How to increase your Internet connection speed
A few days ago I heard a joke, and I have to admit that it is a pretty good one. It goes like this: "The Internet connection was down yesterday, so I got to spend a few hours with my family. They seem like really nice folks..."
Jokes like these, which (let's admit it) aren't that far from truth, show that the Internet has become an important part of our lives. Sadly, the technology has failed to keep up with our needs, at least in the US. Here's a graph provided by Data Alliance, which shows the average Internet connection speed in our country during the last five years.
Still, even though many of us have recently gotten access to gigabit Internet connections, our wireless Internet connection speeds are often really slow. Here are the most frequent causes.
1. Ancient routers
Yes, the router plays a crucial part. Your Internet service provider may have increased the data transfer speed significantly, but the biggest bottleneck may be your router, which doesn't support the latest Wi-Fi standards.
To verify if this is the cause, try to connect your laptop to the Internet using a wired link. Simply purchase a LAN cable, if you don't have one in your home, and then connect your computer to the router through it. If the laptop starts to open sites immediately and can transfer huge files at lightning speeds, it is definitely the time to replace your router.
Of course, before shutting down this hardware piece for good, it is wise to check if there aren't any firmware updates available. Often, by installing the latest firmware update, you can squeeze a few more years of life out of your router.
But let's assume that the router manufacturer has stopped creating updates for it. If you aren't afraid that you may brick your router for good, you can try and install an open source router operating system. The risks are virtually zero; you wanted to get rid of the old router anyway. And by doing this, you may be able to turn your old piece of equipment into one that incorporates lots of modern router features.
2. Poor router antennas
I really cannot understand why router manufacturers don't fit their products with better antennas. Even high-end routers include five dollars antennas! This translates to much shorter ranges for the wireless signal. This explains why it is almost impossible for a single router to provide enough wireless signal for a normal home.
To fix this issue, replace the router antennas. Most routers use plugs to connect them, so it should be very easy to purchase and fit in high gain Wi-Fi antennas. You can even build one yourself! Of course, if that sounds too technical, you can always purchase a router mesh network, which costs more money, but will provide an even better coverage.
3. Signal interference
If you're like me, you've got lots of electronics in your home. I'm talking about smart watches, smart gadgets, all sorts of Bluetooth dongles, microwave ovens, cordless phones, and so on.
Did you know that all these devices operate using the 2.4 GHz frequency, which is also utilized by your router? Of course, things can get even worse if you live in an apartment, because each one of your neighbors is probably using his/her own wireless network.
To fix these problems, install a Wi-Fi analyzer app on your smart phone, and then switch the router to the least crowded channel from within its admin panel. If you don't need a big wireless range, it may be wise to switch to the less used 5 GHz band. As an added benefit, data transfer speeds will increase if your devices are close to the router.
4. Too many devices
Yeah, your wireless connection may be slow because there are too many devices connected to the network. I know, you're only using a smart phone to connect to the Internet, but haven't you forgotten about the computer, which is now downloading a major OS update? What about your little brother, who is playing a high-end online game? And what about your sister, who is now streaming an HD movie?
Modern routers have the ability of limiting data transfer speeds on a per-device basis. So, here's another solid reason why you should purchase a new router for your home wireless network.