3 surprisingly simple tips to fix your slow WiFi
This week we were told that our kids aren’t going to normal school in August as this pandemic rages on. Smart move. That just means that our poor slow wifi is going to strain for a bit longer with all the zoom calls, online classes, Netflix, Pokemon gaming, and Kpop youtube streams.
This is common. The entire family uses the wifi at the same time and the longer this goes on, the harder your wifi has to work. Over time, you notice how your WiFi starts to slow down.
So here is what you can right now to keep your WiFi nice and fresh. And it won’t cost you anything!
Slow WiFi Hardware
When you buy an internet package from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), they supply you with a Modem. This is the device that allows your home to be connected to the provider and in turn out onto the Internet.
If you would like WiFi and LAN capability, you have to buy a router. This is the hardware that moves data from your devices to and from the modem.
Some ISP allow you to lease a “combo unit” or a “gateway” which is essentially a device that has both the modem and the router all built into one unit. I personally prefer separate devices so I have more control over my own network. Some ISP locks down what you can and can not do on your router so that doesn’t work for me.
Now here’s the thing. The router/ modem/ gateway devices are essentially mini-computers; minus the keyboard and screen.
Just like your normal computer or phones, they are run by an operating system. That is the software that is responsible for everything. From the way you set it up, to the WiFi name, to the routing of the data, firewalling, etc.
What do you do on your computer or phone when it starts to slow down or misbehaves or crashes? You reboot it.
When was the last time, you rebooted your router or your modem for that matter?
A great habit to get into is to reboot your router every once in a while. While everyone’s situation is slightly different, I reboot my router weekly.
Why does rebooting router help your WiFi?
Just like your computer and your phone, the operating system is continuously running various tasks. These tasks use memory and disk space that is built into the router. But unlike your computer, you can not add more memory or add more hard drive space to your router. Therefore the router is stuck with the hardware limitation that it has when it left the factory.
While the router’s software has ways to keep it running as smoothly as possible, it can still crash or become corrupt or go into endless software loops. All of which will have an impact on your WiFi.
When you reboot your router you are giving it the opportunity to start again. Start fresh.
Everything is cleared from memory, temporary files and cached processes are removed but of course, all your settings are still there.
This is why many IT geeks tell customers “have you tried switching it off and on again”. Rebooting starts the system for a nice fresh place.
Please Note: rebooting is NOT the same as resetting. Resetting is where you delete everything and take the router back to the same settings it has when it left the factory. Rebooting is simply switching it off and on again.
The 30-second Wait Rule when rebooting a router
Don’t make the mistake of switching your device straight back on again after you switched it off. You want to wait for at least 30-seconds before powering back up again.
If you ever had a power dip in your home, you know that for that brief moment when the power goes out, the router just keeps working or your TV’s light remains on. How if there is no power? This is because many electronics are built with power-saving capabilities that keep the settings for a little while there is no power. Most devices also have components like supercapacitors that act like mini batteries for a brief moment and retain the electric charge.
Waiting for 30-seconds when switching off the device is sufficient time to ensure that the router is really powered down.
How do you shut down your router safely?
There are several ways to switching off a router. Ideally, log into the Admin console of your router and look for an option to power down the device. Look for your router’s instruction on how to access your router’s admin screen (or watch the video I linked to.)
If your router’s software doesn’t have that option, then look for a power button on the router and switch it off.
If there isn’t a power button, then the only option is to simply pull out the power cord.
Now, wait 30 seconds.
Then plug the cord back in again.
Switch on the power button and boot up your router.
Do this regularly.
Some pro WiFi rebooting tips
Look at your router’s software for a scheduler that will reboot your router for you automatically. You can set it to do that at 4 am where no one is using the router.
If your system doesn’t have that option, then you can purchase one of those timers that connect to the power socket. You then plug your router into the timer. On the timer, set the reboot time.
The geeky thing to do is to buy a cheap smart plug that you can pick up on Amazon or your fav geek shop. You can connect to it via an app and set time for it to switch off and on again.
It’s getting hot in here
Another reason that your WiFi might be slow, and something that we easily overlook, is due to overheating.
Again, these are mini computers. Computes have fans and liquid cooling systems to keep the hardware nice and cool whereas most routers don’t. This is why they are designed in a way to allow as much air to flow in and out of the unit as possible.
However, since these routers and modems are not the prettiest of devices, we tend to stick them out of sight inside a cupboard or sandwiched between books. This means that the air doesn’t get circulated and the unit can overheat.
Overheating is not what you want with electronics.
Overheating can slow down the performance of the hardware and can even cause permant damage to the router’s comonents. Devices that are too hot to run are programmed to shut down before getting too hot for safety reasons obviously.
Make sure that your router is in a nice ventilated area.
Another pro tip: if your router has a USB port on the back, buy a USB powered fan and point that at the router!
Keep your router updated
When you get a notification on your phone or on your computer that there are new updates – you tend to install them. You know that updates fixes bugs, brings you more features, and keeps your system secure.
Same with routers.
If you have a decent router, you can go into the Admin console, look for the option called firmware and click on the “check for new firmware” button. Should a new update be found, follow the prompts to install it.
If your router doesn’t have a simple way to update the firmware, then you will need to head over the manufacturer’s website like D-Link or Netgear or Linksys or whatever brand of router that you have.
Typically the firmware is under the support pages. Find your router model which should be written on a sticker on the router itself, and follow their steps to update your firmware.
Note that if you lease your router from your ISP, they might control this firmware update so you can’t do it manually.
So in summary:
Before you head out and buy a new router because your WiFi is slow, make sure you reboot, update and ventilate your router and modem. If that doesnt help fix your slow WiFi, check out this guide which is how to troubleshoot your own WiFi network before calling your ISP to shout at them for your slow internet speed!