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Technology

Speed Up Your Home Wi-Fi

Follow these steps to bypass bumper-to-bumper traffic on the information superhighway.

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If web pages load at glacial speeds and videos keep buffering, it’s time to take a look at your Wi-Fi network. A few tweaks can improve the efficiency of your Internet service and help you get better coverage throughout your house.

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Start by measuring your connection’s actual download and upload speeds. You can put it to the test at www.speedtest.net. Your results will vary, so you may want to repeat the test at different times or in different parts of your house. The numbers will typically be lower than your Internet provider’s advertised maximum speeds. But if you find a wide discrepancy between the service you pay for and what you’re receiving, contact your provider to troubleshoot the service coming into your home. If the test results vary drastically between, say, your laptop and your spouse’s, check for software, driver or operating system updates on the slow device.

To make the most of your incoming signal, your router needs to be up to the task. Look at your device for the numbers “802.11” and the letter or letters that follow. Routers marked “802.11a,” “802.11b” or “802.11g” are long in the tooth and ready for an upgrade. If you have a mid-range Internet package and primarily log on to surf the Web, send e-mail or watch regular-definition video, an n-standard router, such as the Asus N900 ($120) or Linksys E4200v2 ($140), will suffice. But if you have high-speed Internet and stream high-quality videos or play video games online, opt for a newer, more robust ac-standard device, such as the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 ($200) or Linksys WRT1900AC ($250). And no matter what type of router you have, unplug it periodically and plug it back in to keep things running smoothly.

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Boost your signal. Moving the router to a central location in your home can also improve performance. Avoid placing it on the floor, in a closed-off area, or near objects that can interfere with the signal, such as concrete walls, large metal objects, microwaves or cordless phones. Because most routers default to the same few channels to transmit data, you may also be picking up interference from your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks. Use a Wi-Fi channel analyzer, such as the free Wifi Analyzer app available in Google Play (Android), to see which channels are used most in your neighborhood. (Apple computer users can run a scan by selecting the Wi-Fi symbol while holding the option key, and then opening Wireless Diagnostics.) To switch to a less congested channel, use the instructions that came with your router to sign in to its settings page.

If your Internet connection works well in some parts of your home but grinds to a halt in others, you probably have dead zones in your network. A Wi-Fi booster, repeater or extender can pick up and rebroadcast the signal from your router to the farther-flung spaces of your home.

To stretch your Wi-Fi signal an additional hundred feet or more, look for a single device, such as the Netgear Nighthawk WiFi Range Extender ($150) or Linksys RE6500 Range Extender ($100), that’s compatible with your router’s brand and standard. Wireless systems such as Eero and Google’s Asus OnHub (both $200 per device) are pricey and less powerful.

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