Step 4 - Wireless Security
While not strictly about improving performance, security is an important part of your wireless network, so we want to cover it quickly in this guide. In my opinion the best home level security option for most routers is WPA-Personal. It's not the strongest, but still quite good. Most routers come with security disabled, since it results in less tech support calls to the manufacturers when users first try to setup their device. Hit the security settings area of your router and make sure that you have security enabled. I can't see a time where you would not have security enabled, as with it disabled, anyone is free to connect and use your Internet and so forth, hence slowing things down for you.
If you are really concerned about security, you can setup your router to only accept certain wireless devices. You'll need to find the area in your router which enables you to input device MAC addresses. Every device that connects to a LAN or the internet has a unique MAC address. Once you've enabled this option and added in the MAC addresses, only devices which those exact matching MAC addresses will be able to connect to your wireless network. Some say this method is even better than WEP or WPA, but keep both enabled for the best security. Just remember it can be a hassle to manually add a new MAC address every time someone new visits or every time you get a new device.
Step 5 - Extending Range / Directing Range
While we could go on for pages and pages, one of the final things we want to discuss is extending radio range or directing it to our needs. With most routers you are able to remove the standard antennas that come included. These included antennas do the job for standard housing and offices pretty well, but if you really want to boost your performance, extend range or direct the range to a certain area, you have some options.
If you have a large house or office or just want to increase the range or power of your wireless network, you can easily buy aftermarket antenna's to replace the existing standard antennas on your router. If I take my D-Link DIR-855 router for example, it comes with three 2dBi Omni Direction antennas attached out of the box. While taking a look at the Newegg website for aftermarket wireless antennas, there are literally dozens to pick from. One of the options with the highest Newegg buyer rating is the TRENDnet TEW-AIO70B 7dBi Indoor Omni Direction Antenna. It has rated signal strength of 7dBi which is quite a bit more powerful than the standard 2dBi factory default antennas on my D-Link router.
They are not overly costly, at the time of writing, Newegg is asking about $27 for one - just remember for best performance, you'll want to order the same amount of antenna's as you are replacing on your router. I would highly advise against not replacing all of the antennas on your router, as not replacing them all and mismatching them could and likely will cause issues or less than stellar performance. In my case that would mean buying three antennas, which would be around an $80 investment, and that would greatly improve the performance and range of my wireless network.
Along the same subject, we also have the option of directing your wireless range, but you'll need to pull out your credit card for this job, too. If you are not interested in pushing your wireless in a certain direction, instead just having it cover a general round area, select an Omni Direction Antenna. However, say for example, you have a really long house or maybe even a farm where you are looking to get internet access in a field or shed, you need to select a Directional Antenna. As the image indicates above, these push the direction of the wireless to a direction of your choice based on the directional placement, rather than just covering a general oval shape area as with Omni Direction antennas.
Step 6 - Checking Performance
Once you've following all of the tips and tweaks in this guide, you'll want to run some tests to see what works and what doesn't. Our tips and such in this guide are not an exact science, and depending on your product, building and location, some settings / placements may be better than others. One of the easiest tests (although not exactly consistent) is to run a speed test using speedtest.net - they also have apps for iOS and Android if you want to try on your smart device.
I say not exactly consistent as it relies on your internet connection to run a ping (latency), download and upload test and the performance of that is a varying factor that always changes depending on what you are downloading / uploading, the time of the day and so on. While not scientific or 100% accurate, I was able to add an extra 3 - 4Mbit from my fiber internet connection by following the tips in this guide on my iPhone.
A more solid and accurate test would be to setup a file transfer from one computer to another. For example, have a file send from your desktop PC to your laptop and make sure the laptop is always positioned in the exact same location and conditions to get an accurate measurement of wireless performance. Time how long it takes to copy the file from A to B. LAN Speed Test (Lite) by Totusoft is a good little application to make this test easier for you, but there are dozens of these apps out and about for you to try.
We hope you enjoyed this guide and it resulted in you seeing improvements with your wireless network. If you have any tips, tweaks or suggestions to share, please leave a comment below for everyone to see and try!
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