize your home network.
The problem with WiFi slowdowns is that there is no one single cause. Sometimes the issues are truly external and beyond your control - things like downed wires or even weather conditions. At other times, however, there are things you can do to overcome those slowdowns and speed up your WiFi network for good. Here are some of the most common causes of WiFi slowdowns - and what you can do about it.
Where Is Your Router?
It is easy to ignore your router, especially when you have plenty of bandwidth and everyone can get online. But when your WiFi network slows down and your devices are left hanging, it is time to find, and possibly relocate, your router.
Most people simply plop their routers down on a desk or other convenient location, hooking the device up and promptly forgetting about it. The problem is that routers work best when they are elevated, and that higher position gives them a greater range. If you have a lot of devices or need to stream high-speed video, it makes sense to place your router in the highest spot you can reach. Whether it is the top of a bookcase or an elevated shelf, this higher location should give you better coverage and help the WiFi signal reach further into your home.
Interference from Other Electronics
Your smart TV and laptop may be the most important electronic devices in your home, but they are far from the only ones. The typical home is filled with all manner of electronics, from DVD players and DVRs to microwave ovens and vacuum cleaners. Each of these devices uses electricity in different ways, and the signals they send out could interfere with your WiFi signal and slow it to a crawl.
Microwaves are often sources of WiFi interference, even though that relationship is not widely known. Microwave interference is most common on older routers, so if your router is an older model, you might want to move it out of range.
Bluetooth devices can also interfere with WiFi signals and slow down your network. You may need to experiment a bit with these devices, moving them, and your router, around until you get the least amount of interference.
As your household accumulates more and more devices, even the most robust network may slow to a crawl from time to time. If the kids are busy downloading a huge file while you are streaming Netflix, the existing bandwidth could be temporarily overwhelmed.
This device saturation is becoming a bigger problem as more and more electronics come online. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, the connection between device saturation and network slowdowns could become even more acute.
If you have a large number of devices in your home and expect to acquire more, you may need to beef up your equipment and boost your WiFi network. Investing in a new router is a good place to start, but you may also need to go one step further and invest in a solid WiFi network that incorporates your entire home. Purchasing a few signal extenders and boosters to power all your devices and provide wall-to-wall coverage throughout the home is a possibility, however these are not our preferred choice. These products are ok at the very best, what you need is a unified network that enables you to roam seamlessly whilst having full control over users on the network. Ideally these access points will be cabled in and this will require professional installation – but well worth the investment.
These days just about every home has a wireless network, and many households have two or more. If you live in a densely populated area, you may notice a slowdown in your own network's performance simply because there are so many competing networks in such a small space.
The issue at play here is called channel overlap, and it is a big problem in many cities and towns. While this issue is most common in densely packed places like townhouse communities and apartment buildings, it is becoming more common in the suburbs as well.
The problem is that there are only so many channels to go around, and with many routers preset to a specific channel, WiFi signals can slow to a crawl for everyone. To overcome this issue, you may need to switch channels until you get the best signal, and you may need to change channels several times as more routers and networks come online.
Home Wi-Fi networks are ubiquitous, powering everything from smartphones and tablets to connected televisions and wireless security systems. If you want to keep your own home online, you need to pay attention to everything from where your router is located and which channel it uses to how many devices are connected at one time. Since there are so many causes of slow WiFi, no single solution will work. Rather, you need to take a multi-pronged approach to speeding up your network and keeping all your devices connected.