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Find your home's wi-fi sweetspot

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Find your home's wi-fi sweetspot

After unwrapping your new smartphone, tablet or game console this holiday season, one of the first things you'll need is an internet connection. There's a world of content out there for you to enjoy, and a fast, steady internet connection is your key to accessing it all. So we know how frustrating it can be when your Wi-Fi becomes spotty, slow, or stops working altogether. This handy guide will help you improve your Wi-Fi connection and get you on your way to enjoying your shiny new presents.

Simple but effective

Find the sweet spot for your router

What's the simplest, most effective solution for an improved Wi-Fi connection? Check to see if your wireless router is placed in the right spot: as close to the centre of your living space as possible.

A wireless router is essentially a powerful radio that emits signal in every direction. If you have your router stuffed in one corner of the room, a large portion of the wireless signals never reach the inside of your home. Of course, routers aren't exactly the most beautiful objects ever created, but you'll be surprised by the difference that readjusting its positioning can make.

Below are immediate tips that range from easy to more difficult:

1. Lift your router up from the floor if it's on the ground.

2. Make sure there isn't anything on top or immediately around the router that blocks it or its antennas (including location inside cabinets or shelves).

3. Reposition your router as close to the centre of your living space as possible if you are in an apartment.

4. Reposition your router as close to the centre of your house (the 2nd story in a 3 story home, for example) and the centre of that space, if possible.

Change your Password

Someone using your Wi-Fi network without your knowledge can seriously impact the quality of your connection by adding more load on your network. Newer routers come with a default password, but these are often not very strong. Even if you've set your own password it can sometimes be easy to compromise. So it's a good idea to double check and make sure you set up a good, strong password and cover your bases. Changing your Wi-Fi password requires logging into your router. Consult your manual for details on how to do so.

Minimize interference

Your router isn't the only device giving off radio signals in the house. Microwaves, cordless phones and baby monitors all do strange things to your signal. These signals aren't so powerful that they're dangerous to use, but if they're right beside your router you may notice problems when these devices are in use.

Getting more technical

If you've completed the steps above and are still experiencing poor performance or just want to squeeze every little bit out of your internet connection, below are some ideas to get you started.

Find the right channel

This will be especially important if you live in a multi-story apartment complex with many Wi-Fi signals all around you. Wireless routers operate on different channels - usually 1 - 11. Routers of the same brand, make or provider often use the same channel. When you operate on a crowded channel, you may notice your connection quality degrading. Using a tool like Wi-Fi Analyzer to find a low-traffic channel and switching to it, is a great start.

Extend your range

If you have a large home or experience consistently poor connection in a certain room or space, a Wi-Fi range extender ($30 and up) can be helpful. They work by picking up your existing Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcasting or repeating that signal to extend your Wi-Fi bubble. There are two approaches: 1) the well-known extender approach that repeats the original signal over a greater distance; or 2) an alternative method, powerline networking, works by using your home's existing electrical wiring system to transfer data to and from your router.

For simple browsing and emails, a repeater should be fine. But if you're streaming HD videos or have a game console upstairs, you'll want to consider a powerline kit.

Quality of service

In a household of 4 or 5, there are bound to be one data hogger that's consistently using video chat, playing online games, or using services like Netflix across their devices. These activities sometimes slow the connection for everyone else. Luckily most modern routers come with a feature called Quality of Service - QoS for short - where you can specify the amount of bandwidth certain applications can use. With QoS, you can prioritize certain Internet usage or applications (Skype calls for example) over others (videogames). Setting up QoS will depend on your router's make and model, so check your manual or run a web search of your router's model combined with 'Quality of Service' as a search term.

After going through these tweaks, you should find that your Wi-Fi home network is faster and more reliable than ever.

Enjoy the Internet :)

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