Ask our expert: What can I do to improve my wireless broadband?

Question

Hi Dominic, My wireless broadband is really slow. I've reset my router and tried a few other things, but none of them have worked. How can I make my Wi-Fi faster? Thanks for your help!

Kate, Edgbaston, via email

Our expert Dominic says...

Before you do anything else, work out how much speed you're losing wirelessly by doing a speed test using your Wi-Fi and then another with your computer plugged into your router. If it's your Wi-Fi that's the problem, there are a number of things you can try to improve it.

Video: How to boost your Wi-Fi

 

Ways of improving your Wi-Fi

Here are our top 10 tips for boosting your wireless broadband. You won't need them all - start out by trying out the simpler ones and then through the process of elimination you'll be able to work out if you need to try the others. 

1) Get a better router 

One of the easiest - but far from the cheapest - ways to make sure your Wi-Fi is as good as possible is to get a new router. These days, n routers usually come as standard with broadband. They use multiple antennas, so you get faster Wi-Fi over a greater range than you do with an older b or g router. 

So, if your router's a few years old you're likely to be able to get a better one by now. However, a decent router could set you back £100, so try our other tips, less costly ways of speeding up your Wi-Fi before resorting to buying a new one. And, before you do, contact your current provider and see if you can get them to send you their latest router for nada - if you don't ask you don't get! 

Here are our top 5 wireless routers

Routers Name  Details  Price   
  TP-LINK TD-W8970 Gigabit Wireless N ADSL2+ Modem Router for Phone Line Connections (300 Mbps, 2 USB Ports for Storage Sharing, Media/Print Server and Multi Accounts) All-in-one device: ADSL2+ modem, NAT router, 4-gigabit-port switch and wireless N access point. Versatile connectivity, ADSL or Ethernet WAN for multiple internet connection types. 300 Mbps wireless speed and gigabit ethernet ports, ideal for multiple HD video streams. 2 USB ports for storage sharing, printer sharing, FTP server and media server. WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK encryptions provide user networks with active protection against security threats  Only £33.58 Buy Now 
  Asus RT-N56U - 300Mbps Dual Band Wireless N Router. 802.11n, Hardware NAT, 5 Internal Antennas, Fast Gigabit Ethernet, Wireless HD content streaming, 3 Year Warranty  Flexible dual-band lag-free entertainment. Gigabit internet surfing with hardware NAT(While ISP support). Powerful Online Multitasking at up to 300,000 Data Sessions. Twin USB ports enable multi-role usability   Only £69.00  Buy Now
  Belkin Wireless N600 Modem Router ADSL (BT Line)  Optimum performance for video streaming and gaming. Simultaneous dual-band and MultiBeam technology provide maximum throughput and multi-device coverage throughout your home. Wireless speeds of up to 300 Mbps + 300 Mbps. USB port for wireless printing and storage. Four Belkin apps support easy back-up, printing, video play and diagnostics 

 Only £41.99

Buy Now 
  NETGEAR DGND4000-100UKS N750 Dual Band Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router for Phone Line Connections All-in-one device - built-in ADSL2+ modem and WAN gigabit Ethernet port for cable/fiber combined with a wireless router to create an integrated home gateway. Faster multimedia streaming - provides up to 450 Mbps wireless speed for streaming HD videos, simultaneous downloads, and online gaming. Live Parental Controls - keep your Internet experience safe by using flexible and customisable filter settings. Ships in Certified Frustration-Free Packaging   Only £150.39 Buy Now 
  D-Link DIR-850L AC1200 1200Mbps Simultaneous Dual-Band Wireless AC Broadband Router  802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wireless LAN for a complete range of wireless compatibility. Multiple internal antennas with Wireless AC technology to optimise your wireless coverage. Remotely view and manage your network over the Internet. mydlink Lite app helps you access, manage and view your network remotely. WPA & WPA2 wireless encryption protects the network from intruders    Only £55.12  Buy Now

click here for all wireless routers 

Click here for 4G routers 

2) Get a wireless powerline adapter

Wireless powerline adapters - also known as home plugs - use the internal wiring in your house to relay Wi-Fi to parts of your home your router struggles to reach. They're not cheap, but they be very effective. 

Basically, a wireless powerline adapter can create a Wi-Fi hotspot wherever you've got a free plug socket. They're ideal for getting Wi-Fi up to a loft conversion, for example. However, while wireless powerline adapters can work very well, improved coverage isn't guaranteed. Devolo, Netgear and TP-Link are all reputable producers of wireless powerline adapters. 

Here are our top 5 wireless powerline adapters

Adapter Name Details Price  
  BT Broadband Extender 500 Kit, Powerline Adapter Extend broadband anywhere around your home - turn any power socket into an internet port. Works with all Broadband providers. Use this kit on its own or link with other HomePlug AV powerline adapters. High speed data transfer (AV500) ideal for downloading music, multiple HD/3D TV streaming, or online gaming via an ethernet cable. Works out of the box   Only £34.99 Buy Now 
  Linksys Powerline AV 4 Port Network Adapter Kit   Turn your home's existing wiring into a digital network - instantly. Data rates up to 200 Mbps. Compatible with other HomePlug devices Only £26.99  Buy Now 
  TP-LINK PA411KIT AV500 500 Mbps Powerline Adapter Starter Kit- Twin Pack   High-speed data transfer rate up to 500M, ideal for HD video or 3D video streaming. Up to 300 meter range over the home's electrical circuit. Plug and Play operation means no additional wires or configuration required. Patented power-saving mode automatically reduces power consumption by up to 85%. Fully compatible with other TP-Link powerline products

Only
£24.98 

Buy Now  
  NETGEAR XAVB5221-100UKS 1 Port 500 Mbps Powerline Adapter (Pack of 2)  Plug-and-Play - setup in minutes, with no need to configure or install software. Energy-saving - automatically powers down when not in use. Push and Secure - encrypt your Powerline network connections with the touch of a button   Only £29.99 Buy Now  
  D-Link DHP-309AV 200 Mbps Mini Powerline Adapter Starter Kit  Extend Your Network. PowerLine AV+ Speed and Coverage Advantages. Just Plug and Connect. Great Design. Imagine the options  Only £27.99   Buy Now

Click here for all wireless powerline adapters

 

3) Move your router 

Where you position your router can make a huge difference to the quality of your Wi-Fi. The nearer you are to your router with a clear view of it, the better your wireless signal will be. Try to put it in the middle of your home so the signal can reach all the rooms, or at least the ones where you are mostly likely to want Wi-Fi. 

Ideally, put your router high up, on top of a book shelf for example, without any clutter around it. Don't be tempted to put it in a cupboard - it needs to be out in the open and away from obstructions if you're going to get a good signal. 

4) Use a signal repeater 

A wireless repeater can improve the range of your Wi-Fi by bouncing - or repeating - the signal over a greater distance. They are not quite as effective as powerline adapters, but popular models like the Huawei Wi-Fi Repeater and the Netgear Universal WiFi Range Extender will cost you around £50, so they are generally cheaper. They're easier to set up too - you simply position the repeater roughly halfway between your router and the room you want your Wi-Fi to reach.

Click here to buy a Huawei Wi-Fi Repeater

Click here to buy a Netgear Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender

 

5) Upgrade your antenna  

Although newer routers, such as the   Virgin Media Super Hub, don't have an external antenna, older models like the Plusnet Thomson 585v8 often do. The antennas supplied with most routers that have them use an omni-directional signal - one that fires out in all directions. This means if you put your router near an exterior wall it could be sending half the signal outside your home, weakening your Wi-Fi. 

If you have a router with an external antenna, you can improve your Wi-Fi signal by getting a high-gain antenna, which will direct the signal to a general area you want Wi-Fi. Alternatively, if it's possible to place your router centrally in your house get an omni-directional high-gain antenna, which should make the Wi-Fi signal stronger all round your home. D-Link and TP-Link both do a bunch of omni-directional high-gain antennas. 

As we've said already, newer routers usually have built-in antennas, so make sure it's possible to replace the antenna on your router before splashing out on a new one. If you have a router with a built-in antenna, it may be worth giving a USB wireless adapter a try. Plugging one directly into your computer or laptop will make it better at picking up Wi-Fi. TP-Link is popular when it comes to USB wireless adapters and has a few different models. 

6) Change wireless channel 

Newer routers, like the BT Home Hub 4 and BT Home Hub 5, allow you to switch between two wireless channels - 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. This means if your Wi-Fi signal is weak on one channel you can switch to the other, where you'll hopefully get a stronger connection. 

Generally the 5Ghz channel will be faster, but if interference from other electronics is slowing it down, you can switch to the 2.4Ghz channel. Read the documentation that came with your router or visit your provider or the manufacturer's website to find out how to configure it. Your computer, tablet or smartphone should detect the new settings automatically. 

7) Try DIY 

If you've tried everything and your Wi-Fi is still wack - or if you simply don't have the money to try any of the tips that involve spending it - you may be able to boost your signal with a DIY solution. There are loads of guides and videos online that show you how you can improve your Wi-Fi signal using tin foil, a beer can and even a sieve. 

8)   Secure your Wi-Fi 

If you don't have a Wi-Fi password then anyone within range of your Wi-Fi can 'steal' your broadband. Not only will this slow it down, it could also land you in trouble with the law if a freeloader uses your internet for something ropey as you're responsible for what it's used for. 

So, a simple step to take to make sure your Wi-Fi isn't slow because it's being nicked by your neighbours is to set upwireless security so that only you and anyone you give your password to can use it. 

9) Remove interference 

Other people's wireless routers, cordless phones, microwaves, baby monitors and even fish tanks can interfere with your Wi-Fi signal and slow it down. While there's not a lot you can do about the first one, try to keep other electrical appliances - and fish - away from your router. 

10) Contact your provider 

Your broadband should want make sure you're having the best experience possible. So, if you've tried the previous steps and your Wi-Fi still seems to be bobbins, give your provider a call and ask if there's anything they can do to help. They may be able to offer you advice specific to your broadband package, do something from their end, offer you a better router or even get an engineer to visit you to investigate. 

 

Speeding up your broadband 

Did a speed test and found the internet is as slow when you connect your computer to your router with a cable as it is when you connect wirelessly? Then it's your broadband in general that's slow, not your Wi-Fi, so you should take a butcher's at our tips on how to make your broadband faster

Switching broadband 

As we've said in the previous section, if your broadband is slower than an ice age, then it doesn't matter what you do to try and boost your Wi-Fi, it will be even more glacially paced. If you've also tried to speed up your broadband and had no luck, then it may be worth your while looking into switching packages.

 

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Guide: Wireless broadband - everything you need to know about Wi-Fi  

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