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Technologist Tuesday: Home Wi-fi


Home Wifi:

Does your house have Wi-Fi?  Does it reach everywhere you want it to? Are you happy with your Wi-fi signal? For many of us, Wi-Fi is a hassle. Signals not strong enough, videos buffer and get all choppy or we just can’t seem to get a good signal when we’re on the backyard deck. Here are some ideas that can apply to just about all of you who want to have a better wireless internet signal.

Part One:  The Provider

What piper do you pay? Do you have DSL, Cable or are you still using Dial up?  Before you try to tackle having a better signal in your home, you’ll want to ensure that the true speed of internet coming into your home is sufficient.  Many people just don’t know what that means.  Time to get the bill out and look:  What are you paying for?  How many Mbps (Megabits per second) are you signed up for?  If you have Cable you’re in the clear.  Cable internet is simply the best.  Cable customers typically receive 25 to 50Mbps.  Interested?  Contact your local cable company and find out current rates.  Switch to cable if you can.   If you have some kind of DSL service, you’re most likely getting 1Mbps, 3Mbps, 6Mbps or 12Mbps.  Contact your DSL provider and ask them if they will offer you the option to move up to 6Mbps or higher.  It may not be that much more money and there’s nothing you’ll need to do with your equipment.   If you have dial up, then see if Cable is available or if you can switch to higher speed DSL.   Most dial up users are paying more for internet than other options that may be available.  Bottom line: try to get your service at 6Mbps or higher.  Anything less is weak internet.

Part Two:  The Devices

How old is your modem?  Do you rent it?  If you’re renting an older device you should be able to upgrade for free.  Contact your provider.  Newer modems have better technology that can strengthen your network.   You also may want to consider purchasing a new modem and stop renting.  We have cable and DSL modems available at Abt.com.  Lastly, try to centralize the location of your modem.  The center of the home is the best location

If you have an all-in-one modem/router device, then you may want to purchase a separate wireless router.  A stand alone wireless router can create a better network.  For those of you that already own a wireless router that is over 2-3 year old:  buy a new one.  New routers are not that expensive.  You can purchase a very good router for less than $60.  The best routers will cost you up to $200 (before you enter the world of commercial grade wireless devices).

Part Three:  The Network

By having a wireless signal in your house you have created a network.  Sometimes people hear the word “network” and the intimidation factor kicks in. “Network” is just referring to your wireless signal throughout your home.  Here’s a summary of some things you can do to your network that aren’t too intimidating:

1)       Try to centralize your modem and router devices in the center of your home.  DSL modems simply need a connection to your phone line.  You should be able to relocated that DSL modem to anywhere in the house where there is a phone line.  Same with Cable modems.  What rooms do you receive cable tv?  Those rooms are all candidates for relocating your modems.  (be cautious of this:  cable lines get watered down through splitting coax cable.  You may relocate your modem and the nearest TV cable programming may have issues or the modem will struggle to connect)

2)      Reboot your gear often.  I’d recommend a monthly reboot for all of us.  There is a step by step way to do this right.  First, power off the modem and router.  I’d suggest simply pulling the power cable out of the back of each device.  After a min of all devices being powered off:  plug the modem in first.  Wait a few minutes and then plug back in your router.  Doing this can refresh info the modem needs or help the router commence it’s auto channel selection.

3)      Interference haunts us all.  It may not even be your fault.  It could be your neighbor.  #1 culprit is your phone system.  Do your cordless phones have static? Even if they don’t: They can be interfering with the Wi-Fi.  This problem is easy:  if the phone base or somewhere on them labels them as 2.4GHz phones:  replace them.  Phones are cheap too.  An entire package of three new phones is under $70.   Newer 6.0 phones run at 1.9Ghz frequencies and can’t interfere with your wifi.  Running microwaves, baby monitors or any other devices that work at 2.4GHz frequencies can clash with your signal.  Structural elements like elevators, duct work and plaster walls can also weaken your signal.  Location of the modem and router can have a big impact on how these elements are avoided

4)      Get a new router.  This doesn’t have to be a complicated task.  Buy a new router that features Dual Band Simultaneous networks and you’ve most likely succeeded.  If you find one that also features Gigabit Ethernet Ports, then you’ve purchased a high end router: well-done.  I recommend any Asus and Apple Wireless routers.  They are my favorite ones.

5)      Don’t forget the first thing I mentioned: make sure you have a good source.  Pay your provider $5-$10 more a month if they can offer you faster speeds.  Try to get away from a service that limits you at 1-3Mbps.  Oh and Kbps instead of Mbps is bad.  There are 1000 Kbps in 1Mbps.  Remember:  Cable can give you over 50Mbps.  www.speedtest.net is a good website to show you what you’re really getting.

Hey Technologist! What’s your network like?

I have a Docsis 3.0 Modem bringing in my Comcast high speed internet at about 60Mbps.  The modem is plugged into the Asus Dark Knight Wireless router.  That creates a very solid Wi-Fi signal in my house.  I also have an Airport Express joining my network enabling my dining room as an airplay network (it’s connected to an auxiliary input on an iPod Dock Speaker system) The Dark Knight replaced my first generation Time Capsule.  I set the Time capsule’s Wi-fi off, put it in bridge mode and connected it to the Dark Knight.  It only serves as 1TB of network storage these days.

This article simply scratches the surface of Home Wi-Fi.  There’s so much more about strengthening your network with other methods.  Abt has a good number of knowledgeable sales staff and tech consultants that can aid you in your quest.  We sell all the equipment necessary and have techs that come out and set everything up (Chicago land only).  Please feel free to talk with one of our specialists and good luck!

The Technologist

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