Struggling with WiFi dead-zones? What if I told you you could fix that? Here’s 10 easy solutions, most of them free, to your coverage troubles.
I think many of us have been there. Your WiFi won’t reach your bedroom. So frustrating, it drives you to hover about, desperately trying to catch the straggling signal. It’s the thick walls, the radio-waves, or something else completely out of your control.
Seems hopeless, right?
Oddly enough, you can really improve your coverage all by yourself. Just one of these tips and tricks could be all you need.
Let’s start with the free ones:
1- Be strategic with your router placement
Might sound simple, but in fact, it may require a bit of thinking. Most people may assume that they need to put their router at the centre of their house. A router transmits in all directions, right?
Yes, in a perfect world. But this isn’t the case for everyone: for some, putting the router at the centre of the house may block off a whole lot of signal, as the router is adjacent to thick walls that can disrupt them (could be anything from old stone foundations, to walls with modern insulation that contains aluminium).
Therefore some people may find that their router would be better transmitting from somewhere with thinner walls, so it can reach more rooms, and bounce into others.
Also, put your router up high so it can reach the other floors: routers transmit better laterally than vertically.
But there’s more:
2- Watch out for the signal disruptors
As well as thick walls, there are myriads of other things that can disrupt your WiFi signals. Your TV, your radio, your microwave, your fridge, your baby monitor, your baby (yes, humans do it too); anything metal, dense, or that transmits radio-waves.
So, again, put your router up high to avoid this disruption.
This also means that the kitchen is probably the worst place to put your router. And, although it might seem like a good idea, putting the router in the games room might mean disrupted internet for the rest of the house.
But some signals cannot be avoided; in which case, it is worth trying this more technical solution:
3- Change your router’s WiFi channel
Try to avoid your signal clashing with other transmitting devices by altering the WiFi channel your router is broadcasting on. This is especially effective against other WiFi Access Points (transmitters), perhaps that you’re using, or that your neighbours are using, that may be clashing with and disrupting your signal.
This shouldn’t be too difficult to do. Consult your router’s manual if you need to. Just change the channel to whatever works for you. 1, 6 and 11 tend to get the best results on 2.4GHz; experiment with them.
(You can download applications on your computer too, which show you the different router signals in your area, and what channels they’re using.)
You shouldn’t have this issue with 5GHz (you’ll discover why later).
4- Place aluminium foil behind your router
Now here’s a hack.
Use what could disrupt your router to your benefit. If you want to boost your signal in a particular direction, then place the aluminium on the opposite; your signals will bounce off it to where you want them.
For example, circumstance means that your router works best on one side of your house. This is the side without the kitchen, and you can’t put it in the hallway because that’s surrounded by thick bricks.
The aluminium will direct the otherwise wasted signals to where you need them. All you need is aluminium kitchen foil!
5- Fiddle with your router’s antennae
It does work, ok!
It really does. It’s not about the direction they are pointing: it’s whether they are horizontal or vertical.
This is because different devices work better receiving signals with the waves either horizontal or vertical. While most phones are configured for both, many computers are not, and have their receivers laying horizontally or vertically.
So maybe just play around a bit, and see what works. Perhaps have half your router’s antennae laying flat.
6- Turn your old router into a repeater (range extender)
Perhaps you didn’t like your old router. Or maybe you bought a new one in the hope of improving your signal before reading this insightful article. Whatever reason, your old router doesn’t have to go to waste.
Your retired router can still be re-recruited to re-transmit the signal of your new one.
Most have a button that you can press (most cases labelled WPS: WiFi Protected Setup); some you need to read the manual (and others are too old; sorry!). Then just put it upstairs, only at the expense of some bandwidth.
If all else fails, here are some paid options:
7- Know your dual-band router
While previously routers commonly transmitted at 2.4GHz, many new ones are also transmitting at the faster 5GHz. But the issue with the faster 5GHz is that its range is reduced: it is more vulnerable to obstacles (the signal finds it harder to penetrate objects).
So, while you will be sacrificing signal speed with the increased strength of the 2.4GHz, if you give both your networks the same name and password, your devices will automatically switch to whichever has the best strongest signal (this is the same if you use a booster too).
8- Get a WiFi booster
Unfortunately, you’ve exhausted all other options. You can’t even re-use your old router!
Well, there’s no shame in getting a booster. They can really help by increasing the range of your connection. Easy to set up too!
They just cost a bit, and you might have to fork-out a bit more for one specifically configured for your router (like those by Sky and BT). And you will face the same issues as reusing an old router as a repeater.
9- Get Powerline Adaptors
These come as a pair and you plug them into your 3-pin electric sockets. They then transmit the signal through the electric wiring of your house (as if they were long ethernet cables). Cool, right?
One or more Powerline plugs can be WiFi Access Points (transmitters), too, so there would be no need for additional technology.
It’s quite a good cheap fix if you have one part of your house that needs covering surrounded by thick walls; or if you have an oddly-shaped house. What’s more, in practice, you can still get up to 100Mbps out of them (be warned that the speeds quoted by manufacturers are theoretical!)
However, beware that the speeds are dependent on the quality of the electrical wiring in your house. Also, having too many adaptors may distort signals and slow down speeds; try to use as few as possible.
And, if you live in a terrace, semi-detached house or apartments, secure your network: all one needs is their own adaptor and can piggyback off your network through your wiring!
Still not covering your entire house? Well, you can go for the Rolls Royce:
10- Buy a MESH system
First time hearing of this?
They’re not that new a concept (we’ve been selling them for a while now; read more about them here); but they’re really cool.
A box of usually two-to-three extenders that you place throughout your house, they form a blanket of signal! Make sure one is plugged into your existing router, and you connect the transmitters with the easy-to-use app.
They’re best if you have a house with a lot of square footage, an odd shape, or spread out over many floors. We use them at the office, and I do at home (both really old buildings!).
Also means that, unlike with a booster (or repeater), the speed doesn’t deteriorate!
We’ve tested loads of routers, boosters and MESH, so you don’t have to. Check out the hardware here!