How to Fix Wireless Networking Problems

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It is quite easy to build a wireless network these days. Most broadband service providers throw in a free wireless router with installation. All you need is a wireless network adapter in your computer. If you have a late-model computer, especially a laptop, it probably has wireless networking already built in. If not, just stick in a USB wireless network adapter and you are on your way.

While they are easy to install, wireless networks often have performance problems:

  • Your computer may show a very weak signal strength
  • Telephones, microwaves, or other appliances may interfere with the wireless signal
  • The signal quality may fluctuate, or even disappear altogether, in different parts of your office or home
  • The connection may be very slow

Here is how you can improve the performance of you underperforming wireless network:

1. Move wireless router to a better location

The biggest culprit for weak signals is the location of routers. Many routers are installed at less than ideal locations – under tables, in closets, in corners on the floor, and basements to name just a few. Many are installed near the outer wall of a building. This results in weak signals on the other end of the building.

It is often difficult to move a router too far away once it is installed. But it may be possible to move it by a couple of feet. Try moving it off the floor and away from the walls. If it is inside a closet, you may be able to get it out simply by drilling a hole in the wall for the cable.

2. Move wireless router away from other wireless equipment

Most wireless networks operate at 2.4MHz, the same frequency as older cordless telephones and other wireless gadgets. Signals from these gadgets may interfere with your router’s signals. You can try moving you router away from such equipment (or the equipment away from the router if you can’t move the router).

Another possible solution may be to upgrade your phones to newer ones which operate at 5.8MHz.

3. Get a high-gain antenna for your wireless router

If you can’t more the router, you can try replacing your router’s antenna with a high-gain antenna. You can’t replace antennas on all routers, but you can do so on many newer models.

Antennas on most routers have 360 degree coverage. If your router is located in one cornet of the building, a good part of its coverage area will lie outside the building. In such cases, you can get unidirectional high-gain antennas which transmit signals in 180 or even 90 degrees. Again, you must have router which allows you to replace its antennas.

4. Install a repeater

A repeater is a device for boosting wireless signals across greater distances. If your router’s signal is weak in a

certain location in the building, you can place a repeater half way between the router and the location to boost the signal strength.

5. Upgrade your router’s firmware

Log in to your router’s administration interface. You will usually find an option to upgrade its firmware. Most people install routers and forget about them. You may be surprised to find that your router has several firmware upgrades that you haven’t applied.

6. Try changing your router’s broadcast channel

Most cordless telephones have a little button on the handsets which you can press to change the channel if there is noise on the line. Like cordless telephones, routers broadcast on many channels too. You may be experiencing weak or noisy signals simply because your router broadcasts on a channel that doesn’t work well at your location. Try changing the channel. You will find an option to change the channel in your router’s administration interface.

If fixes at the router end of your network don’t work very well, you can try fixes at the other end — your computer.

7. Update the network adapter on your computer

If you have a desktop computer with an internal network card, try using a USB network adapter instead. These adapters usually have an antenna of their own to better capture signals. Laptops with on-board network adapters are usually fine; you don’t need to replace them. But if you use a card adapter with your laptop, try getting one with an external antenna.

8. Update your computer’s network adapter drivers

Just as a router has firmware upgrades, the network adapter in your computer have driver updates. You can find driver updates at the adapter manufacturer’s website or at Windows Update web site.

If the signal strength doesn’t improve, you could try replacing your wireless router and network cards. You may have an old router which is based on the older 802.11b networking standard. 802.11g is the newer standard. 802.11g devices are several times faster that 802.11b devices. (802.11b devices operate an 11Mbps while 802.11g devices operate at 54 Mbps.)

802.11g devices are also backward compatible with 802.11b devices. In other words, if you buy a new 802.11g router, it will still work with the 802.11b network adapters in your computers. Still, if you upgrade your router to 802.11g, for best results you should consider upgrading network adapters in your computer to 802.11g as well.

If you decide to do so, consider buying extended-performance 802.11g devices which operate at twice the speed–108Mbps. But keep in mind that if you buy extended performance devices, you must buy all of them from a single manufacturer. Most manufacturers such as Netgear, Linksys, and D-Link make extended-performance 802.11g devices but they are not necessarily interoperable with devices from other manufacturers.

And if none of these solutions work, forget about wireless and go back to good old wired networking!


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