Wi-Fi fix: How to improve a poor internet connection
A slow Wi-Fi connection is incredibly frustrating. But here are some easy things that can help get your computer or devices back up to speed.
ProblemSolved, USA TODAY
If only the calendar flipping over to a new year erased our tech problems. You can do a lot to make your digital life easier in 2023.
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You don’t need to struggle through yet another year of bad Wi-Fi. These simple, fixable mistakes might be the reason your connection stinks.
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1. You let freeloaders use your network
Do you know exactly which devices are using your connection? If your Wi-Fi isn’t password protected, you need to fix that. Tap or click here for instructions on finding your router’s password and changing it.
Or your password is easy to guess, and someone is mooching your internet.
On a Windows PC, Wireless Network Watcher scans your network and shows you the IP address, MAC address, name and manufacturer of the computers, tablets and smartphones it detects on your network.
As soon as you boot up Wireless Network Watcher, you’ll see all the detected devices on the list. You should be able to recognize the connected devices. For example, you might see devices from Apple and Amazon Technologies when using an iPhone and Amazon Echo.
On a Mac, Who Is On My Wi-Fi will show you who’s accessing your Wi-Fi. You’ll have to do a little investigating to figure out some of the connected devices. Look for the description and manufacturers.
Don’t panic if you don’t recognize a device. Look around your house to see which appliances, TVs, tablets, laptops, and smartphones are accessing Wi-Fi.
Read through the list to make sure you recognize everything. You know somebody is connected without permission if you see devices you don’t recognize.
2. Your router is in the wrong place
Using a router that’s years old? It might be hamstringing your connection and putting your security at risk. Tap or click here to see the best routers for your home or apartment.
Then there’s the matter of where to put your router. Don’t stick it on the floor in a closet or far away from where most internet use happens.
Try to put your router near the center of the room to have the fastest speeds. It would be best if you also placed it as high as possible, on a shelf or even mounted on the wall. If your router has antennas, point them in different directions.
Other devices can impact your router, too. Keep it away from cordless phones, Bluetooth speakers, microwave ovens and baby monitors.
3. You don’t pay for enough bandwidth
You may not require blazing internet speeds depending on how much you do at home. You’ll be OK with lower speeds if you’re streaming content on one device and primarily checking email and social media from your phone.
If your home is full of smart and connected devices, you need enough bandwidth to support them.
Here are some general guidelines to get started:
• If you only have a few devices connected to your Wi-Fi and use your network primarily for web browsing, a plan with 10 Mbps should be enough.
• If you watch many videos and download tons of media, 25 Mbps should be good for you.
• For lots of high-quality streaming and online gaming, you’ll need 100 Mbps or more.
• You’ll do well with 500 Mbps for simultaneous streaming, online gaming, and downloads on many devices.
Keep an eye on your data cap. Your ISP may throttle your speed or even charge you for exceeding the cap if you go over it.
Strapped for cash? Try these proven strategies to lower your internet, cable, and streaming bills.
4. You never change the channel
Moving to a different channel for your router is an easy tweak to up your speed. This step is beneficial if you’re tuned to that 2.4GHz frequency. Moving from one channel to a less crowded one may help speed things up.
Try using a Wi-Fi scanner to check the optimum 2.4GHz channel for your area or the least used channel.
For Macs, Apple provides the free tool Wireless Diagnostics. Hold the Option key while clicking on the Wi-Fi icon on the right-hand side of the menu bar, then choose Open Wireless Diagnostics.
For Windows, download NetSpot Wi-Fi Analyzer. Similar to the Mac’s Scan tool, this application will instantly give you information about the Wi-Fi signals in your area, including the channels they utilize.
Tap or click here for direct download links to more Wi-Fi analyzer apps for iPhone or Android.
5. Kids are downloading a bunch of gaming updates and videos
When you’re trying to join a video call for work, the last thing you want is your kid downloading a colossal game update in the next room. This eats up a lot of bandwidth, and you’ll both end up frustrated.
To make things run smoother, schedule updates and big downloads for 1 a.m. when everyone is asleep or should be.
Need help getting the kids on board with tech rules? I can help. Tap or click to download my Tech Contract for parents and kids to sign.
Keep your tech-know going
My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.
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Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.