If you’ve got a home broadband connection, chances are that you’re using a wireless router. Obviously, internet speeds are going to be important to you, since faster speeds will equal faster downloads and smoother streaming, and there are ways that you can use your router to improve your internet speeds. You don’t need much computer knowledge to do this either!
Getting a Router
You’ll find that many broadband providers offer free routers when you sign up for a contract, and if you’re shopping for a broadband plan then you might want to use a site such as uswitch.com to make sure you’re only looking at companies that will give you a router. Of course, you might not want to use this router, which we’ll come to in a moment, but for beginners a free router tends to be the best option.
A router works by providing you with a wireless network in your house. Instead of plugging your internet cable into your computer and therefore being tied to one place, you can plug your internet cable into your router. The router then broadcasts your internet signal as a wireless network that you can log onto in the same way that you’d use any other WiFi network, giving you the ability to get online anywhere within range of this signal.
Setting up and using a router is easy, but some people find that their internet service is slowed when they start using a router, and there are a few reasons for this. Before you start playing around with your router though, you’ll want to make sure that that’s really the cause of your problem.
Diagnosing Router Issues
Checking whether or not your router is slowing your internet speeds is surprisingly easy. Go online and search for a “broadband speed test.” There are plenty of these around, and they generally work very simply. You close down all internet-related services on your computer except for the open page with the speed test, press the go button and wait a few seconds. Then you’ll get a report telling you the speed of your connection.
You’re going to want to run this test twice. Run it once while your computer is connected to the internet using your wireless router and note the speed. Then, unplug your router, plug your internet cable directly into your computer and run the test again. If you get results that are almost identical, your router isn’t the issue, it’s your internet connection and you’ll need to call your provider for more information.
If speeds are dramatically different, then you’re going to want to improve your router or its position to get faster speeds. Results are likely to be slightly different, so don’t worry about differences of just a little, though if you want a more certain result you can run the tests two or three times both with and without the router and average the results just to make sure.
Where is Your Router?
The most common problem effecting router speeds is the position of the router itself, which is obviously relatively easy to solve. Firstly, make sure that the router is going through the main telephone socket of your house (the one that leads to outside) rather than to an extension, as this will affect your speeds.
If at all possible, your router should be in a central location, since this will give you a wireless range that will most likely cover your whole house. It should be standing in a clear location, not on the floor and not blocked by piles of paper or books or anything else that may disrupt a signal. Also, windows, walls and heavy furniture can all effect a router’s efficacy, so try and have it in a clear location.
Finally, when it comes to location do make sure that there’s nothing around that may interfere with your router’s signal. Some home electronics do create router interference, including cordless phones, microwaves and even baby monitors. Ensure that these things are placed as far away as possible from your router.
What Kind of Router Is It?
There are several kinds of routers, though all router specification names begin with the same 802.11 prefix. You can find out what kind of router you have by checking the box, manual or the sticker underneath the router. Older 802.11b routers have much slower speeds, and if you have one of these you might benefit from upgrading to a newer model, something that’s at least 802.11g.
Unfortunately, if you get a free router from a broadband provider you’re not always going to be getting a top end model. If you’re having serious speed problems then you might want to just buy another router, they’re not particularly expensive. Alternatively, you can try calling your provider to see if they’ll upgrade your router for you, particularly if you’ve had your current model for more than a couple of years.
One other thing that you can try is to change the antennae on your router. The antennae effects the strength of the signal being sent out by the router itself, and making a stronger signal with a better antennae will generally give you an increased wireless range, but it may also give you a little more speed. It’s worth trying this since it’s a cheap solution, and won’t cost you more than a few pounds.
Finally, it’s always worth checking your security settings. If your network is not password protected there is the chance that someone else is logging in and using your connection and thereby slowing down your speeds. You wireless router should always have a password. The manual that came with your router should tell you how to implement or change a password, or you can call your provider’s helpline to ask for advice on how to do this.
Of course, there are more technical ways in which you can change your router to provide more speed, but in order to use these you will probably need a little help. Your provider’s helpline may be able to advise you if you’ve tried all the simple solutions and don’t yet have faster speeds.