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How do I boost my wi-fi signal?

By Hannah Ricci
Wednesday, November 22nd 2017

If you pay for a reasonably fast broadband plan but find that you are battling with sluggish downloads and frequent buffering, there could be a problem with your router’s wi-fi signal.

There are a number of easy tricks to provide faster speeds and a more reliable connection throughout your home, no matter where your router is positioned. Here’s how to boost your wi-fi single in five simple steps.

Step 1: Test your connection

Before trying out any solutions, you need to confirm whether your wi-fi signal is the problem or if your poor internet performance is due to something else. The easiest way to do this is to carry out two broadband speed tests with our simple tool: one using wi-fi and another with your computer connected to the router directly, via an Ethernet cable.

If the wi-fi result is significantly slower than the wired result (some slowdown is inevitable), then a poor wireless signal is to blame and you can try the following steps to improve it.

Step 2: Move your router

The position of your router has a huge impact on the quality of your wi-fi. Move it as close as possible to where you spend most time online, or to the centre of your home if you use the internet in different rooms. The nearer your devices are to the router and the fewer obstacles there are in the way, the better your signal will be.

Step 3: Remove interference

In addition to structural barriers, electromagnetic interference can also affect your wi-fi signal. Your neighbours’ wireless routers, cordless phones, microwaves, even fish tanks and baby monitors can all interfere with your wireless signal and slow it down. If possible, move the interfering items, or try your router in different places to find the best spot.

Modern routers also allow you to switch between two channel frequencies to improve your signal. The 2.4GHz channel has a longer signal range, but if interference from other electronics is slowing it down, switching to the 5GHz channel could help, if your devices support the higher frequency.

Step 4: Invest in wi-fi boosters

If the above steps don’t make a difference or if you’re limited as to where you can put things, there are couple of gadgets that can help. Wireless powerline adapters (also known as home plugs) use the power system in your home to deliver wi-fi over a longer range than your router can reach alone.

These use plug sockets that work a bit like hotspots, and are particularly useful if you need your home broadband network to reach lofts and basements. Prices start from around £25 and they’re available from many electrical retailers and most broadband providers.

The second option is to use a wireless signal repeater and position it between your router and wherever you need improved wi-fi reception. These devices are less effective than powerline adapters as they repeat the existing signal over a greater distance, rather than boosting it, but are still worth a try.

Step 5: Upgrade your router

If all else fails, your router is likely to be the problem. You could be on the fastest broadband plan on the market, but if you’re using an old router you’ll never be able to reach high speeds via wi-fi. So if your current router is password-protected and updated with the relevant security software, yet still wi-fi is poor, then it’s time to upgrade.

Wireless-AC routers are the latest models, supporting faster speeds and a greater range of signal. They start from around £100, but it’s possible to get one for much less than that, or even for free. Try contacting your current provider to see what it can offer, or if you switch broadband providers, you’ll get one for free when you sign up.

Frequently asked questions

How do I boost BT wi-fi strength?

If the range of the wi-fi signal given out by your Home Hub 4 or Smart Hub router isn’t sufficient, you can boost it with an adaptor. These adaptors (such as the BT 11ac Dual-Band wi-fi Extender 1200) are provided by BT and can be found here.

You plug them into an electricity socket (or your computer, depending on adaptor) to increase the range of your router’s wi-fi signal. Many of these adaptors are dual-band, reducing the impact of interference on your connection.

How do I boost Sky wi-fi strength?

If you have an area in your home where the signal is weak, then a Sky wireless booster could solve the problem. The booster wirelessly connects to your Sky Hub broadband router to increase the overall range of your home’s wi-fi bubble. It’s available from Sky for £20 plus delivery – but only existing Sky broadband customers can apply.

How do I boost Virgin Media wi-fi strength?

There are several solutions for boosting Virgin Media wi-fi strength. The first is a Powerline adaptor. This plugs into your home’s power sockets and uses your electrical wiring to amplify your wi-fi signal.

Another option is a wi-fi adaptor. These ‘dongles’ plug into your computer’s USB socket to provide a wireless connection. Finally, you can use a wi-fi repeater. These work like mini routers, boosting your wi-fi signal to help you get online in parts of the house far away from the main broadband router.

Should I switch internet service provider or upgrade to fibre broadband?

If you’re on standard broadband and your connection is too slow after trying the above solutions, you may benefit from upgrading to fibre broadband. It delivers much faster connection speeds, which means faster uploads and downloads, and less disruption while watching catch up TV, playing games or making internet video calls.

Busy online households that have lots of devices using wi-fi at the same time will benefit most from fibre, as simultaneous activity puts a strain on connections. It’s worth seeing what your provider has to offer and comparing it to the competition.

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