Check your router’s eco settings
Some routers are set up with their “Power savings” mode on by default. The goal: save a few milliwatts. Unfortunately, this commendable approach reduced bandwidth disproportionately.
If you value bandwidth over minimal power savings, check out the router’s setting and look for entries called “Transmission Power” or various Eco modes. Turn them OFF. Also, do check if your router sports some sort of “Automatic” transmission setting. You may want to turn it off and go “100%” all the time.
The farther away from the router you are, the worse your signal strength will be
The distance between your router and the wireless adapter is a more relevant factor than you might think. More Distance make your signal strenght lower. The lower your signal strength, the lower the bandwidth you’ll get over your network.
In addition to distance, the other wireless signal killers are the objects and elements that are in the way of throughput, namely water and metal. Water acts as a blockade for 2.42GHz signals, so it may be wise to get all objects in your home or office that contain any form of liquids out of the way (this includes radiators and flower pots — no kidding!). Also make sure that metal objects are not in the way of your router and your clients: this goes for metal furniture as well as metal boards, tech gear, etc.
Keep in mind that smooth and shiny surfaces are prone to reflecting signals and thus either creating drops or massive signal problems.
Upgrade your router’s antenna
Packet loss and weak throughput is often caused by weak antenna design. Good news: You can replace the built-in antenna of your router with something much more powerful. It’s a bit of a hassle, but it may make the difference between a slow connection (or none at all) and a speedy line to your router!
Depending on your setup, you’ll want to go with either an omnidirectional antenna that scatters the signal throughout your home or a directional antenna if most of the devices that are in need for good throughput are in one room.
Figure out the best spot for your router
Use a Wi-Fi heatmapping tool to measure the impact of distance, frequency changes and building structures on signal strength. Two tools that are great for this job are NetSpot for Mac and Heatmapper for Windows. Both tools allow you to track Wi-Fi coverage in your office or home.
Here is how NetSpot works: Once you’ve installed the software, type in a new “Site Survey” name and hit “Blank Map”. You can also select a floor plan of your home or office and get an exact map. If you’re more creative, I suggest you select the “Draw Map” feature and start drawing your own floor plan. Next, define the scale by determining the exact distance between two spots. Hit “Let’s get started” and just walk around. Click the spot on the floor plan that you’re currently standing in.
Obviously, the more points you scan, the more exact your Wi-Fi heatmap. Once you’re done, you end up with a map that shows you not just the signal strength but also the throughput of your Wi-Fi network.
Varying CPU frequencies and their effect on wireless signals
Your computer’s motherboard is also working in the “Gigahertz” spectrum. That “noise” is being picked up by your built-in Wi-Fi transmitter. Unfortunately, the higher that noise is, the more likely it is for your wireless adapter to lower bandwidth automatically (by lowering the link-rate and avoiding frequency interferences). As CPUs these days clock dynamically, the Wi-Fi adapter needs to constantly adapt the link rate which not only causes a variation in Mbps but may also be the cause for dropped connections. Especially on laptops, the Wi-Fi adapter is often built close to the memory and CPU bus, which is a major source for problems.Of course, this all depends on the design of your Wi-Fi adapter, but if these symptoms sound familiar you might solve this issue by getting an external adapter. Some of these adapters, such as my Linksys adapter, even have a little stand that’s connected via a long USB cable. Putting that kind of space between the Wi-Fi adapter and your CPUs noise is likely to help a lot. Of course, that’s not too handy when you’re traveling, but at home it’s a viable option.
Firmware or driver issues
An easy, yet often forgotten piece of advice: Make sure that your router’s firmware is up-to-date — especially if you’ve purchased a new one. Expect bandwidth, feature set and resiliency to signals to increase with the first few firmware updates.
Also make sure that the Wi-Fi adapter (either external or built-in) is always up-to-date. Dropouts, standby issues, low performance may be gone in the next 0.1 release of your adapter’s drivers. Although the frequent driver delivery via Windows Update has gotten better in recent years, it rarely fetches you the latest and the greatest drivers.
The first place to hit for updates is the manufacturer’s support pages. But if their driver area is not well maintained, you can go the chipset maker’s website. It’s not uncommon that the chipset of each Wi-Fi adapter was just bought and rebranded.
To figure out which chipset you’ve got, it’s a good idea to check the specification sheet of your Wi-Fi adapter. The Debian Wiki sports a list of well-known Wi-Fi chipsets.
Choose the right channel
The day your router is set up, it automatically detects the least crowded channel and makes that its default. However, with the arrival of new neighbors or offices nearby, the situation may change quickly: All of a sudden, one channel may be used by a handful of routers while others are deserted. InSSIDer is your little helper: The tool analyzes the entire Wi-Fi spectrum and gives you details about your home network as well as channel usage.
Use your router’s 5GHz network
The 2.4GHz frequency is crowded. Not just with neighbors using the same frequency, but also baby monitors, cordless phones, microwave ovens and more. Modern 802.11n routers offer “dualband”, which means they’re sending two network signals: One at 2.4GHz, and one at 5GHz, which is far less crowded and offers more channels. So why not make the jump to 5GHz and enjoy a less crowded Wi-Fi frequency at higher speeds? Well, unfortunately, many device makers thought it was a good idea to save some pennies on the Wi-Fi chip and go only with the 2.4 GHz receiver. This includes all portable gaming consoles and also a slew of Android phones, all Apple iOS devices and Windows Phone. Here’s my advice: Activate both networks and connect the mobile devices to the 2.4 GHz network. Just enable the 5GHz network for your laptops and desktops.
Limit your router’s frequency band
Sometimes you can’t have the luxury of choosing the 5GHz frequency band or selecting a “lonely” channel. In such cases, it may be worthwhile to limit your router to sending out signals at intervals of 20MHz. This might reduce overall throughput a bit, but it will give you a stronger signal with less dropouts: