There are few things more frustrating than a wireless internet connection that suddenly comes to a screeching halt. Whether you’re working, gaming or just surfing the web, a slow WiFi connection can render your internet connection functionally useless. Before we start troubleshooting, however, first we need to make sure that the WiFi is really the issue. Turn off your computer’s Wireless card and plug it in to your router with an Ethernet cable instead. If your internet speeds return to normal through a wired connection, chances are there’s something wrong with your WiFi. If, on the other hand, the sluggish connection persists, you may have another problem with your router, modem or ISP. For now, let’s assume your WiFi connection is the issue.
Start by Power Cycling Your Router
This should typically be the first step you take when troubleshooting a bad internet connection. When routers stay on for weeks or months at a time, they can get clogged up with old junk data that can put a serious hamper on your connection speeds. Power cycling your router effectively cleans out all that junk data to improve your router’s performance. To do so, turn the power switch off and then unplug the router from the wall for 30 seconds. This will allow the capacitors to drain so your router powers down completely. After it’s been unplugged for 30 second, plug it back in and turn it on. In many cases, a simple power cycle will resolve the issue completely.
Change the Channel
Most routers operate on a 2.4 GHz radio band. This frequency is also used by many other devices such as baby monitors and cordless phones. To make matters worse, you’re probably competing with your neighbors’ routers as well. Of the 11 channels on the 2.4 GHz band, only 3 can be running without overlapping one another. These channels are 1, 6 and 11. Chances are, your router will default to one of these three channels out of the box. Go into your router preferences and select another of these three channels. This may reduce the interference from other devices in the area. Alternately, you could invest in a 5 GHz router instead. These are typically somewhat more expensive, but they’re far less prone to interference issues.
Move the Router
Wireless signals can travel through air pretty easily, but they’re not so good at traveling through solid objects. Ideally, your router should be placed as high as possible so as to avoid interference from walls and furniture. Check to make sure that your router isn’t too far away from your computer, or blocked by objects such as tables and chairs.
Check for Downloads and Push Notifications
As more and more mobile devices become connected to the internet, routers can struggle to keep up with the demand of additional devices in your home. Let’s say you have 4 different smartphones in your home, all of which receive push notifications at different times. This may cause “rubber banding,” or sudden and unexpected changes in your WiFi speeds. Check to make sure your OS isn’t downloading any updates in the background that might slow your internet down, and turn off push notifications temporarily to see if that improves your connection speed.
If your WiFi woes persist, it might not be a problem on your end. Contact your ISP to find out if they’re having any hardware issues that might be causing service interruptions. If everything appears to be okay on their end, they may be able to help you fix the issue with your in-home connection as well.