Computing for Beginners: Increasing your wifi signal.

Colin Cartmell-Browne offers advice on how to boost your wifi signal.

As mentioned last month one of the biggest frustrations being online is the speed of your internet connection. Sometimes this might be due to the quality of the phone line into your home, age of your computer or other factors within your home. This is particularly true if you are connecting to the internet via wi fi which, unless you are using a desktop computer, you almost certainly will be.

First it’s worth checking the connection to your house. To do this go to http://www.broadband.co.uk/broadband-speed-test this will tell you what speed you are getting. Although to make the test ‘fair’ your computer needs to be near the wi fi router or even connected to the router via a cable if possible.

If there is an issue then, first, contact your internet provider. They may be able to upgrade your router or  connection to your house, although there may be a charge for this. If you are not happy with their response and are still in the cooling off period of your contract then you can switch provider.

If the speed to your house is fine but you still have issues then you can start exploring options to improve the connection.

Electronic interference: all devices which require electricity to work give off electronic interference.  This isn’t enough to cause damage to anything but will interfere with wi fi signals.  If possible don’t place your wi fi router next to large devices such as fridges, boilers or similar. This will reduce the risk of interference.

Multiple Devices:  the more devices you have connected to your wi fi the slower the connection is going to be.  Ipads, mobile phones and laptops all connect to the wi fi. If your only using one of these switch off the wi fi connection of the unused devices. Having wi fi turned off on your phone will also help make the battery last longer before it needs recharging.

Connect via a cable rather than wi fi: Wi fi is a slower connection than wired. If you don’t need wi fi and your computer/laptop is right next to your router then its worth considering connecting the two via a cable.  A cable might have come with the equipment sent by your internet provider but if not they can be got from any computer shop or even, sometimes, Home Bargains. Just plug both devices in. The downside of this is that your computer is now physically attached to the router so not as mobile as it was. It is also not possible to connect an ipad or phone in this way.

Tweak the aerial: This isn’t possible on all routers but some, particularly older models, have small ‘aerials’ sticking out the top of the box.  Usually it is best to just have these pointing straight up but sometimes moving them left or right might help the signal reach your computer.

Router settings: If there is more than one wi fi network in the area which overlaps your wi fi network, the signals can interfere with each other.  Some routers will have options to change the ‘channel’ that the wi fi is broadcast over which may help with this problem.  There will be a button for this option on your router- but check the manual first to make sure you are pushing the right button!

Wi fi extenders:  If the above, cheaper, options fail then there is always the possibility of buying wi fi extenders.  These devices plug into a standard plug socket and boost your signal into other areas of your house. For example my own router is in the dining room which means the signal is very weak in the lounge or my wife’s craft room in the garden. We plugged one wi fi extender in the lounge and another in the kitchen and now have coverage over the entire house.  Extenders range in cost from £20 upwards. The more expensive models have extra functionality etc but we found the cheaper ones worked for our particular needs.