How to Make Your Wi-Fi Suck less while Working From home (Learn)

If your Wi-Fi cuts out when you’re streaming a movie, it’s a bummer. But if it happens while you’re talking to your boss over Skype or giving a presentation via Zoom, it can feel like a disaster.

You can fix some problems without spending money, but some issues require buying new hardware.

Free Fixes Tips that can Speed Things Up

Some of the most effective tricks to improve your home network are also the cheapest, so don’t rush online to buy new tech before tackling a few finer setup issues.

Just move closer to your router –  Yes, it seems simple. But moving to a couch or table next to the router can stabilize a spotty connection during a call.

Update your router’s firmware. Firmware improvements often include speed tweaks and can solve known problems with buggy devices. Most mesh-networking kits and many recent routers have automatic firmware updates, but some routers make you log in to your router’s admin page and then check and update the firmware manually.

Generally, you can find firmware updates under “system settings,” “advanced settings,” or “system tools,” but a Google search for your router’s model number should bring up a user manual with more detailed instructions.

Put your Wi-Fi router out in the open, in a central spot – Don’t hide the router away in a cabinet that can contribute to overheating, and the building materials in the cabinet can block Wi-Fi signals. Wi-Fi signals radiate out from the router, so placing the router in the center of your home is your best.

Use Smart Connect (band steering) on your router– Band steering acts like traffic control for your router so that your devices connect on the optimal channels. This feature moves slower devices with weaker signals to the 2.4 GHz bands and puts faster, closer devices on the 5 GHz bands. Look for a setting like “Smart Connect” on your router’s administration page. It should be on by default, but if not you can usually find it under the “Wi-Fi settings” tab.

Hardwire your laptop to the router –  If your wireless network is bad, going wired is the most reliable way to eliminate problems like stuttering videoconference calls. Plug an Ethernet cable into a spare port in the back of your router and connect the cable to the Ethernet port on your laptop (or a USB-to-Ethernet adapter if your laptop doesn’t have a dedicated port).

If all else fails, turn off your video. The video portion of services such as Zoom and Webex takes up the majority of your bandwidth. If you can’t fix your connection, turn off the video or dial in on your phone to hear the meeting.

Things You May Have to Spend Money On

After trying the quick fixes above, you may still have trouble connecting your laptop to Wi-Fi. If it’s time to spend money, you have a few options.

Consider increasing the speed of your Internet subscription. – Your router might be able to transmit at a rate over 200 Mbps, but your connection to the Internet is limited by the service plan you’ve subscribed to. Average broadband speeds in 2015 were around 14 Mbps, and some folks still have the plans they signed up for at that time. Average speeds today are closer to 100 Mbps. We recommend checking your connection with or before starting regular Web conferencing.

Use an extender for a small dead zone – If your Wi-Fi is good but you have a small dead zone, our latest Wi-Fi extender pick is an inexpensive fix that can improve the reliability of connections in that one problem room in your home.

If your Wi-Fi sucks everywhere, it may be time to start over. If your router is more than a couple of years old and is struggling in more places than not, a newer router or a mesh kit will improve the range, stability, and speed all over your home. Standalone routers should be fine for average-size homes, while mesh kits are recommended when you need to cover a larger space or if your house contains Wi-Fi–blocking materials such as masonry or metal construction.

If you’re working from home with kids home from school as well, your router may need to connect to dozens of devices at the same time. A new router or mesh kit will be able to keep all those laptops, tablets, gaming consoles, printers, and streaming boxes connected to a stable network.

Buy your modem – Your router is what creates your Wi-Fi network, but your modem is what allows that network to connect to the Internet through your ISP. You may need to buy a new cable modem in order to subscribe to a faster Internet plan, and doing so will definitely save you a few bucks in the long run.

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