Boosting your wifi speed

Your complete guide to speeding up your wifi:

✓ The best ways to get faster wifi

✓ How to increase your wifi range

✓ Which wifi boosters are the best?

Wifi signal header small

Frustratingly slow wifi – does it make you want to take a large mallet to your laptop? One minute you are flying along, the X-Factor final is streaming and the world is good. Then the dreaded buffer symbol rears it’s ugly head and you are left hanging. 

Well, before you go all Hatchet Harry on your hardware, did you know that there are loads of ways you can boost your wifi speed and range?

But if you want us to cut right to the chase and let you know the single most effective step you can take to get the best possible wifi speed and range at your house, it is simply this…upgrade your broadband router.

1. Upgrading your broadband router

Cost: £ – £££

Pros:

It’s the single most highly recommended way to boost your wifi signal
It’s simple to do and requires no DIY

Cons:

Can be expensive – although not all routers need to cost the earth
Some broadband providers will not offer tech support if you use a different router to the one they originally provided

Let’s face it, most of us still have the router that came free with our broadband package when we signed up years ago. But even box-fresh, freebie routers can be underwhelming. Plus, over time, heat damage and other factors degrade the signal, and technology moves on fast meaning any router more than four years old is likely to leave you way short of the potential wifi speeds you could get with a newer, better model.

Routers vary in price enormously depending on how high-end you are looking to go. Generally speaking the more you are able to spend, the more you will get, however there are decent models to be found in most price brackets:

Best routers for speeding up your wifi:

1. Netgear Nighthawk X4 AC2350 Wi-Fi router

Price: £££              

It’s safe to say this is a serious piece of kit for anyone wanting to seriously pump up their wifi speed and range. It’s the priciest router on our list however the reviews on Netgear’s Nighthawk X4 are glowing – with so many full marks given it’s hard to ignore. So, if you want to cut straight to the chase on getting great wifi – and are willing to pay for it – the awesomely named Nighthawk comes highly recommended.

2. Asus RT-N66U Dual Band Wireless N Router

Price: ££

If you are looking for a 802.11n, dual band router, the Asus RT N66U gets plaudits from customers and experts alike with it getting consistently high marks across the board. This router managed to boost the signal in The Wifi Pad into all the previously wifi-less spaces including 3-floors up in the loft. And at under £100 it comes with a seriously reasonable price tag too.

3. D-Link DIR-850L AC1200 AC Broadband Router

Price: £

The D-Link 850L packs a pretty powerful punch for such a dinky little router and at under £60 it’s not a budget buster either. This baby meets the latest AC wifi standard and is also backwards compatible so will work with your older devices too. Of course, pay more and you’ll get more when it comes to good routers, BUT for many of you, the D-Link 850L will deliver a perfectly decent bang, for a not-ridiculous buck. A great bet.

Five more great tips for speeding up your wifi:

Although it is undoubtedly the most effective step you can take, if you aren’t quite ready to fork out for a new router yet and want to see what else you can try first, here are five more great tips for improving your wifi speed:

2. Switch to a different wireless channel

Cost: FREE

Pros:

It doesn’t cost a penny
Quick and relatively easy to try

Cons:

In congested areas this may have no effect
Might not improve wifi range i.e. how far the signal goes

Your router sends and receives data via one wifi channel. Although there are 13 possible channels available on the 2.4GHz, many routers default to the same channel. This means you and all of your neighbours may be unwittingly doing battle over your wifi connections, leaving you all with slower wifi.

The great news is it is free, and reasonably easy (although not quite as easy as switching telly channels) to switch wifi channels.

How to change your wifi channel:

You can use a free tool like inSSIDer which checks what channels all the routers in your area are using. If your router is using the same channel as all your neighbours try switching to a less busy one.

Channel signals overlap, so rather than moving up or down a single channel, start by trying one as far away from your neighbours channels as possible. Try a few channels to see which has the best result.

If you’re not sure how to change your wifi channel, see our step-by-step guide.

 

3. Find the best position for your router

Cost: FREE

Pros:

It costs nothing!
Can make a notable different to your wifi speed and range

Cons:

The most effective place may not be the most convenient
It can involve a lot of trial and error

Where and how you position your router can have a massive effect on your signal strength and how far the signal travels in your house.

Unobstructed, your wifi can travel an impressive distance, allowing you to catch up on Corrie from anywhere in the house. However, add a few obstructions and your signal strength is likely to go from Hulk to PeeWee Herman.

So, when positioning your router here’s what to do:

Put your router high up
This allows the signal to reach upper floors in your home and prevents the signal being blocked by your massive sofa
Central position
A centrally located position in your house will help your wifi signal reach all of the rooms
Keep clear of clutter
Do not tidy your router away in a cupboard or at the back of a shelf, cupboard doors, books, fish tanks will all mess with your signal
Avoid reflective surfaces
Steer clear of any reflective surfaces, mirrors and other shiny things nearby that can bounce the signal back reducing range and strength
Min. 1 metre away from other wifi connected appliances
Lastly, routers do not like to share. Make sure there is at least a metre of space between your router and any other appliances that use a wifi signal such as cordless phones and baby monitors

See our complete visual guide to locating your router.

4.Use a wifi repeater

Cost: £ – ££

Pros:

Can increase the range of your wifi
Means you don’t have to move your router
Uses the same network – no need to log in to another network

Cons:

It is only repeating the existing wifi signal
May not achieve a result for some people

If the only possible location for your router is about as far away from where you need it as it is possible to be, you might want to consider getting a wireless repeater. A wireless repeater is a second device that expands the range of your existing signal without the need to move your original router. And as it repeats the encryption and SSID – unlike with a wifi extender – you won’t have to log into a second wifi network to access the signal when you move to a different part of your house.

Repeaters are not the answer for everyone, in fact some find they make no difference at all. That said, the following repeaters get well over three-quarters of buyers giving 4 or 5 out of 5 stars so they are doing something right:

1. Edimax EW-7228APN Range Extender – set to repeater mode.

2. Huawei WS322 Wi-Fi Repeater – on repeater mode

N.B. alternatively, if you have one, you can use a second router configured to repeater mode as a wifi repeater rather than buying a wireless repeater, but it is only worth trying this if your second router is under a year old.

Do not confuse a wifi repeater with a wifi extender which operates differently…

5.Try a wifi extender

Cost: £

Pros:

Fairly cheap
Simple to connect
Wire-free

Cons:

Very mixed reviews on their effectiveness
Having to switch between two networks

A wifi extender is a plug-in gadget that captures your existing wifi signal and retransmits it so you can increase the wifi range in your house.

However, unlike repeaters, extenders retransmit the network under a different name to existing wifi network. So once you are out of range from the original access point, you will need to reconnect to the name given to your expanded network – fine for a device like a PC that you don’t move, not so great for portable devices where you’ll be constantly be connecting and disconnecting to find the most suitable network for wherever you happen to be.

Unfortunately retailers don’t help you distinguish between repeaters and extenders, with repeaters being labelled as extenders and vice-versa, making it hard to know what you are buying. Check the functionality of the device you are interested in to make sure you know what you are getting.

A quick glance on any tech review site will tell you that the consensus is far from in about whether wifi extenders are worth bothering with, however of the wireless extenders currently on the market, the following get good reviews from customers:

1. NETGEAR WN3000RP Universal Wifi Range Extender

2. TP-Link RE200 AC750 Universal Wifi Range Extender

6. Upgrade your broadband package

Cost: ££

Pros:

Potential for significant improvement in wifi speed
No need to rearrange your entire house just to find a better place for your router
You’ll get a new router if you change suppliers (however many free routers aren’t too impressive, it’s worth checking which providers’ routers get the best reviews)

Cons:

May be more expensive than your current broadband package
It may cost you money to move suppliers if you are still mid-contract

If you have been on the same broadband package for an eternity then your poor wifi performance might simply be a product of a slow broadband package. If the speed coming into your home is slow, then nothing you do inside your home is going to improve that.

Speak to your supplier about switching to a faster package, or look for a good deal from an alternative supplier. Fibre packages, if they are available where you live, offer the fastest connections available and should enable an improvement in your wifi speeds too.

And there you have it, the very best ways to boost your wifi speed.

Hopefully, one or more of these suggestions is the solution to all of your wifi woes allowing your smart gadgets to work seamlessly day and night.