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How to check your Wi-Fi signal: Step by step guide

Few things in life are as aggravating as an inconsistent Wi-Fi connection.

Whether you have an upcoming deadline, make your living by live streaming video, or just really want to watch your show without a pause to buffer every five minutes, it can be worth the time to check your Wi-Fi setup for fixable connection issues so you can get right back to what you were doing.

Here are some simple steps you can follow to check and fix your Wi-Fi connectivity.

Step 1: Assess the range and strength of your Wi-Fi

Use at least two connecting devices, like smartphones, and monitor the strength of the Wi-Fi signal as you move about the area. Take note of when you lose the name of the network (SSID) on your connection list.

If the signal isn’t reaching too far on any of the devices, then you’ve got a signal strength issue. The structure of the house itself will also absorb a portion of the signal, and the strength can rapidly drop if you have thick walls and a complicated interior.

To fix this, you can either upgrade the antenna on your router or buy an entirely new router. The best option will depend on your current setup, budget, and the market at the time.

Step 2: Check for interference from other devices

Electronics and appliances can give off interference that weakens or disrupts a Wi-Fi signal. Bluetooth devices are a common culprit. With 88% of Australians online, chances are at least one of your neighbours has their own Wi-Fi-capable router that may cause interference. Some wireless baby monitors operate at a 2.4 GHz signal that can also jam things up.

The easiest way to avoid this is to use a dual-band router that can go between 2.4 and 5 GHz as needed. The 5GHz band on dual-band modems like our TP-Link VX230v has a much more powerful speed so this should always be used when possible.

Lastly, try changing the 2.4 GHz and 5Ghz channels you use, which can potentially circumvent interference from nearby routers.

Step 3: Look at the number of connected devices and their usage

Even a great connection can crumble if it’s put under too much stress. Either the Wi-Fi router or your Internet throughput will reach their peak capacity, and the limited service will be rationed out to the connected devices under most default settings.

Most routers will tell you which devices are connected, and some have more detailed traffic monitoring. A simple way is to just check which devices are yours, block any unknown devices, and make rules with your family and housemates about high usage activities like streaming video to fit your network speed.

Step 4: Make sure you connect to the right network

Occasionally, people will leave their network with the default SSID, and so will their neighbours. If these networks are left unsecured, then it is easy to accidentally connect to the wrong one.

Giving your network a unique SSID is a way to avoid this, but you should also make sure to secure your network and avoid connecting to any unsecured ones that aren’t offered by a business.

Step 5: Patch your firmware

Your connection to the Internet runs through several devices: the network adapter plugs into your motherboard, the adapter connects to an access point such as a Wi-Fi router, and then it trails off through more cables and computers. You will typically be responsible for managing the firmware of the adapters on your devices, your router, and any access points that you use. With the alternative being people having the ability to remotely alter your devices, this bit of responsibility is a small price to pay. The user manuals or a quick online search with terms including the device name, “patching”, and “firmware” should give you all the information you need to make sure you have the latest firmware.

Step 6: Contact your ISP

If these steps don’t fix your Wi-Fi connectivity woes, then either the problem is elsewhere or you may need help to find it. Instead of continuing to hunt, contact your ISP to receive more detailed technical support.