WFH? Tips for better Wi-Fi network performance

Here are a few tips (mainly for Mac users) that should help improve wireless network performance in your at-home office.

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Whatever platform you use, you’ll want to optimize Wi-Fi performance when you work from home, as it’s hard to stay productive when your network crawls.

Start in the right place

Never ignore the basics:

  • Move your router so it is not on the floor and isn’t behind any large objects.
  • Update the software on all your equipment, including your router, printer and any other connected device.
  • Restart everything, including disconnecting your router from power for a moment or two.
  • Consider extending your network, or replacing it with a mesh network of some kind.

Change your Wi-Fi password

Changing your Wi-Fi password will knock all your devices (including those you've forgotten about) off the network; this is a good thing, as you can reintroduce them as and when you need them.

If you notice that network performance degrades when you add a particular item, it may be  generating network interference. Try switching that item off or removing it from your network: If your network performance then visibly improves, it's likely the culprit and should be updated or replaced.

While it is a bit of a drag to change your password as you need to re-enter it on everything, it’s a good way to audit what devices you already have on Wi-Fi. It’s also a good way to kick off anyone unauthorized who may have been secretly using your network. 

Forget it, recall it

The old engineering maxim of “Switch it off and switch it on again” applies to everything in tech. So if your connection drops, you’ll often find you can fix it by simply restarting your router (and disconnecting it from power) for a minute or two.

Another tip that sometimes (but not always) helps is to make your hardware "forget" the network, and then set it all up again. Do take a note of your Wi-Fi password first.

To forget a network on the Mac:

  • Open System Preferences>Network>Wi-Fi>Advanced button
  • In the Wi-Fi pane select the Network you want to forget and then tap the remove (minus)button. Tap OK and then tap Apply. You can then scan for the network and rejoin it.

To forget a network on iOS

  • Open Settings>Wi-Fi>select our network>Forget This Network. Tap Forget. Now return to Wi-Fi, find the network and rejoin it once again using your Wi-Fi password.

This isn’t a magic bullet, but in my experience sometimes deliver results.

Get to know the Wireless Diagnostics tool

If you use a Mac, you have a useful but hidden Wireless Diagnostics tool that provides deep insights into wireless performance.

We’re not going to explore everything it doeshere. We’re just going to use it to get a little information that should help optimize your wireless network.

  • Quit all your currently active applications on your Mac.
  • Launch Wireless Diagnostics by Option-clicking the Wi-Fi indicator in your Mac’s menu bar.
  • In the drop-down menu, select Open Wireless Diagnostics.
  • You’ll be asked to tap Continue to test your network.

The test will take a few minutes and once it is complete you’ll need to generate a report, which takes a few moments longer. This perseverance will eventually be worthwhile as you will be rewarded with a Summary of recommendations that may help improve your network. Typically these include tips on Wi-Fi best practises and a warning that you are using a crowded Wi-Fi channel. Take  note of the advice. 

Network analysis: LITE

We used Wireless Diagnostics to get recommendations for Wi-Fi. You can also use it to inform you about which channels you should use. Launch it as before, and then follow these steps:

  • Once Wireless Diagnostics has launched, in the Application menu choose Window and then select Scan (Option-Command-4).
  • After a few moments the scanning window will appear.

The Scan window provides a host of information pertaining to all your local wireless networks. Look to the Summary pane for two useful data points: Best 2.4GHz and Best 5GHz. The numbers refer to the least congested channels you should set your router to use. "Best 2.4GHz" 6 means that’s the best channel to use.

If you’re using AirPort (and many people still do), you’ll open AirPort Utility, navigate to your router and tap the Edit window where you should tap Wireless Options. Now you’ll be able to set your channels for your 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks to those recommended in Wireless Diagnostics.

If you’re using another router, you’ll need to refer to the instructions provided with it, specifically around setting channels.Your router may ship with its own home networking app, such as NETGEAR GenieTP-Link Tether, or Xfinity xFi which provides similar information and can transact many of these tasks.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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