by Mark Kaelin
Having Wi-Fi access everywhere you go, even on an airplane equipped with Gogo service, is great. In most instances, maintaining Wi-Fi performance is someone else’s responsibility, but that’s not the case at home. At home you have to do your own maintenance. If the Wi-Fi access goes down on your watch, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Fortunately, there are several relatively simple steps you can take to make sure your home Wi-Fi is operating at its peak performance level. These maintenance steps will also ensure that the Wi-Fi receivers in your mobile devices are optimized for when you access the internet on the road and in the wild.
Update Your Equipment
The typical home Wi-Fi wireless router is likely to be the most neglected appliance in the entire household. And that’s a shame, because a well-maintained router can reduce frustration when internet access suddenly disappears for seemingly no reason.
First, if your router is more than five years old, you need to buy a new one. Router and Wi-Fi technology has changed dramatically in the past few years and is likely to continue to change with the proliferation of streaming services. For sanity’s sake, you cannot afford to be that far behind the technology curve.
Second, keep your router’s firmware and software up to date by periodically asking the manufacturer for updates. You were aware that your router has updatable firmware and software, weren’t you? And that the router can “phone home” for updates if you ask it to do so?
This is probably the one maintenance tip that will increase the overall performance of your home Wi-Fi the most. When you notice your Wi-Fi connection dropping unexplainable every few minutes, the first thought in your mind should be to update the firmware.
This updating mentality should also extend to the network adapter in your mobile devices. Security updates to Microsoft Windows 10 can change the protocols your network adapter is supposed to use to communicate with a router. That means you should check to see if you need to update the software driver for your network adapter at least twice a year.
Location, Location, Location
Another simple, but often overlooked, step that can greatly improve your home Wi-Fi performance is where you locate the wireless router itself. In general, you want to place your router in a central location, preferably as high as possible in the structure.
An attic is a good spot, although that can make the router difficult to get to when you need physical access. On top of a bookshelf located near the center of the building may be a better spot.
If your router has more than one antenna, you should configure one antenna vertically and one antenna horizontally at a perpendicular angle. This will help broaden the signal for the entire household. Read the manual of your particular router for more instructions on antenna configuration.
Ignore Default Channel
Every router defaults to a specific channel, typically 1, 6 or 11, and that’s the channel the majority of routers in your neighborhood are using. So, to put it frankly, to avoid interference you never want to use one of those channels for your Wi-Fi. Channels 3, 7 and 8 seem to work well in most situations.
This may be an unfortunate reality, but your Wi-Fi router is not secure, never has been, and probably never will be. There are tools that can hack past just about any security measures you take to safeguard your Wi-Fi access. A skilled and determined hacker can breach your Wi-Fi and there is little you can do about it.
The good news is that there are very few skilled and determined hackers and even fewer skilled and determined to crack into your specific home Wi-Fi. This means that whatever security measures you take are designed to thwart the causal hacker trying to steal your bandwidth to avoid paying for it.
To this end, make sure you are using the strongest encryption protocol your router supports and that the passphrase you use is not something guessable like your street address or zip code. It is also advisable that you set the router to not broadcast your routers existence to the neighborhood.
To get the most out your home Wi-Fi, it pays to be vigilant in your maintenance schedule. Having a wireless Wi-Fi router in your home implies a certain level of responsibility toward the members of your household and to your neighbors. Just like mowing the lawn or taking the garbage to the curve, maintaining the security and performance of your Wi-Fi is just good citizenship. The fact that your vigilance also brings serenity and uninterrupted internet access is a bonus.
Mark has been writing and editing stories about the information technology industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.com.