There’s a good chance that you’re reading this article over a wifi connection. And if you are, it’s quite likely that from time to time, your wifi network doesn’t perform as well as you’d like.
But there are some very simple steps you can take to make it better.
We often think of wifi networks as virtual, uniform fields that fill our living spaces. In fact, they’re very physical signals that can be blocked or scattered by walls, other electronics, and even people.
For evidence of that fact, take a look at this wifi map that physics grad student Jason Cole made of his apartment:
Clearly, where you put your router — and what’s around it — make a big difference in the strength of your network. Here’s how to set up your network most efficiently.
1) Put your router near the center of your house
A router sends out signals in all directions, so putting it in a corner of your house or apartment — or near a window — means that a significant amount of its signal is wasted.
You might only have a network connection in one spot, but long network cables can be pretty cheap, and moving your router can dramatically improve performance.
2) Lift your router up off the ground
There are two reasons why it’s not a ideal to have your router directly on the floor.
One is that most are designed to broadcast signals slightly downward as they travel from its antenna. Additionally, they can’t easily penetrate some solid materials — metal, concrete, and cement — which may be present in your floors.
As a result, experts recommend having your router at least a few feet off the ground — perhaps on a table or bookshelf. This is also why you shouldn’t put it in the basement, especially if you have a multi-story house and a concrete foundation.
3) Try to put your router in a room where you often use the internet
Regardless of where you put your router, the signal will be strongest in the room it’s in. So ideally, you can put it in a spot that’s relatively near the center of your house and a room in which you actually use wifi-connected devices.
4) Keep your router out in the open
Because the router’s signal can be absorbed by many materials, you want to have it out in the open as much as possible. In other words, don’t hide it away in a closet, or stick it in between a big piece of furniture and a wall.
Radio waves travel best through open air, so sight lines are a good clue here: if you can see the router from far away, and from many different angles, you’re using it efficiently.
5) Keep the router away from other electronics
All sorts of electronic devices can interfere with your router’s signal: microwaves, TVs, cordless phones — essentially, anything that generates an electromagnetic signal or has a motor. This is why sandwiching it between home entertainment components, beneath your TV, is not a good idea. In general, keep it away from other electronics.
Large metal objects (like mirrors or filing cabinets) and water (like, say, a fish tank) can also block the signal, and should be avoided.