By Tracey Dowdy
Aside from acting as a nanny, nurse, teacher, supervisor, principal, janitor, lunch lady, CEO, and intern of your homeschool/office, how’s working from home going?
Between online learning, video conferences, and – let’s be honest, extra screen time for the kids so you can finally get some work done – but slow wi-fi may be making all of that more difficult.
There’s a lot of reasons your wi-fi connection is lagging. There may be too many devices connecting to one channel, users engaging in bandwidth-heavy activities like streaming videos or gaming, outdated hardware and drivers, or even the way your router is positioned.
If it’s any consolation, internet and cell plan-tracking site, Whistle Out surveyed hundreds of consumers who had recently transitioned to working or studying from home. Their results uncovered that more than a third of consumers reported that a weak or nonexistent internet connection had interfered with getting work done.
If you want to Scooby-Doo the reasons behind your internet issues, start with a speed test. There are plenty of options available with varying degrees of accuracy. CNET recommends the Ookla Speedtest, and Lifewire has a list of reliable options as well.
The test will tell show your current upload and download speeds for the device you’re running the speed test on. It will also tell you the ping, which is a latency measurement determining how long it takes data to travel back and forth to the server you’re testing with. Move around the house and run the test a few more times to get an idea of the average speed.
If the download speeds are less than half of the internet plan you’re paying for, or if the upload speeds are much lower than your download speeds, you’ve pinpointed what needs improvement. I live in an older home with solid construction, and my husband’s home office is far from our router, on another floor. To remedy his slower speeds, we bought an inexpensive plug-in range extender that boosts the internet signal. CNET has a great resource to help you decide which is best for you.
Latency isn’t an issue unless you’ve got a lot of devices running on your network, or you’re sharing bandwidth with family members. Try running speed tests while your kids are playing a game online, or your partner is in a video chat with their office. If that ping number seems to be erratic, there are steps you can take, but your best option is to separate their activity from yours. To learn how, follow the steps outlined here.
It may be as simple as repositioning your router. Make sure it’s up off the floor, with nothing obstructing it – on a shelf or bookshelf is ideal. Try repositioning the antenna to see if that impacts your speed. If none of that helps, you may need to upgrade your router or buy a range extender.
Before you buy anything, try changing your router’s channel. CNET’s Ry Crist says, “The 2.4 and 5GHz frequency bands that your router uses to send its signals are each divided into multiple channels, just like the TV channels that you can pick up with an antenna. Your router uses a single channel at a time, and if you’re using the same one as a neighbor, for instance, then that interference might slow your connection. To change that channel, navigate to your router’s settings on your computer. The best options are channels 1, 6 and 11, which don’t overlap with one another, but your router might also have an “auto” setting that can determine the best channel for your situation.”
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.