My husband and I are big into technology (if you haven’t noticed). He is super funny about certain things though, that make me think he’d rather live in the dark ages, because he HATES wireless. He refuses to use Bluetooth in the car (must have an aux plug directly into his phone for ultimate quality), and while he does use Spotify, he has to download his entire collection onto his phone, again… quality. So I am always looking for new ways to speed up wifi on our home network to make sure his quality does not get affected in anyway!
He has even eyerolled my efforts to copy our entire DVD collection to the cloud using Vudu and our Plex server. Although he wasn’t eyerolling later when he was able to watch a movie during some downtime at work! Our Vudu account has almost 400 movies in it as I work my way through converting our DVD’s and BluRay’s! But streaming content (through Vudu, and Hulu and Netflix, etc) is only as good as your wireless connection. If you have a poor connection, you will encounter more frustration trying to use these cloud based services than joy! There are a few things you can do to make sure your network is running as fast as possible!
A Good Router is KEY to speed up wifi
I gotta say, this is key. It can be a huge bullet to bite if you are going for a REALLY good router. Think about it in terms of ROI though. How much does your router actually get used in your house compared to other devices you have spent money on. Just about EVERY device in your home connects through your router in some way! If it has an on/off switch, chances are it’s using up bandwidth on your router. Bandwidth is a term that can describe the amount of traffic your connection can handle at any one point of time.
Think of all of your electronics, and how often they are being used. So, my upstairs work computer… 9 hours a day (I work from home). The Roku is in use about 2-3 hours a day. I do my workouts on my Roku so that takes up at least 1 hour a day. My phone updates periodically throughout the day, so lets just say like 3-4 hours total. These examples are just the 3 main things in my house and already I’m up to almost 15 hours a day.
When you multiply the usage of your devices by 30 days that is a lot of traffic to flow through the router. It’s easy to overlook just how much your router does for you, so sometimes it’s hard to justify the cost for a really good one. I would be willing to say it’s one of the most important tech purchases you make for your home. So, please don’t go for the cheapest router you can find. You will end up replacing it more often, and you won’t get quality connections throughout your house.
Here’s an example. I was using a pretty good router, and then I got the Netgear Nighthawk X6. I did a speed test from the SAME computer before, and after my installation was complete.
Again, the only change I made was switching out the router. You can see how much my speeds improved with just a better router! Also, don’t just rely on the device your internet provider gave you to distribute your wireless signal. Typically their modems have an incredibly horrible wifi radio, and you will just be miserable with your speed.
Get An Extender
An extender is a device that will pick up the wireless signal from your main wifi router. It can then re-distribute that signal wirelessly, or through the wired ports in the extender. An extender can speed up wifi for the devices plugged directly into it, since they are no longer using the radio signal. It can also help fill in weak spots in your network with better reception.
Like I mentioned, my husband can’t stand wireless. He would love to just wire the entire house with ethernet cables. I know that wireless can be just as good as wired, with the right equipment in place. We actually have 2 extenders in our house. This is the one I use up in my office. My work computer, and my work phone run off of this extender. I need to have a super fast connection for my office. My job requires that I remote control various computers and servers, all while using the phone.
The other extender is downstairs with our entertainment system. Having this extender with the TV, means I can have a super fast wired feeling connection on my DirecTV, Roku, Wii-U and Playstation. Having that little plug in the Playstation just makes my husband super happy.
New mesh based systems can offer the same advantages as a wifi router plus extenders too. The Netgear Orbi is one I would highly recommend if your house has a lot of square footage to cover.
5ghz or 2.4ghz?
Sometimes your router has the ability to broadcast on 2 different radio frequencies. It can be confusing to try to decide which one will give you the most speed. The answer, is basically “it depends” While a 5 Ghz signal will be faster when you are closer to your router, the 2.4 Ghz signal will perform better at further ranges. So, when you can actually see your router from your device, I would definitely pick the 5 GHz, but if you can’t physically see the router from the device, pick 2.4 Ghz.
Change the Channel
Another thing you can do to improve your home network is to change the channel the wireless signal is broadcasting on. When you keep the defaults, other routers in your neighborhood that ALSO keep the defaults may end up stepping on each other’s toes. Channels 1, 6, and 11 are the most common default channels, so definitely try to avoid one of those.
You can usually find the channel in the wireless settings on your router’s administration page. Netgear has an easy Genie program that installs right on your computer so you don’t need to figure out how to get into the administration area of your router, you just double click and run the program.
QoS stands for Quality of Service. What this technology does on your router is prioritize traffic for various devices. When it sees something like my work phone using space, it gives it as much space as it wants. You can set up your router to prioritize specific devices that you use most for streaming such as a Roku or a smart TV. Then when it’s fighting for bandwidth the router will give that device the bandwidth at the expense of maybe some other devices that don’t need the constant connection as badly.
Just think of your home network as the backbone of your home. It’s the thing that most of your devices rely on for an internet connection, and treating with the importance it deserves will help you enjoy all of the wonderful streaming the world has to offer now!
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links.
Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com