How can I improve my Wi-Fi so my Steam Link works better?

Playing video games

Question

I got a Steam Link for Christmas, but it’s a bit juttery and keeps losing connection. I’m relying on Wi-Fi since my computer is too far away to use an ethernet cable, which I think is causing problems. What can I do?

Nigel S, via email

Our expert Kim says...

No major connectivity issues have been reported with the Steam Link, so you're right - the issue here is probably your home Wi-Fi network. Improving it sounds like a big job, but don't worry; it's really just a case of getting the right equipment.

Ideally, you'd connect your computer to your router with an ethernet cable - though that's not always possible. So let's see how you can improve your Wi-Fi.

The first thing to do is to get equipment with the right specs. The Steam Link performs best on AC wireless (802.11ac), an up-to-the-minute wireless standard that, thankfully, you'll find in a lot of home gadgets. It also works best on 5GHz band Wi-Fi, so look out for equipment that has 'dual band' connectivity - which AC wireless things always do. 5GHz-band AC Wi-Fi means ultrafast speeds and less interference.

Your router

Yeah, you're gonna need a half decent router. Check the specs of your router and make sure it's enabled for dual-band and AC wireless - if you got it more than, say, a year ago, it might not have the latest tech.

No good? Need a new one? Almost all UK broadband networks offer routers that are at least good enough to handle a Steam Link, so you might be able to blag a new one cheaply (perhaps even for free) by calling your provider and asking for it. Otherwise, it's shopping time. You can get a router with the right specs from shops like Amazon at any price range, whether you're on a budget and want something basic, or are willing to splash the cash for something more impressive.

Woman playing game

Once you've got the router, go into its settings (here's how to do that, if you don't have your manual handy). Check that it's definitely broadcasting Wi-Fi on the 5GHz band - this isn't always enabled by default. In fact, I'd recommend giving the 5GHz network its own name (SSID), and hooking your computer and Steam Link specifically up to that network.

Remember to put the router in a good spot, too. It's best placed somewhere in the centre of your home, where both your computer and Steam Link can get a strong Wi-Fi signal.

Your computer

Okay, now let's deal with that non-ethernet-able computer. How does it connect to Wi-Fi - with internal cleverness, or an external dongle? The same thing applies here: check the specs, make sure it's got AC wireless and can connect to the 5GHz band.

If not, you might want to grab a new Wi-Fi adapter. Again, you can get them at the right standard either nice and cheaply or rather more luxuriously. (Or even Death Star-esque, if you prefer.) Look at the number after 'AC' in the product specs - the higher, the better. MU-MIMO and beamforming are great features to have too, if your router also supports them, but they're not essential.

Wi-Fi extenders

Even with decent gear, your Wi-Fi can still run into problems - thick walls, awkwardly-shaped rooms, and interference from other gadgets can all cause a weak signal. If that's the case for you, think about plugging in a Wi-Fi extender - we like the BT Wi-Fi Extender starter kit - to push it just that bit further.

Here's a guide to boosting your Wi-Fi signal for a few more tips.

And while you're at it, why not find the best broadband deals for gaming?

 

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