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6 simple ways to improve your WiFi signal during the pandemic

For some of us, we’re doing a lot more work from home during the pandemic. If you or your loved ones are in school or college, you might still be getting used to distance learning. That means a lot of Zoom meetings and remote lessons, and more time spent on the internet than ever before.

If you’re fortunate enough to have multiple devices connected to your WiFi at the same time — like laptops, tablets, smartphones, a smart TV streaming Netflix, a kid watching hours of Tik Tok — you’ve probably noticed a lag in your video conference calls or slow down in your internet connection. All these devices could be putting a big strain on your home WiFi network — but we’re here to help.

We’ve put together a few tips and tricks to help speed up your home WiFi to ensure your video calls run smoothly and your connections stay strong.


Change the placement of your router

If you’re experiencing some dropped video calls or slower than normal download speeds, it could be something as simple as the location of your WiFi router. Because WiFi signals are stronger with fewer obstructions, it might be prudent to move your router (while still connected to your modem, of course) to a more central location in your home. If you have more than one floor, try placing your router on your main or top floor of your home, if possible, and not in a basement. Try to avoid the corners of your home, and keep the router off the floor, and opt for a higher placement in the room. 


Upgrade your WiFi setup

If a new place for your router hasn’t cured your connection woes, you may want to upgrade your current WiFi setup. If you have an older router, it might be time for a new one, as newer routers operate on faster wireless signals. Look for new routers that conform to 802.11ac standards, or even WiFi 6 (but only if you have the hardware and internet connection to support it). Here are some recommendations from Consumer Reports.

If you have a dead zone in your home — a spot where your signal is pretty weak — consider a WiFi extender or mesh networking kit. Extenders are an inexpensive fix that work by taking the signal from your router and repeating it to your device. They’re best for a troublesome spot with poor strength, but not if you have a large area in your home that needs a stronger signal. For that, try a mesh networking kit that spreads your WiFi connection throughout your home across multiple access points.

Here are some recommendations for extenders from CNET and mesh networking kits from Wirecutter.


Change the channel

Most modern routers have the option to run on two different bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The 2.4GHz connection covers a broader and longer range with better wall penetration, while 5GHz is much faster but lacks the distance. Many other common devices run on 2.4GHz, so the bandwidth may be more crowded than on the 5GHz band. The FCC recommends “dedicating the 5 GHz network on your router to your most important uses, such as work or school. Change the password or manage the devices that access your Wi-Fi network to keep non-essential devices from connecting.”


Check to see if you’re infected (by malware)

Your internet speeds may have nothing to do with your connection at all. It’s possible that your computer may be infected with viruses or malware, which could slow down your computer. Make sure your computer has the most recent updates and patches and your antivirus software is up to date, then run a scan. Also, reboot your router in case it’s infected with a piece of malware called VPNFilter that has infected nearly 500,000 routers worldwide.


Hardwire your connection

Remember ethernet cables? Plugging directly into your router or modem might be the perfect solution to a slow WiFi connection. Ethernet connections are more reliable and faster than your WiFi signal, and you’ll free up some wireless space for other devices in your home. If your computer doesn’t have a dedicated ethernet port, you can pick up an inexpensive USB-to-ethernet adapter or hub to connect directly with your ethernet cable. 


Upgrade your internet plan

If all else fails, you may need to consider a new plan with your Internet Service Provider, if your budget allows for it. While you may have a top of the line router, your internet service could be the bottleneck. If you first signed up for an internet plan years ago, it’s possible your ISP offers much faster plans that can accommodate higher usage on multiple devices. You may also want to check with your ISP that your modem and router (if provided by your ISP) are the newest they offer, which could provide you with faster speeds at little or no cost to you.