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.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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An Illinois School District Has Banned Fully Remote Students From Wearing Pajamas While Learning

The great thing about Zoom is that it's almost impossible for people to tell if you're wearing pajamas.
The great thing about Zoom is that it's almost impossible for people to tell if you're wearing pajamas.
August de Richelieu, Pexels

Having most of your interactions via video chat can be a little exhausting, but it does come with a few perks—like being able to wear your pajama pants without anybody knowing or caring. For students facing remote learning in Illinois’s Springfield School District, however, PJs are against the rules.

WGRZ reports that the dress code for Springfield’s learn-from-home plan includes a ban on pajamas, which a number of parents aren’t too happy about.

“I don’t think they have any right to say what happens in my house,” parent Elizabeth Ballinger told WCIA. “I think they have enough to worry about as opposed to what the kids are wearing. They need to make sure they’re getting educated.”

Aaron Graves, president of the Springfield Education Association, doesn’t actually appear to disagree with Ballinger.

“In truth, the whole pajama thing is really at the bottom of our priority scale when it comes to public education,” Graves told WCIA. “We really want to see kids coming to the table of education, whether it’s at the kitchen table with the laptop there or whether it’s the actual brick and mortar schoolhouse. Raising the bar for all kids and helping them get there, whether they’re in their pajamas or tuxedo, is really what’s important.”

Though the pajama prohibition was part of the regular in-school dress code [PDF], imposing it from afar will definitely be more difficult. Fortunately, the administration’s enforcement policy is pretty vague; a statement shared with WCIA explained that “there are no definitive one-to-one consequences” for wearing your pajamas to online school, and teachers will decide what to do about any given violation.

In other words, it looks like kids with easygoing teachers (and parents) will get to stay in their nightshirts, while others might have to learn their multiplication tables in tuxedos.

[h/t WGRZ]