Troubleshooting your network’s wireless performance can seem like a baffling exercise, until you consider that there are really just two main factors to consider—range and speed. Yes, you can have one without the other. For example, it’s great to have a screaming-fast wireless network, but if you only get decent speed when your laptop is right next to the router, the speed isn’t worth much. You need to boost the signal’s range. If your device can barely open friends’ Facebook pictures when you’re in the same room as the router, then we’re talking about problems with speed.
In general, however, speed and range issues can all be lumped together as performance issues. You want both your speed and range to be as robust as possible. There are several factors that can have an impact on both aspects of performance.
Distance can certainly impede performance. You may have a room in your home or office that is simply too far from your wireless router. Even the way your home or office is structured could be a factor in poor wireless performance. If the signals have to bounce around too many corners to reach your wireless devices, that can cause problems (although a technology in newer routers called beamforming can help direct a router’s signal to wireless clients).
Interference with the signal can be a big factor in performance, too. If you live in an apartment building, your home might be inundated with signals from everyone else’s routers. Maybe structural interference is the culprit. If your furnace, washing machine, and dryer are all between your router and your laptop, that doesn’t help. Maybe it’s the software you’re using. Routers need software updates just like everything else—and sometimes the firmware they initially ship with is improved with a later-released update.
These are just a few of the possible reasons your connection might be poor (or nonexistent). Fortunately, there are many ways to extend your wireless signal, and most of them simply involve a bit of tweaking to your wireless network. Some involve purchasing reasonably affordable components. We’ll walk you through ten of the most useful fixes for your connectivity woes.
View our slideshow for ten ways to extend your Wi-Fi signal. Some of the suggestions require no additional hardware or software to purchase, while others may require a small or larger investment, depending on the particular performance problem you’re experiencing.