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)  Secure your Wi-Fi 

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 up wireless security.

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 up wireless security so that only you and anyone you give your password to can use it. 

2) 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. 

3) Remove interference 

Even fish tanks can interfere with your Wi-Fi signal and slow it down.

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. 

4) Change wireless channel 

Newer routers, like the BT Home Hub 4 and BT Home Hub 5, allow you to switch between two wireless channels.

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. 

5) Contact your provider 

If you've taken steps to improve your Wi-Fi and it still seems to be bobbins, give your provider a call and ask if there's anything they can do to help.

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. 

6) Get a wireless powerline adapter

Wireless powerline adapters use the internal wiring in your house to relay Wi-Fi to parts of your home your router struggles to reach.

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. 

7) Upgrade your antenna 

If you have a router with an external antenna, you can improve your Wi-Fi signal by getting a high-gain 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. 

8) 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. 

9) 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! 

10) Try DIY 

If you've tried everything and your Wi-Fi is still wack you may be able to boost your signal with a DIY solution.

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. 

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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