10 Factors That Affect Your WiFi Speed (& How to Fix Them)
Whether you’re working from home, streaming the latest blockbuster, or battling it out in an online game, you don’t just want but need a smooth and speedy internet experience. But let’s face it: We’ve all been victims of sluggish WiFi at some point, and it’s frustrating, to say the least.
So, what can you do about it? How can you go from pulling your hair out to streaming without a hitch? This blog post is your go-to guide on how to make WiFi faster.
So, buckle up as we explain everything you need to know about WiFi speeds and offer you solutions that work. Trust us, your future self, binge-watching your favorite series without buffering, will thank you.
1. Distance from the Router
Imagine you’re having a conversation at a loud party. The further you move away from the person you’re talking to, the harder it becomes to hear them. The same concept applies to your WiFi connection. Signal strength diminishes as you move away from your router, making it one of the most common reasons for slow WiFi speed.
The distance between your device and the router can make or break your internet experience. The farther you are, the more likely you’ll encounter issues like slower downloads and frequent disconnections.
How to fix it:
- Position your router in a spot that is roughly equal distances from all the devices you’ll be using. By placing your router in a central location in your home, you distribute the signal more evenly.
- Keep the router off the floor and out of closets for maximum performance. High shelves are often a good choice.
- Place the router where it has the fewest physical obstructions, like walls or large pieces of furniture.
If centralizing the router doesn’t solve the problem completely, consider investing in WiFi extenders. These devices can boost your WiFi signal and extend coverage to areas of your home where the signal is weak. Another alternative is a mesh WiFi system, consisting of multiple units that work together to blanket your home with a strong WiFi signal.
2. Number of Connected Devices
When your WiFi router is connected to too many devices, it’s like having all your party guests talking over each other. From smartphones and laptops to smart TVs and IoT devices like thermostats or smart fridges, each connected gadget consumes a slice of your bandwidth. The more devices you have connected, the less bandwidth there is to go around, leading to a decreased WiFi speed.
How to fix it:
- Identify which devices require the most bandwidth for their activities and prioritize them. For example, if you’re working from home, make sure your work laptop gets priority over a device that’s just streaming music.
- Many modern routers have QoS settings that allow you to allocate bandwidth to different activities or devices. High-priority activities like video calls or streaming get the bandwidth they need to run smoothly.
3. Interference from Other Networks
Just like radio stations can overlap and cause static, WiFi channel interference from nearby networks disrupts your signal. This is particularly common in densely populated areas like apartment complexes where multiple WiFi networks exist close to each other. Interference can lead to slower connection speeds and a less reliable WiFi signal.
How to fix it:
- Scan for interference. WiFi analyzer apps can scan your environment and show which WiFi channels are the least crowded. You can then choose one less likely to overlap with your neighbors.
- Once you know which channel to switch to, you must log into your router settings to make the change. The exact steps may vary depending on your router model, but it usually involves entering the router’s IP address into a web browser and navigating to the WiFi settings.
- Some routers have an “Auto” option for channel selection, which lets the router automatically pick the least congested channel. While this is convenient, it’s not always the most effective solution. Manual selection often yields better results.
4. Physical Obstacles
Materials like concrete, metal, and even wood can act as barriers that block WiFi signals as they travel through your home. It’s not just walls and floors, either; large furniture pieces and even some appliances can hinder your network performance. The result is a weaker connection and slower speeds in rooms that are not in direct line of sight with the router.
How to fix it:
- As we’ve touched upon earlier, the location of your router matters. A central location free from immediate physical obstacles can offer the best performance. Don’t place the router near large objects or closed spaces like cabinets.
- Use 5 GHz Over 2.4 GHz. Modern routers usually offer dual-band options: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The 5 GHz band is less susceptible to interference from physical objects than the 2.4 GHz band. However, it’s worth noting that 5 GHz has a shorter range.
5. Old Hardware
Outdated routers and modems can become the bottleneck of your network, holding back your internet speeds. As technology evolves, new protocols and faster speeds become the norm, but old hardware doesn’t always support these advancements.
Even if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is delivering high speeds, an outdated router or modem can prevent you from enjoying those speeds to the fullest. The consequences include slower downloads, buffering streams, and dropped connections.
How to fix it:
- Check for updates first. Before shopping for new hardware, make sure your current router and modem are running the latest firmware. Manufacturers often release updates that improve performance.
- Make sure your hardware can handle the internet speeds you’re paying for. For instance, if you’re on a 200 Mbps plan but your router only supports up to 100 Mbps, you’re missing out on potential speed.
- As a rule of thumb, consider upgrading your router and modem every four to five years to keep up with technological advancements.
- Modern routers have features like dual or tri-band capabilities, Quality of Service settings, and better security protocols. These can dramatically improve your online experience.
6. Bandwidth-Hogging Applications
Certain applications and activities consume more bandwidth than others. Streaming high-definition videos, online gaming, and even large file downloads can be the bandwidth gluttons of your network. When these activities hog the bandwidth, other tasks like web browsing or sending emails can become noticeably slower.
How to fix it:
- Monitor internet usage. Many modern routers have built-in features allowing you to see which devices and applications use the most bandwidth. Alternatively, you can use your ISP’s or third-party apps to monitor usage.
- Set limits. Most routers and some specialized software allow you to set bandwidth limits on specific applications or devices. This can be especially handy during work hours or when you need a fast connection.
- Schedule access. Use parental controls or home management apps like our Race CommandIQ app to schedule times when bandwidth-heavy activities are permitted. For example, limit video streaming to evening hours for a better connection while you work from home during the day.
7. ISP Throttling
If you’ve ruled out most of the common issues we’ve already discussed, it’s possible that ISP throttling could be the culprit. Throttling occurs when your internet service provider intentionally slows down your internet speed, often during peak usage hours or for specific activities like streaming or gaming. While it’s a controversial practice, some ISPs engage in it to manage network congestion or to encourage users to upgrade to pricier plans.
Addressing ISP throttling can be a more formal process than tackling other speed issues. Still, it’s an essential step if you’re looking to boost your WiFi signal and get the service you’re paying for.
How to fix it:
- Run a speed test. The first step in confirming throttling is to run a speed test to check whether you’re getting the internet speeds promised in your plan. Be sure to run this test multiple times and at different hours to get an accurate measure.
- Consult your ISP. Sometimes, a straightforward conversation with your ISP can shed light on any speed issues you’re experiencing. They can confirm whether throttling is occurring and why. It’s also an opportunity to review your current service plan to see if it meets your needs.
- Check service plan. ISP throttling can result from hitting a data cap limit specified in your plan. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions, including any data limits or speed restrictions.
- Switch plans or ISPs. If you’re unhappy with the response from your ISP or if your plan isn’t meeting your needs, consider upgrading or even switching to a different provider that offers better terms and speeds.
8. Poor Quality of Service (QoS) Settings
Quality of Service, commonly known as QoS, is a feature in many routers that allows you to prioritize certain types of internet traffic over others. This way, high-importance activities like video conferencing or online gaming get the bandwidth they need to function smoothly.
However, mismatched QoS settings can actually impair your network performance. If not configured correctly, tasks that should be lower priority might take more than their fair share of bandwidth, making your video calls or games stutter and lag.
How to fix it:
- Determine which activities require the most bandwidth and need to be prioritized. This often includes tasks like streaming, gaming, and video conferencing.
- To configure QoS, you’ll need to log into your router’s web interface. Type the router’s IP address into your web browser and enter your login details.
- Once logged in, navigate to the QoS settings (the location varies by router model). Here, you can set priority levels for different types of traffic or specific devices.
- After setting up QoS, test your network to see that high-priority tasks are indeed getting the bandwidth they need. Make adjustments as necessary.
9. Software Running in the Background
Software updates, cloud backups, and various background applications can quietly consume a significant portion of your network bandwidth. While you might be actively using the internet for tasks like streaming, gaming, or web browsing, these background activities are also using up resources, potentially slowing down your connection. Even minor tasks can add up, leading to a noticeable decrease in internet speed.
How to fix it:
- Use the Task Manager on Windows or Activity Monitor on Mac to identify what is running in the background. Look for any tasks using up a significant amount of network resources and consider pausing or disabling them.
- Most operating systems and software will allow you to schedule updates for a specific time. Choosing a time when you’re less likely to be using the internet heavily can help preserve bandwidth for more immediate tasks.
- Many applications start automatically when you boot up your device. If these aren’t necessary, disable the auto-start feature to prevent them from consuming bandwidth.
- Tools and applications can monitor your network traffic in real time, helping you identify which applications use the most bandwidth. You can then make an informed decision on what to pause or stop.
10. Network Security Issues
A secure home is less likely to be robbed; the same goes for your home network. An unsecured WiFi network is like an open door for anyone looking to piggyback on your internet connection.
Unauthorized users not only pose a security risk but can also hog your bandwidth, causing a slow-down in your network speeds.
How to fix it:
- Use a robust, unique password for your WiFi network. Make it a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters to add an extra layer of security.
- Make sure your network is using at least WPA3 encryption, which is currently the strongest available.
- If you have frequent visitors who require internet access, consider setting up a separate guest network. It will keep your primary network more secure and less crowded.
- A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can add an extra layer of encryption to your network, making it more difficult for hackers to interfere.
- Keep your router’s firmware up to date to ensure you have the latest security patches.
Final Thoughts on Factors that Affect Your WiFi Speed
Numerous factors can affect your WiFi speed, from the location of your router to the number of devices connected to your network. Thankfully, each problem comes with a solution, and with a bit of fine-tuning, you can transform your WiFi experience from frustrating to flawless.
If you’ve tried all these tips and still find yourself yearning for faster WiFi and more robust performance, consider a more permanent solution.
At Race Communications, we offer high-speed fiber internet designed to minimize many of the WiFi disturbances we’ve discussed. With lightning-fast speeds and reliable connectivity, our service provides a seamless online experience, whether you’re streaming, gaming, or working from home.
Moreover, all our subscribers get access to a free app, Race Command IQ. This handy tool empowers you to manage your network like a pro directly from your smartphone or tablet.
With Race Command IQ, you can:
- Set up a guest network: Keep your primary network secure while providing internet access to visitors.
- Monitor usage: See which devices are connected and how much bandwidth they consume.
- Set up parental controls: Ensure a safe online environment for your kids by blocking inappropriate websites.
- Do speed tests: Check your internet speed anytime to confirm you’re getting the service you paid for.
- Set time limits: Manage your family’s screen time by limiting internet usage for specific devices.
Ready to take your online experience to the next level? Switch to Race Communications fiber internet today and enjoy an internet connection that meets your demands.