Stay Connected While You #StayHome: 7 Hacks to Maximize Home Wi-Fi Performance

An at home Wi-Fi router in use while a girl uses a computer.

It’s a strange new world, thanks to COVID-19. Nine out of 10 Americans are now staying home as much as possible and 26% of all businesses are asking their employees to telework. Suddenly, homes across the country have turned into full-fledged telework offices, classrooms, movie theaters, gaming centers, and virtual social hangout spots — often all at once and all day long! These data-intensive applications are demanding more from your home internet connection than ever before. America’s broadband networks have proved to be up to the challenge, but many of us connect to the internet using Wi-Fi. Taking steps to improve home Wi-Fi performance will keep your networks running as smoothly as possible.

Maximize your Home Wi-Fi Performance

We’re going to cover a number of at home hacks, but the first thing to do if you’re having problems connecting is simple – reboot! We often joke about rebooting as a way to solve all IT problems, but there’s a reason for this. Rebooting your modem and router devices clears memory caches and often installs updates, making it a fresh start for your devices.

And whether you’re troubleshooting or preparing for a world in which multiple members of your household are demanding Wi-Fi bandwidth at once, these seven hacks will make for more seamless connections:

1. Stay Current

When did you last upgrade the building blocks of your home network? If your home Wi-Fi is running on the same modem and router that have been collecting dust since the first iPhone came out (hint: 2007), think of all the advancements in technology that you are missing out on! Upgrading to the latest equipment will allow you to tap into the full potential of today’s broadband service.

2. Remember: Location, Location, Location

Are your devices tucked away in a cabinet or buried under a tangle of cords in the corner? Instead, place your router in a central spot, ideally above the floor. Since your router’s antenna sends Wi-Fi signals out in all directions, this placement will help ensure strong, reliable signal coverage throughout your space. Avoid proximity to metal, heavy-duty appliances, large electronics, and even walls that could cause interference – open spaces permit the signal to get out.

3. Give it a Boost!

Is your home office or recreation room in the basement or above the garage? Consider purchasing a repeater or booster to expand the range of your Wi-Fi. Router antennas can be replaced with upgraded versions, as well. And if you’re not a tech expert, fear not: many of these devices come with easy-to-install tutorials.

4. Enable 5GHz

Chances are your router offers Wi-Fi on two separate bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. If your router supports it, switch to the 5GHz wireless frequency when using applications that require greater bandwidth or speed, like video conferencing or streaming TV. Save 2.4GHz for longer range transmissions or lower bandwidth activities, like browsing the internet. Many networks can be configured for a seamless transition between 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

5. Move to SD

Do your kids really need to watch PAW Patrol in high definition? Most of our video uses can move to standard definition without having major impacts on quality, while also preserving Wi-Fi bandwidth. Check for “data saver” modes in your streaming platforms or video conferencing tools. You can also adjust your computer’s webcam resolution from 1080p to 720p. Save high definition settings for streaming Avengers or 1917.

6. Update Firmware

As with any device, manufacturers constantly work to improve router software for better performance and security. Check in through the administration interface or the manufacturer’s website to stay up-to-date.

7. Get Wired

If your router sits right next to your desktop computer, why not connect them via ethernet cable and free up all that wireless bandwidth for your other devices? Your laptops and phones will thank you – along with your kids!

By taking action on these hacks, you can help your household function smoothly in situations where the kids are occupied by streaming TV while you take a video call.   

If all else fails, you can also prioritize applications and ensure your team’s video call or document upload will never be interrupted by a gaming session or movie stream. Log into your router as an admin and find “QoS” under wireless settings (specific routers may vary – consult your manufacturer). Then configure as desired to set specific types of data or devices as high or low priority, save, and restart.

Thankfully, the nation’s broadband infrastructure that supports your home Wi-Fi has proven to up to the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

To learn more about how broadband providers are helping Americans stay connected during the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 Resources page.