So let’s go for something more practical today instead of a new review. If you’re home router isn’t terribly outdated or somehow broken then you might not even need a new one. At least not if your main concern is the connection range and/or stability. There are a few basic things you can check before finally going for a new wireless router. Well, that’s only half the truth. Those steps might even help you if you’re completely happy with your router. There’s always room to improve, right?
Trust me, you will be able to do those things yourself and won’t need to ask someone else.
1. Update the firmware!
That’s a pretty obvious step that should always come first. But hey, sometimes you can forget the obvious. Everyone does. So think of it just as a litle reminder if you’re a bit more savvy in this area. To all those who are not: updating the firmware of your wireless router is probably very easy. It’s a little bit different depending on your model but never really difficult since the manufacturers provide those updates so they can be used by you. Especially after release routers get frequent updates you should check for. Some are very minor like fixing a bug in the user interface. However, often there’s at least one new feature or one improvement that you can make use of.
“That’s great and all but how do I do it?”
As I said: it depends on your router, really. Many of the newer ones have automatic updates so you don’t need to take care of it.
Let me provide you a general blueprint. While it may not be accurate for every wireless router and every step it’s still something that can guide you through the process:
- Try to find out the precise name and ideally version number. Most of the time you find those on the router itself and/or in the instructions (if you still have those). Write those down. You probably know the manufacturer of your router. If not you should see the name pretty easily somewhere on the router (e.g. NETGEAR or TP-LINK). You’ll need this for step two.
- Visit the manufacturer’s website and find your way to the download section. There you can probably choose between a variety of different routers. Search for the one you have and download the latest firmware. This will save the file to your computer but not to the router. Still, it’s halfway done! Some manufacturers also offer a seperate program which automatically installs the firmware on the router.
- Find out the default IP-adress/gateway of your wireless router. This sounds much more complicated then it is. Remember when you first set your router up? You’ll need to revisit that site with your browser. While you can find this number somewhere in the instructions, the internet or on the router itself, the fastest way is slightly more complicated. Type “cmd” in the search bar of your start menu (usually on the bottom left). A black window should pop up. There just type in “ipconfig” and you’ll find the default gateway soon enough. Please note that you don’t need to complete those steps if you know where to find your router’s IP-adress.
- Type the IP-adress/default gateway into the adress bar of the browser of your choice. Hit enter and you should see a login-screen. Do just that and you’re in the web-interface of your router.
- Somewhere in the menu you should find the option to upgrade the firmware. I really can’t be more specific here. Just look for a firmware option under “Administration” or “System Tools” or something like that. There you can usually browse for the file on your computer and load it up which will automatically install it.
2. Update your computer/notebook-drivers
I know this updating stuff can be tiresome but it might help to dramatically improve your connection. Now that your wireless router is up to date you need to make sure that the network adapter in your other devices is too. Since this site is mainly about routers I won’t go into great detail here, you’ll find plenty of tutorials online. It’s also pretty easy though. You just need to locate the adapter name (either through your system settings or through network settings) and check online if there’s any update.
3. Try different locations
Most newer wireless routers have great coverage and connection reach but sometimes (for apparently no reason at all) the connection doesn’t live up to the expectations. This can be because of an unfavorable position in your home. Try to put your router somewhere else and see if the problem persists/the connection is still way too weak. It might sound a bit stupid but this is actually a pretty viable tip that can really help you to improve your home network. Besides it doesn’t really hurt, does it? Just give it a try and if you see positive results leave the router at its new spot. It seems to like it.
4. Experiment with the settings of your router
This is the last and most complicated way to improve your router’s wireless range and stability. There are so many settings in the web interface (the one we accessed during step 1) that might help you that I can’t really list them all. Two general hints:
- Try out a different channel
- Switch between the broadcast modes (802.11n, 802.11g, and so on)
If you don’t really no what you’re doing make sure that you always keep track of the changes you make! Don’t change everything at once and try it step by step for the best results.
While you will probably have a signal in most spots of the average apartment with the average router you might run into problems in a bigger house and a below-average router (or even a good one. Depends on the house, really). Should all the steps explained above fail you then you can always buy yourself a network adapter/extender or set up an older router as a repeater. The second method is a bit more in-depth than what I’d like to cover here and you should probably avoid it if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Setting up a network adapter is pretty easy though. The main disadvantage of this method is that you’ll need to invest some more money. But don’t be afraid it’s not that much. I have used the TP-LINK PA4010KIT AV500 Starter Kit (what a memorable name!) in the past and in my experience it works really great. You have to decide for yourself if you want to try and keep your old router alive and improve its range or if you’d like to get a new one. An extender can deliver great results though. But so can a new router.
That’s all for now. I’m pretty convinced that the four free methods should help you to really make some improvements if your wireless router is still somewhat acceptable. At the same time I think you shouldn’t try to keep your old router alive even though he performs poorly. No matter what you do your router will be outdated eventually and you will have to get a new one. Not only because there are no more firmware upgrades at some point but also because there’s always new security features and more powerful hardware and software in newer routers.