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I don’t know about you but when I pay for something, I like to get my money’s worth. My internet speed just so happens to be one of those things, how about you?
I have called my ISP (internet service provider) service department numerous times only to get the same answers, “Everything is working fine! You don’t have any issues.” After hearing that about a gazillion times, I finally gave up. What better way to catch up on my Netflix binge watching than to do it while a webpage loads, right? 😉 Well, my husband took a class recently that was extremely enlightening for him. When he got home, he put all his knowledge to work! He solved our slow internet problem with just a couple of simple steps and agreed to share his newfound expertise with you! I hope you’re able to benefit from how he fixed our slow internet so you don’t
get stuck have to Netflix binge while watching your own webpages load.
Now, without further ado, I present, my brilliant husband, David.
Ever sit at home trying to work on your computer or get updated on your friends’ and family’s activities on social media and notice everything seems to be loading extremely slow? You think, “How can this be? I pay an arm and a leg for fast internet service!” Well, that certainly described Danielle and I until I was sent by my company to a training program called “Essentials in Healthcare IT”. The week long course was designed to unlock the mysteries of IT networks, their components, configurations, programming, etc. Let me tell you, I learned very quickly how little I actually know about computers and networking! Before finishing the course it was clear to me that all of my family’s wifi and internet access were not our ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) fault, but it was our connected devices that were most likely to blame!
Did you know that, no matter how fast your wireless router
and ISP speeds are your system will only run as fast as
the SLOWEST device connected to your network??
That’s right! Your wireless transmission speeds are reduced to whatever speed the oldest and/or slowest connected device on your network is capable of handling. There are ways to test your wifi speeds in your home, usually your ISP will have one right on their website. However, I’d be leery of using the one they provide because it may provide less accurate results than an independent tester. A quick Google search helped me find the free site called Speedof.Me. I used it to test our home wifi connection speeds from the location of weakest signal strength in our home. I determined the point of weakest signal by, not only, exercising a bit of practical reasoning (i.e. thinking about where the farthest point away from the router is) but also by using the help of a free app from the iTunes App Store called “Wi-Fi Sweetspots” to run a live roaming analysis of my home’s wifi signal strength in every room. There are TONS of free apps that will do this same thing, just pick one that works for you! In our house, our kitchen happens to be the point furthest away from our wifi router.
Initial test results:
Look at those upload and download speeds in the left corners. In a word? TERRIBLE! So how do we fix it?
Modern routers (like the one below) can broadcast Wifi
signal simultaneously on both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies.
You can segregate your older/slower devices to the 2.4Ghz band and let your newer, faster devices scream along, unrestricted, on the higher 5Ghz band. Our router was nearly 4 years old, as was our modem, so I opted to replace both when upgrading our wifi. This certainly is not mandatory, but if your current modem does not support “Gigabit” internet speeds, which is the new 1000mbps speed standard most ISPs are now trending toward, I would highly recommend it! Here is what I ordered:
I also ordered this cable modem:
And just for good measure I ordered a wifi range extender that pairs perfectly with the router I ordered to further extend the wifi range, seamlessly:
Here is a snapshot from Linksys’ demonstration video of how the wifi extender works:
I ordered everything using Amazon Prime and had it at my doorstep in 2 days’ time.
I then called my internet service provider to give them the new modem’s make and model, MAC address, and all other requested information. They were able to refresh my connection to their network and maintain my internet access, preventing me from having any lapse in wifi coverage!
With the new wireless router and cable modem connected I connected my laptop to the router, per its instructions, and configured our service set identifier, or SSID, which is the fancy name for your home wifi signal. Some people (like Danielle) like to be humorous and use names like “FBI Surveillance Van” but I’m boring and just named it “Renke Family WiFi” to keep things simple. The configuration will also have you set security protocol and I HIGHLY recommend you select WPA2 since WPA and WEP (the other two options that might be available) are older versions of security encryption and are highly susceptible to hacking! I won’t go into detail about that here, but if you would like a more in depth explanation, this is a very good article on the subject.
Next create a list of ALL wifi connected devices in your home, and I do mean ALL: Smart TVs, Tablets, Cell Phones, Video Game consoles, laptops, desktops, wifi network printers, heck even appliances if you are THAT tech savvy!
I was at BestBuy yesterday and they have
WiFi capable range hoods now! A RANGE HOOD!?
Who needs a wifi range hood?? Oye
It’s amazing, in this day and age, just how many wifi connected devices a family has. I counted 18, yes EIGHTEEN, in my home! Yikes! Once you have that list you need to do a little research and verify the wireless transmission protocol version they are capable of transmitting. The wifi standard is 802.11 and comes in a variety of “flavors”: Legacy, A, B, G, N and now AC; the current latest and greatest. You can find the information regarding your specific devices using a google search for the device’s specs. Below is a table of the different protocols. If you click the image, a link to Intel’s explanation of each protocol and their speed capabilities will open:
Identify the slowest devices, those with the oldest protocols, and determine whether or not it’s feasible to change any of them to a WIRED connection using an Ethernet cable. The fewer wifi connected devices you have, the smaller the overall load on the network. Your older, presumably slower, devices will benefit from a much faster connection to the internet via a wired connection than they could ever hope for wirelessly! In our house, I was able to determine that the chief culprit slowing down our network was my old Playstation 3 videogame console.
Released in 2007, it only supports up to the 802.11b protocol. Our previous router wasn’t dual band and I have all our devices connected to that router, so this game console was dragging the rest of the network’s connected devices down to its level! So the simple solution was to connect the Playstation 3 to the router using an Ethernet cable. This gave me a much faster connection for online gaming AND got this slow wifi connected device OFF our home network! We also have a Samsung Smart TV and a DirecTV wireless cable box in that room, so I opted to run hard wired connections for those devices as well since the router is capable of supporting up to four directly connected devices. I this ethernet cable for each:
If you are unfamiliar with the different types of Ethernet cables: category (CAT for short) 5, 6 and now 7, this article explains the differences between them to help you with your selection.
Now we have the slowest device(s) on the network identified and segregated with wired connections. If wired connections aren’t an option in your home, the DUAL BAND broadcast capability of the new wireless router I just installed. As mentioned previously, wireless broadcasts on both a 2.4Ghz bandwidth and a 5ghz bandwidth and older wifi connected devices are only designed to recognize the 2.4Ghz bandwidth SO what we do is ensure we connect those older devices to that bandwidth specific SSID. In my case, the router mades it simple to identify which is which by putting a “5Ghz” at the end of the SSID name for that bandwidth. Our daughters’ older hand-me-down iPad 2 tablet devices needed to be segregated to this bandwidth, since they stream YouTube Kids like it’s going out of style. On the higher 5Ghz bandwidth I connected mine and my wife’s devices, both personal and work, so we can work from home more efficiently on a faster connection. Everybody wins!
Okay so now we are ready to rock and roll! Let’s see how the wifi connection speed is now in say, our living room; where we most frequently congregate as a family and use our connected devices:
Excellent! Much better. Now for the kitchen, the area that needed the most help:
Well that’s a bummer, the connection isn’t much improved over the old router… but wait, I have one more “ace up my sleeve”!! I still haven’t connected and configured the wireless range extender; super simple. Basically you power on the extender close to the router and use the “quick connect” buttons on both the router and extendeder to get them “talking” to one another and allow them to pair. Plug the extender in a room as far away from your router you can find. You want your signal just strong enough for a good connection to the router so the extender can project even further.
Our living room, which is located directly below the master bedroom where our router is connected, with the weakest strength. With the range extender installed I tested the connection speed in the kitchen once again:
VICTORY!! Check out those upload and download speeds! We now have useable wifi connection speeds in all areas of our home and, as an added bonus, the range extender actually allows our wireless signal to reach out onto the deck, so Danielle can sit outside and work while keeping an eye on our daughters as they play in the yard. Awesome!
For those of you who cannot, or simply do not want to, afford the cost of upgrading your equipment, fret not! There is a free way you can make some tweaks to your existing wireless connection network in the form of channel programming (and those who upgraded equipment can do this too!). In a nut shell: both the 2.4Ghz and 5ghz bands have a certain number of channels that are considered “clean” meaning there is no noise overlap from adjacent channels (baby monitors, radios, phones, etc). For 2.4Ghz there are only 3: 1, 6 and 11 but for 5Ghz there are as many as 24 if you’re using 802.11ac connected devices! See why 5Ghz is awesome? Totally worth the investment!
So how do you know which channels your router
is currently using and how do you change
them if the channels aren’t clean?
Easy peasy: first you can download a free SSID channel analyzer like InSSIDer (see what they did there?) or a program called Acrylic and have a look at your current network setup to determine if your router needs to be changed to a different channel for optimal performance. We’ll use Acrylic for this example:
Go to their homepage, pictured and linked above, and click on the “download acrylic wi-fi home” button to download and follow the installation wizard. Once installed, launch the program and you should see a display like this:
As you can see Acrylic is loaded with gobs of info about not only YOUR wifi network but your neighbors as well, which is cool if you like to be nosey or just want to give your neighbors grief for not having as great a wifi network like you now do!
Look for your network and identify which channel(s) your router is set to. You can see from the above example I have ours set to Channel 1 for 2.4Ghz, a known clean channel, and set for auto detection for 5Ghz, which bonds combinations of clean channels together for optimal performance. I won’t delve into channel bonding here, it’s an entire subject on it’s own, but here a good youtube video that explains it.
So that’s it! Hopefully you found this article as useful as I did the information I learned from my class that allowed me to upgrade my own family’s wifi network! Best of luck to you in your own quest for faster in home WiFi!
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us, David, and thank YOU for reading! I hope you are successful in upgrading your own home wifi! Have a wonderful week!