During this time of year, you may have family members and friends visit your home to celebrate the holidays. Suddenly, the number of occupants in the house increases from two to well over a dozen — and your Wi-Fi just cannot handle all of the extra network traffic and becomes overwhelmed.
If you’re tired of dealing with jerky video conversations, dial-up-speed page loads, and Netflix movies that pause to buffer every 15 seconds, you may make some minor changes to your network configuration. You may configure your broadband connection to comfortably manage a large number of web users in your home.
Here’s an overview of the four things to do and how you can do them to improve your home internet.
Make your password easy to locate and remember
This isn’t really a network change, but it’s likely the simplest and most beneficial thing you can do for your houseguests. The first step is to alter your password to something that regular humans can read and remember, rather than a stream of random numbers and letters. In general, choose three or four medium-length words and thread them together without spaces or dashes, such as WatermelonProximityGrenade or RabidMonkeyDeathmatch.
Step two is to write down this password and make it easy to find. People will certainly ask you for the password, but if you write it down and post it somewhere visible (sticky notes, chalkboards, or a note on the fridge, for example), your guests can receive all the information they need through self-service.
If you want to get fancy, you can also encode your Wi-Fi login credentials onto NFC tags and place them on your drink coasters, allowing your guests to log in simply by touching their phones in the appropriate location.
Optimize the location of your router
Your router sends Wi-Fi signals throughout your home in the form of radio waves, but radio waves don’t always travel effectively through walls and floors. For example, if your router is in the basement but your living room is on the main level, you’re likely experiencing slower internet connections than if your router was situated more intelligently and strategically.
What exactly is “proper”? The placement of your router will vary depending on how your living space is set up, but a good rule of thumb is to choose a location that is adjacent to your most important internet-connected gadgets, as high off the ground as feasible, and clear of dense obstacles (like concrete or metal walls).
For example, my mother used to keep her router concealed from view by mounting it in the coat closet — but the closet was pretty far away, and the signal had to pass through numerous walls before reaching the living area, which was less than ideal. It made a huge impact when I moved it into the living area (where everyone watches movies and uses their phones).
Utilize your dual-band router to its full potential
If you don’t have a dual-band router, you can skip this part; but, if you do (which is highly likely if you acquired one within the last 5 to 7 years), it’s probably worth taking a moment to critically examine how you’ve configured your network.
A dual-band router basically sends out two separate wireless signals, one at the 2.4GHz frequency band and one at the 5GHz frequency band. To reduce network congestion, it’s a good idea to plan ahead of time which devices (and people) will be linked to which frequency. The important thing to remember is that a 2.4GHz connection travels longer at poorer speeds, but a 5GHz connection gives greater speeds at a shorter range.
With this in mind, it’s usually a good idea to put any smart home devices — video doorbells, smart speakers, connected thermostats, and so on — on the 2.4GHz frequency, as they don’t benefit much from being on the speedier 5GHz band. Keeping them at 2.4GHz guarantees that your devices with greater speed requirements — such as TVs, guest cellphones, laptops, and so on — are not competing for bandwidth. Also, because 2.4GHz passes more easily past obstacles, it’s typically a better choice for IoT devices, which are often dispersed across the house.
Prioritize bandwidth usage
I also strongly advise you to implement bandwidth priorities inside your networks to further reduce the chance of network congestion. This will necessitate digging into your router’s settings and making some tweaks, but it will be well worth the effort. When there is insufficient bandwidth to handle all devices, you can specify how much bandwidth is allocated to each device by defining priorities.
Let’s assume the majority of the family is sitting in the living room, watching the latest Matrix movie after dinner, but then the kids start playing Fortnite in the basement and Uncle Chester starts watching strange barbecue sauce review videos on YouTube. If your living room TV isn’t given priority over other devices in the house, and your internet service isn’t powerful enough to handle everything at once, your movie may begin to freeze or cut out intermittently – and no one wants a bug in The Matrix.
These scenarios are frequently avoidable by setting bandwidth priorities and instructing your network on which devices are the most important. The particular settings you’ll need to alter will vary based on the model of your router, but in general, you’re looking for the Quality of Service options. Here’s how to get to them on the majority of Netgear, TP-Link, and Linksys routers.