Modem or router for faster speeds

Increase WiFi speed - this is how it works

Thomas Rau, Hermann Apfelböck

Is your WiFi too slow? Before you buy a new router, be sure to read our tips. This will make your WLAN work again - for free or for little money.

EnlargeHow to make your WiFi faster
© iStockphoto.com/texelart

Many are currently in the home office and fast WiFi is all the more important: Our tips will get your WiFi going! If the LAN cable is kinked, you can immediately see where the speed problem of the home network is. Even without obvious external damage, errors can be easily tracked here. It is more difficult to uncover weak points with WLAN - but no problem with the right tools. This means that you can even see the wireless network: The easier it is for you to increase the WiFi range through targeted tuning. We introduce tools and tips to help you improve the WiFi speed. And if that is not enough, you can easily expand the wireless network with inexpensive or even discarded hardware.

WLAN technology 1x1:That means the gibberish

Find a better place for the router

The router is the base station for WLAN in the home network. Therefore, all devices that transmit via radio network should have the best possible connection to it. In most cases, however, the WLAN router also serves as a DSL modem: This is why it is often near the telephone connection, i.e. more downstairs and in a corner of the apartment. That, in turn, is the worst place for good WiFi. In order for radio waves to propagate as freely as possible, the router should be elevated - for example on a shelf - and in the middle of the area that its WLAN should cover. Because almost all routers use omnidirectional antennas that emit the WLAN signal almost spherically in all directions.

For optimal placement, you should therefore remove the DSL router from the telephone socket. The easiest way to do this is to use a longer DSL cable between the TAE socket and the router's WAN connection. A cable length of up to 20 meters should not be a problem, and a greater distance is also possible: How far you can extend the DSL line at home depends on how far your DSL connection is from the exchange of the DSL provider the longer this “last mile”, the more the data rate suffers from the signal attenuation. Finished 20-meter cables cost around 20 euros. Self-made cables are cheaper: How to connect them correctly to the TAE plug can be found using the Fritzbox as an example.

If you do not want to lay a long cable through the apartment, the telephone socket has to be closer to the optimal router location: That is expensive or time-consuming. Laying the telephone socket at Telekom costs 100 euros including ten meters of installation cable. You can also set an additional telephone socket yourself and connect it to the first TAE socket using a telephone cable. But even here you have to lay the cables as inconspicuously as possible.

You have the same problem if a DSL or cable modem, rather than the router, provides Internet access: You can then use a standard Ethernet cable to connect to the router, bridging up to 100 meters. But here too, the cable should be laid in such a way that it does not become a trip hazard. If you cannot move the router, you might achieve a better WiFi connection if you set it up vertically instead of horizontally or if you turn it slightly: This means that the radio waves take a different path, via which they can then reach WiFi clients such as the PC or the television without interference .

Tip: A USB 3.0 hard drive or stick on the router may also interfere with WiFi transmission over 2.4 GHz: This can happen with poorly shielded USB connections. If you still want to use the mass storage device on the router as a NAS, look in the router menu for an option that reduces the USB transmission to 2.0 speed in order to rule out interference with the WLAN.

Analyze signal strength with Insider

How undisturbed do the signals come from the transmitter to the receiver? The English-language tool Inssider Home presents the relevant information most clearly. Install the program on a computer that is connected to the wireless router. Then select the “Networks” menu. Inssider shows you all wireless networks that the WLAN adapter in the PC can reach. You can recognize the WLAN to which it is connected by a color symbol and a star. In addition, its entry in the list of detected WLANs is highlighted in color.

The information on the signal strength in the "Signal" column is important. This is because you can use it to estimate how stable the WLAN connection between the router and computer is. Insider shows the value in the unit dBm as a negative number - the closer it is to zero, the better the signal. At values ​​below -60 the connection is very stable, at -60 to -80 it is still sufficient. If the values ​​are worse, you should check whether you can position the router or computer differently so that the signal propagation is less hindered. You should also move obstacles such as furniture that interfere with the signal path - if possible. Then use the colored line for the signal curve in Insider to check whether the signal strength has improved as a result. If you get stuck with this simple method, you can use the Ekahau Heatmapper to pinpoint signal problems more precisely.

See also:WLAN router - purchase advice and test

Uncover WLAN vulnerabilities with a heat mapper

You can only use WiFi devices such as smartphones and tablets where your WiFi is still fast enough. But it is better if you uncover the dead spots in the WLAN and improve the range and speed there.

The most thorough tool for this is the Ekahau Heatmapper, even if the program is now around four years old. With the software you create a heat map of your WLAN. These maps use colors to show you where the WLAN reception is and how good: Green stands for an optimal connection, orange for a medium range and red indicates problem areas of WLAN. If you download Heatmapper from the provider website, you will need to register by email. You will then be sent a download link there.

Install heatmapper on a notebook. Windows warns of a protocol driver that the tool brings with it. But you need it for the program - so confirm the installation. When starting for the first time, you can choose whether you want to save a floor plan of the apartment in Heatmapper. In most cases, however, you don't have it. So start with a blank sheet of paper. You will then see the WLAN router that the notebook can reach on the left, an empty, checkered area in the middle on which your range map is created, and on the right a help menu. You can hide this by clicking the arrow on the right.

EnlargeThe Heatmapper tool shows you at a glance where WLAN weak points are.

On the left, the wireless routers are sorted according to signal strength. So ideally your own router should be right at the top. Now you start a tour of the apartment with the notebook. With every click of the mouse, Heatmapper records the signal strength of the router at the point where you are currently standing. Walk around the apartment and click periodically. To end the measurement, right-click. Now Heatmapper colors the map and you can see at a glance how far the WiFi goes - the greener the better. All WLAN routers are also recorded on the card. If you move the mouse pointer over a router symbol, you can see the heat map from its point of view. The representation of the coverage map corresponds to an average of all networks. To save the heatmap, show the WLAN list on the left again and click on "Take Screenshot".

The heatmap measurement always relates to the device with which you perform it. If the notebook in a certain room only has a moderate connection to the router, this does not have to apply to another laptop, tablet or smartphone. However, our practical tests show that the color coding of Heatmapper can also be transferred to other devices. In the green area, which indicates a signal strength of -64 dBm or better, most tablets and smartphones also achieve WLAN quality that is still symbolized by four to five bars. It becomes critical at a signal strength of -85dBm or weaker: Most mobile devices then only show a bar or the connection even breaks.

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Exclude duplicate radio channel

EnlargeInssider shows important information about WLAN analysis at a glance. For example, in the box on the right under? Co-Channel ?, you can see how many WLANs are broadcasting on the same channel.

In the Insider tool you can see details of the WLAN to which the computer is connected in a window to the right of the network list. The information "Co-Channel" and "Overlapping" are particularly important. They indicate whether another WLAN is transmitting on the same radio channel as yours or whether an interfering WLAN is using a channel range that overlaps with that of your own WLAN. It is ideal if Insider shows a zero for both categories.

If Insider detects other WLANs that are using the same or overlapping channels, you should check whether there is a channel on which no wireless network is interfering. You can see this in the lower area of ​​the tool: There you can see in two diagrams - left for 2.4 GHz, right for the 5 GHz band - on which radio channels the detected WLANs are transmitted; your own radio network is also marked in color here.