Lifestyle

Guidry: Speed up that slow wireless network

Have you ever been frustrated by a slow wireless network? If your connection is slow, there are a number of simple ways you can try to improve performance.

Bear in mind there can be a difference between a slow wireless connection and a slow internet connection. The best way to test this is to try plugging your computer into the network, to see whether that makes a difference. In this article, we’ll talk specifically about improving wireless signals.

Depending on your internet provider, you typically will have a modem and/or a router. The modem provides the link to the internet, while the router helps your computers connect to that link. You may have an all-in-one device from your internet provider, or you may have bought your own router separately. Your wireless network likely is originating from this router. We sometimes refer to it as a wireless access point.

As always, our first step is to reboot. In the case of a network, you should reboot all network devices as well as all computers and other internet-enabled equipment. To reboot a router, turn it off, wait a few moments, then turn it back on. If you have dual devices, I find it works best if you turn off both modem and router, then turn on the modem first and the router second. Your wireless manufacturer may have more tips on rebooting your network.

Wireless networks are notoriously susceptible to interference. The construction of your building can interfere with your connection, as can other wireless equipment such as cordless landline phones and baby monitors. In general, wireless networks work best when the access point is above ground, in a high spot such as the top of a bookshelf, and away from televisions, speakers and other potential sources of interference. A central location will maximize your network’s reach. If you’re still having trouble with dead spots, you might consider a wireless extender (a device that boosts your wireless signal), but with most modern networks this isn’t necessary.

Another simple fix is to keep your modem and router on a surge protector. Blackouts and brownouts can damage your router, thus impacting its performance.

Routers and other network devices need updates just like your computer. For routers we call this a firmware update. You can download firmware updates and installation instructions from your manufacturer’s site. However, I recommend you write down your existing configuration settings before upgrading firmware or making other changes to your network.

Technology changes rapidly, and equipment quickly goes out of date. If your wireless device is more than a few years old, check to see if there is a newer model with improved capabilities. The newer wireless specs are much faster and better at resisting interference.

Is the network slow only on one particular computer? Try rebooting that computer, and make sure it has all current software updates. You also can try relocating it to see whether there’s an issue with wireless interference.

If there’s still no improvement in performance, it might be time to call in a tech professional who can help you further troubleshoot problems.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and computer specialist who provides writing and consulting services. Her Tech Tips blog www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips offers tech support advice for Windows and Mac.

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