9 Simple Ways to Boost Your Home Wi-Fi Network

iStock
iStock

We’ve all been there: You're watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix when, all of a sudden, the video jerks to a stop—and the endless buffering begins. It's frustrating when your network slows down (or shuts down completely), but there are a few tricks you can use boost your Wi-Fi signal. Here are a few of them.

1. DON'T HIDE YOUR ROUTER.

Most people hide their routers because they’re unsightly or in the way, but placing a router in a closet or in a cabinet is a one-way ticket to slow Wi-Fi: Walls and doors can degrade and absorb signal strength. Find a central location in your home and put your router on a table or bookshelf. Because some routers are designed to project a Wi-Fi signal slightly downward, keeping it higher off the ground will evenly distribute a Wi-Fi signal throughout your home.

2. STAY AWAY FROM APPLIANCES AND METAL OBJECTS.

Microwaves, cordless telephones, flourescent lights, and even other routers in your neighbor’s home or apartment may interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. To reduce interference, place your router away from household appliances and set it to a different wireless channel and frequency. Using online tools—Acrylic Wi-Fi for Windows and AirGrab Wi-Fi Radar for Mac, for example—can help you find the right wireless channel with the least amount of interference. If you want an easier fix, most routers have an automatic option to find the best channel for your location.

You should also avoid placing your router near metal objects, which can absorb signal strength.

3. RESET ON A SCHEDULE ...

It sounds simple enough, but a majority of tech support problems can be cleared up by simply resetting or rebooting your router or modem on a regular basis. (It's also probably the first thing your Internet provider will ask you to do when you call to complain, so head them off at the pass.) And if you buy an outlet timer, you don't even have to worry about it: Set the timer to reset your router once a day at an off-peak time.

4. ... AND UPDATE YOUR FIRMWARE.

Yes, we know—running firmware updates is annoying and time consuming. But if you have an older router, those updates ensure your router's software is running at its best and most efficient. And remember: It's best to buy a new router every seven or eight years.

5. ADJUST YOUR ROUTER'S ANTENNAS.

Most routers have two adjustable antennas on top. If yours are parallel, it's time to switch things up and go perpendicular. Wi-Fi works best when signals are parallel to a device’s internal antenna, which are horizontal in laptops and vertical in desktop computers. Internal antennas vary in mobile devices, depending on how you’re holding them (in portrait or landscape mode). Keeping a router’s antennas perpendicular to each other will ensure a solid connection between your home network and your smartphones and laptops.

6. USE BEER CANS.

Typically, a beer is something best enjoyed after a home improvement project is complete, but in this case, it's necessary to drink one before you even get started: The aluminum in beer and soda cans reflects and extend the signal farther than the router itself.

Here's how it works. Step one: Have a beer and wash out the can. Then, remove the pop top and, using a pair of scissors or a utility knife, cut around the bottom of the can to remove it. Repeat the process for the top of the can, just below the mouth, but don’t cut all the way around—leave about 1 to 2 inches of space at the top to make sure the mouth of the can is still attached. Then, from the bottom, cut down the middle of the can on the opposite side of the space. Fan out the flaps to create a curve or parabola and turn the can upside down to stand it up. Stick one of the router's antennas through the mouth of the beer can and use a small piece of duct tape or blu-tack to keep it in place, then repeat the process for the other antenna. Although your router might look messy, your signal strength should greatly improve (at least in certain directions).

If you don’t want to use a beer can, you can use simple household tinfoil to create the same effect.

7. PASSWORD-PROTECT YOUR NETWORK ...

Because home Wi-Fi speeds are (slightly) dependent on how many people are using it at one time, a strong password is key: It will ensure that only authorized people are using your network. Take advantage of the security already built into your router and select a password (or better yet, a passphrase) that is a hard-to-figure-out combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.

8. ... AND STAGGER HEAVY BANDWIDTH USEAGE.

If too many people on your home network are using heavy bandwidth at the same time, like playing online video games, watching Netflix, and downloading movies and music from iTunes, then your entire network will slow down for everyone. Try to stagger heavy Internet use to make sure your home network is running fast and smooth for all users.

9. BUY A REPEATER.

Most routers have a range of about 150 feet. If you live in a big house, devices and computers in rooms farthest away from your router might have a hard time connecting to your home Wi-Fi network. The easiest fix to boost the signal in those rooms is to buy a Wi-Fi repeater, which can plug into any wall outlet and will increases a signal's range and strength to the farthest parts of your home (with a corresponding decrease in internet speed for those connecting to the extender, but you can’t have everything).

If you’re feeling more ambitious (or cheap), you can turn an old router into a Wi-Fi repeater with a little bit of programming and hacking.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

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By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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The Reusable Rocketbook Smart Notebook Is the Ultimate Recycling Move

StackCommerce/Rocketbook
StackCommerce/Rocketbook

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You may be conscientious of your environmental footprint, but some habits are tough to change, like transitioning from writing notes on paper to typing notes and saving trees. There’s just something about physically writing with a pen and paper that’s fulfilling, engages your memory, and just feels right. You can keep jotting without the guilt on this smart reusable notebook from Rocketbook that translates all of your written text to your favorite cloud services so you can recycle the pages to use again and again.

Once you start using cloud storage for notes, it’ll be hard to go back. You’ll have every song lyric, appointment, and list of directions you jot down anywhere you have internet access (which is basically everywhere these days). The set comes with 42 pages for various uses, like calendars and to-do lists that wipe clean with a damp cloth to reuse after you save your notes to the cloud.

One of the reasons it’s hard to ditch traditional pen and paper is the feeling of your favorite writing utensil gliding on the page. This set comes with a FriXion pen that writes smoothly on the synthetic paper just like the old-fashioned way—except you can’t misplace or ruin these notes in a shuffle or coffee spill since everything will be stored digitally. It’s better for the environment and kind of like an insurance plan on your personal thoughts and notes.

For a limited time, you can replace all of your archaic and environmentally wasteful notebooks with one easy set. Score the Rocketbook Fusion Executive book in black, the Rocketbook Mini in black, two FriXion pens, and two microfiber cloths for wiping with a 12 percent discount. You’ll get unlimited paper from the sleek large and small black notebooks for just $44.

Prices subject to change.

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