Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wifi is now essential to our lives – here’s how to maximize it - November 20,, 2015

For something most of us didn’t even have 10-15 years ago, wifi has become virtually indispensable in our homes. Sixty-one percent of American homes have wifi.

And wifi can be maddening if it fails to reach all rooms in our home.

Wifi provides the internet to more and more devices every year. Our first router back around 2003 served two laptops. Today, in an average home, many more devices are linked to wifi routers including laptops, mobile phones, game consoles, portable gaming machines and more.

And more devices will continue to login. Devices such as your refrigerator, washing machine, light bulbs, door locks and those little Dash Buttons from Amazon that let you reorder things at the push of a button.

Does your wifi reach all areas of your home? If it doesn’t, you are losing valuable functionality.

In this column, we’ll tell you how to easily find dead spots in your home and what you can do to get the internet throughout your home.

You may already know what rooms don’t have internet, but perhaps you haven’t ever tried to use your wifi connection in your guest room or in the basement. Guests who have slept there might have been too polite to mention it.

There are apps for your cell phone that will measure your connectivity as you move about the house.

First of course, you have to connect your phone to your own wifi. If you need help with that, check this week’s link post at for help.

Once that’s done, go to your phone’s app store, and search “wifi.” You will find a variety of tools. I have always used Wifi Analyzer.

The app shows you the strength and channels your wireless router uses. Make a quick hand-drawn map of your home’s layout. On the app, touch the icon that looks like an Eye at the top right and chooses Signal Meter from the menu. Near the bottom, touch the button and choose from your wifi name from the list. Then, walk around the house and record the signal strength in each room.

Ideally, the meter should be in the green throughout.

When you are done, make a list of the rooms that had less than -60 dbm. Are they rooms you need to have internet access in?

If your router’s signal cannot reach rooms where you need the internet, there are extenders and other devices you can purchase to extend the reach of your wifi signal.

An extender is a small box that plugs into an electrical outlet. It receives the signal from your wifi and then rebroadcasts it on another channel. The idea is to put it somewhere between your router and the room where you do not have a strong signal. Where you place it should still have a good enough signal and the new signal it puts out should hopefully reach the poorly covered area.

Netgear and TP-link are manufacturers I have some experience with and they make extenders. This week’s link post will have Amazon links the products mentioned here.

Earlier this year, I moved our router to the upper level since we did a lot of our computing in the bedrooms there. That demolished coverage in our basement, and we had occasional need for cover age there.

An extender would not be a good solution in that situation. Instead, I opted for a powerline extender.

A powerline extender has two boxes. One box plugs into the wall near your router and connects to your router with a network cable.

It takes the internet signal from your router and actually sends it to the second box through the powerline in your house.

The other box sits in the room that otherwise wouldn’t have internet connectivity. Some extenders you have to plug a network cable between it and your device. Or, you could buy a second wifi router and hook it in and have a strong wifi signal in that room.

Some of the newer ones have their own wifi signal on the other end. Read the product descriptions carefully before choosing one.

The ideal solution would be to have an electrician run network cable throughout your home. That is on my list for the custom home I’d build after winning the lottery. That, and heated bathroom floors.

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