Wireless network problems? Here are a few easy tips to make sure your wireless network is running great.
1.) Is it really your WiFi?
Maybe the most difficult part of troubleshooting any technology problem is finding the root of the problem. Is it really your WiFi or is it your broadband connection? We can find out pretty easily if you have a device you can plug into your network router or cable/dsl modem. First, find a laptop or desktop computer with a network cable, and plug the network cable into your modem or router (pick the device closest to your broadband device. Most of the time this device is provided by your ISP). If you have trouble finding where to plug in to test, call your ISP and go through some troubleshooting with them, they are there to help and for things like this they are actually pretty well equipped to answer your questions! Once plugged in, point your browser to http://www.speedtest.net to check your network upload and download speed. It should be reasonably close to what your ISP promised you when signing up for service. If not, call the ISP and see if they can resolve the issue. If it is pretty close, try it from your wireless device and note the difference. If it is slow, let’s check for wireless issues! Read ON!
2.) Check your wireless channels
Wireless networks in the U.S. run on three primary, non-overlapping channels. 1, 6 and 11. You will see that you can choose other channels, but be aware that you will still potentially see interference from nearby channels. As you can see from the diagram, you want your wireless router to configured either on 1, 6 or 11, and you will want to know what wireless network channels are being used in your area so that you have a clean, solid signal. How do you know which channels are used? It’s easy. Have a smartphone? Check this out in Google Play or the app store: WiFiExplorer Download it and install. Here is a picture of the screen you will see. As you can see, my network “starbucks” is all alone on channel 6, and the neighbor’s is all along on channel 11. If another neighbor were on channel 9, you would see that it would overlap with both 6 and 11, an obvious bad choice. WifiExplorer is very easy to use, the higher the graph the stronger the signal. Try it out in the neighborhood and check out all the bad wireless choices (and unfortunate ssids name choices too…). If if the SSID is hidden, or someone nearby has a wireless device (video camera, etc) that doesn’t have an ssid and you are still having problems, you would need a full wifi network spectrum analyzer to get a good look into why it is happening, but this quick tip should be enough for the average home user.
3.) Check your WiFi coverage
Do you notice slowness or dropped signal in certain parts of your house or office? Probably the most common and overlooked wifi problem is the easiest to solve! Make sure your access point or wireless router is in a centralized location. Many people have their wireless router in a corner office somewhere in the basement, then try to connect to the wireless from the upstairs bedroom, usually the furthest possible place from the router! See if there is a way to extend your router to a centralized location. You may need to run a network cable or dsl line through a wall, the rafters, under a carpet or beside the baseboard. Sometimes you don’t have a choice where your wireless router is located. in cases like this, you can buy a [easyazon_link asin=”B004NBL9WK” locale=”US” new_window=”default” tag=”nrdos-20″ add_to_cart=”yes” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” nofollow=”default” popups=”yes”]wireless repeater[/easyazon_link] or some [easyazon_link asin=”B0034CQSKW” locale=”US” new_window=”default” tag=”nrdos-20″ add_to_cart=”no” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” nofollow=”default” popups=”yes”]high gain antennas[/easyazon_link]. Either way, you should get a better signal and your Ipad will thank you.
Nerd Alert: When checking your signal with WiFiExplorer, make sure your signal is as close to -40dbm as you can get! Use WiFiExplorer and check the signal in all areas. Again, the larger the number the worse the signal– anything over 75-80dbm is getting too weak. If you really want to nerd-out and impress your friends, download a copy of Ekahau Heatmapper (free software!), get an electronic copy of your floorplans (draw a rough copy and try the smartphone app camscanner to scan it in easily), and make a heatmap of your wireless network. I won’t guarantee your friends or family won’t check you in to a facility, but then they can use your awesome wireless signal in your home network to Skype you while you are spending quality time in your padded room.
4.) Upgrade your WiFi driver
A common problem on laptops is old wifi drivers. Old drivers can cause lock-ups, weak signal, and other less-than-ideal wifi issues. Update your driver by going to the device manufacturer website and look up your specific model, download and install. Unfortunately, this is not quite as easy on tablets.
5.) I’m giving ‘er all she’s got, captain!
Some routers allow you to turn up the power on the wireless router. If you are using DD-WRT (really awesome open source wireless router software), just turn it up! Please be aware that cranking up the power on your router can decrease it’s life, and will void your warranty–but that’s how we roll at nerdosaur.com!
6.) Admit defeat
Yes, sometimes you have to cut your losses and just realize that technological devices need to be replaced every few years. That router from 2003 may not be your best option for your brand new tablet that supports all the new wireless protocols. Don’t be afraid to replace it with something a little newer, and while you are at it you might want to get rid of that 486sx beige bomber in your closet too.