Buying the fastest internet package is not the only requirement to maximize your Wi-Fi speed. Your wireless internet provider bases its estimated speeds on optimal conditions. There is a good chance you are stuck refreshing pages more than once when you shouldn’t be.

With work from home policies becoming the norm recently, faster internet speeds are now a necessity. What can you do? Where should you put your wireless router? 

The best location to put your wireless router is upstairs in a centralized location. In a two-story home, the second floor provides the best coverage for your wireless router placement. In a three-story home, the wireless router would perform best on the second floor in a centralized area.

Mapping the inside layout of your home to determine a strategy will make the decision process easier. This is why a router works best when placed in the center of a room. 

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Setting up the wireless router

The wireless router setup can be quick and easy if all proper equipment and instructions are ready. Every setup should include the router, power chord, and a “WAN” cable to connect to the cable or phone line.

A router will either have an external antenna or an internal antenna. The external antenna gives a user less space for positioning. The internal antenna is easier to mount in some cases. 

Most routers will come with a sticker or label with the login credentials to add devices to the network. If not, set up may be required through phone or the web with your service provider.

After you plug in your device and connect the “WAN” cable, connect a device to confirm it is working. Be sure to connect any other necessary devices with the “LAN” cable, such as a desktop computer or cable box.

Aim to place your wireless router on the 2nd floor of your home in a central area. Keep the router away from anything that could be considered a restriction for access. 

The top floor of a 2 story home or the middle floor of a 3 story home are the best options.

Common Wi-Fi problems

A smooth and quick Wi-Fi signal is a satisfying feeling for any device user. But what causes our shows or web browsers to buffer?

The most common problems are dead areas in the home where the Wi-Fi is weak because of placement and location. Homeowners make the mistake of sticking the router in a corner out of the way. This is not the best solution and is actually slowing you down. 

Other times, homeowners have no choice about the placement. There is no logical place to set up the router that is centralized due to wiring or home aesthetics.

Larger homes or offices can have problems with full coverage too. Investing in multiple devices or relocating devices can be a hassle. There are other solutions to consider that we will discuss.

Keep your Wi-Fi equipment out of the basement or garage too. These are two very poor places for setup and should be avoided at all costs.  

Wireless router equipment

The size and age of your Wi-Fi equipment are very important. Smaller homes and apartments should have no issues with a single wireless router to give sufficient internet access. 

Consider using a router that provides wireless 802.11ac and dual-band support capabilities for the best wireless internet speeds. Also, older routers that are over 3 years old could be worn or provide weaker coverage. 

Larger homes and small offices should consider investing in a mesh network for more consistent internet speeds. The need for this equipment can vary based on homeowner requirements.  

What is a mesh network? 

A mesh network is multiple devices that work together to provide coverage as a single Wi-Fi network. This is done with one main router running supported by a series of nodes or modules supporting the network for extended coverage.

The reason this works well for larger homes and offices is because there is not a reliance on one single device to cover a large area. All of the nodes and modules share the same ID and password to access.

A mesh network can be a pricey upgrade so you should be absolutely sure it is necessary before making the purchase.  

Do I need a mesh network?

The two factors to consider when asking whether you need a mesh network or not is the size of your home and the interior layout of your home. Large homes experience dead spots and homes with unusual layouts could be subject to Wi-Fi dead zones too.

Homes larger than 2,500 square feet will typically need a mesh network to ensure coverage throughout the house. This could change if the layout is 1 story but a multi-story home of this size should look into a mesh network upgrade if problems occur.   

The other factor is home layout. A three story home at 2,000 square feet or more could be a mesh network candidate. Another common thing to consider is the walls because interior brick walls will block internet signals. 

What are Wi-Fi range extenders? 

The cheaper option to consider instead of a mesh network upgrade is a Wi-Fi range extender. They are a small piece of equipment that gets plugged into an outlet and synced with the home network to provide extended coverage in a small area. 

The Wi-Fi extender doesn’t need to be the same brand as your router and they will all sync with ease. There are many different options to choose from. 

Be sure to purchase an extender that offers WPS, or Wi-Fi protected setup. This simply means the extender and your Wi-Fi will be able to sync together and work on the same network.   

Do I need a Wi-Fi range extender? 

If you are experiencing slow Wi-Fi in only 1 or 2 rooms in the house, a range extender is a perfect solution at a low cost. They can provide speeds around 100Mbps which should be plenty for most use cases. 

The best way to decide is by running an internet test in every room. This will tell you the speeds you are receiving everywhere in the house so you can find out if any area is lacking. 

Any room that comes up with significantly slower speeds would be a good choice to add a range extender too, especially if this is an area that requires high internet usage. 

How to test the signal?

Testing your Wi-Fi signal requires an accurate tool to test your speeds and give you an accurate reading on how your network is performing. Using a network testing application is the best way to find chinks in the armor to help you decide the next steps on improving network performance. 

These are the top 3 recommended signal testing apps to consider:

  1. NetSpot
  2. WiFi Analyzer
  3. Wireshark

NetSpot

NetSpot provides users with a simple-to-use platform and straightforward interface for quick results. It relies on two methods: discovery mode and survey mode. 

Discovery mode will look at the Wi-Fi networks near you and take a snapshot. This gives you a map of other networks in your area and their relative strength to yours. 

Survey mode is a heat map that shows the strength levels across different areas of your home. This mode is perfect when trying to point out the weak spots to determine what type of upgrade you might need to make.

The installation is simple and different versions are available for homeowners and business owners. 

WiFi Analyzer

WiFi Analyzer is strictly an app designed for homeowners. This is a Microsoft app for Windows users only and even offers a free version for basic usage. 

This is the ideal entry-level choice to take a deeper look into your Wi-Fi network to see where the strengths and weaknesses are. The reporting feature will provide easy-to-understand data and this is our recommended choice for a homeowner struggling to decide their next move.  

Wireshark

Wireshark is a free tool with a primary focus on troubleshooting your wireless network issues. This is a more complex software and the learning curve can be steep for first-time users.

It is likely better suited for network professionals but we recommend it because it is great software when used correctly. This can be an awesome tool to find your home network problems and address them immediately. 

Should you upgrade your wireless router? 

It is a good idea to upgrade your network if you cannot move your wireless router into a better location. It is common to see significant improvements by moving your wireless router to the second floor to increase the coverage.

Consider the size of your home. You should look into a mesh network if you are in a home over 2,500 square feet. I would add an extender in weak areas of the home at anything under this size. 

If unsuccessful, the best choice might be to upgrade your router if you own an older, outdated version.