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5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Wi-Fi

Sometimes your problem isn’t generally slow internet, but a weak signal in one part of the house. If you have a dead zone, an inexpensive Wi-Fi extender can help improve Wi-Fi signals, whether around an obstacle like a fireplace and chimney in the center of a home or a far-off guest bedroom. They’re a cheap solution because they simply repeat the signals up to your router, but note that extenders can often slow down overall performance because of that hop. They make the most sense for an isolated trouble spot. If, however, you have several problem rooms or areas in your home, consider a new router or a mesh networking kit.

Mesh networking kits help spread the signal around your home with extra boxes (called nodes, satellites or Wi-Fi points) that work as additional wireless Wi-Fi routers in your home. Each node communicates with the others intelligently and wirelessly, making sure your devices are connected to the node with the best signal instead of trying to connect across the home to the main router. They work particularly well for larger homes (about 2,700 square feet or more) or multilevel spaces with three or more floors, but they are expensive. A new router would be a good first step. I’ve tested mesh networks like the Eero Pro in my home, but a $180 router performed just as well as a $300 mesh kit in this situation.

Just about every smartphone will let you use it as a Wi-Fi hot spot or connect a USB cable to your laptop for a quick hit of internet on the go. That extra functionality comes in handy when the power goes out. Just note that data limits while tethering your phone tend to be on the small side, from 3GB up to 20GB on a variety of plans from AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. (For reference, streaming HD video on Netflix for an hour eats up about 3 GB.)

Try a mobile hot spot rather than your phone if you need a more permanent solution for business travel. Hot spots have their own bucket of data (usually 10GB to 30GB) separate from your phone. I would recommend a separate hot spot if you have critical needs, like regularly holding video meetings while on the road or filing important documents away from your home office.

If you’ve been in the same home for over a decade, or if your household has recently expanded, you may be due for a newer broadband plan. The website speedtest.net reported that Time Warner Cable’s top download speed in January 2016 was about 35 megabits per second, which is sufficient for one or two users streaming to a laptop, a tablet and their phones. You may have been satisfied on that plan at that time, but today a plethora of other devices like smart speakers, cameras and streaming boxes are all fighting for the same bandwidth, and a 300-megabit, 500-megabit or even 1,000-megabit (gigabit) plan would be more appropriate. Unless you upgrade your service, the default plan you started with remains the one you’re subscribed to, so it’s worth checking with your provider. Just make sure to upgrade your router and cable modem (if needed) at the same time.

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