How to get a stronger Wi-Fi connection in your apartment

Have you experienced the joy of having a downstairs neighbor who loves to blow things up Taylor Swift at deafening high decibels? Or maybe it warms your heart to remember a family upstairs who refused to keep theirs 5 year old from endlessly sprinting from room to room while wearing tap shoes? Okay, maybe he wasn’t wearing tap shoes. But you get the picture. Ah, apartment living.

Then the frustration is over work from home while fighting spotted Wireless Internet. You know the pain points: Your audio stutters during Zoom meetings, you can’t get that YouTube video to load, and Netflix keeps freezing. To make matters worse, your roommate has no problem in their room, but you keep struggling to stay connected.

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When it comes to getting a clear Wi-Fi signal, apartments are a cluttered mess of multiple devices, heavy beams, metal obstacles, and a large number of units demanding air space at the same time. It can make you feel powerless. But there are a few steps to improve your signal and get a better Wi-Fi connection in your apartment.

Oh, one more thing. All things being equal, your first move should be to investigate whether you have options to use someone else internet service provider. But when it comes to living in an apartment, you often don’t have much choice when it comes to your internet provider. Many apartment complexes have housing contracts with specific Internet providers, so even if several providers are available in your areacan you be bound by your lease to stick with the one you have.

Okay, that’s enough introduction. Let’s jump into it.

Secure your Wi-Fi signal

Downplaying your network security is an important first step no matter where you live, but it is especially crucial if you rent your apartment and use the equipment that came with the place. You can start by changing your router’s network name and password. If you are using a device provided by your ISP, you should be able to use their app to change the information very easily.

If you want to avoid using your ISP’s app (or have your own router), You can easily access your router settings to change your Wi-Fi password. This doesn’t have to be scary, and my colleague Ry Crist does a great job of breaking it down for you and keeping it straight. But when it comes to your new password, make sure it’s anything but simple. Yes, it’s tempting to keep it simple so it’s easier to remember, but you want to make it difficult for others to break (and use a password manager to help remember it).

Go channel surfing

Your router uses two bands — 2.4GHz and 5GHz — and within each of those bands are channels for sending and receiving your Wi-Fi signal. Your Wi-Fi problems may be due to you using the same channel as many of your neighbors. Therefore you all clog the same lanes.

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The solution is to jump off the crowded channel and find one with a little less traffic. There are 11 available channels in the 2.4GHz band and 24 in the 5GHz range. Use your router’s Wi-Fi tools (either via an app or the web) to scan for the least used channel available and set your router to that channel.

While doing this, it’s a good idea to use a internet speed test to compare how your Wi-Fi performs on the different channels. In fact, it’s a good idea to run a speed test before changing any settings. That way, you have a basic idea of ​​how your Wi-Fi (barely) worked, and can later see how these new channels fare in comparison.

Ideally, you don’t want to do this channel check daily, but if it’s effective in solving your problems, you can lean on it when you run into problems.

Move your router

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution. Maybe the reason for your wonky Wi-Fi bad location of your router. Is it stored in a bookcase? Is it close to or blocked by a large piece of furniture or appliance? Try giving your router some space. While you may be tempted to hide it away for aesthetic reasons, you may inadvertently hamper your router’s ability to send a clear signal.

While we’re talking location, location, location: Avoid placing your router in your kitchen. Not only will your router signal struggle around all the large metal appliances, but the microwave in particular will also interfere with the router. The two operate on similar frequencies, so your Wi-Fi connection will be interrupted if it is near the microwave. Finally, all the important stuff aside, you’ll want to avoid the kitchen area to reduce the likelihood of coffee, water, spills, and other food debris ruining your router.

Also, remember the scenario I mentioned above where your roomie gets the good Wi-Fi and you’re left with the leftovers? There’s a good chance they’re closer to the router than you are. Try moving the router more to the center of the apartment. Not only should there be a fairer sharing of the Wi-Fi wealth, but in theory your router should also perform better.

Finally, move it away from other high-demand Wi-Fi devices, like yours smart TV or PlayStation. Again, having all these devices near each other will interfere with your router’s functions.

Get a Wi-Fi extender

Can’t move your router? It is not uncommon in apartments. Your equipment is often fixed in place with wires. But all is not lost in this scenario. You can contact one Wi-Fi extender. This shouldn’t be too big of an investment or commitment—decent options can range from just under $30 to around $100—but it can pay off hugely by improving your Wi-Fi signal.

Depending on the size of your place, you may only need one Wi-Fi extender. Be sure to place it in your apartment’s “dead spot” and see if you can bring this area to connected life. One thing to note: Getting a Wi-Fi extender doesn’t mean you skip the previous steps. For example, you still want to explore the best channel to use. If you and everyone in the building are on channel 11 or 144, you’ll probably still have problems even if you use a Wi-Fi extender.

Invest in a mesh system

Do you have high demands for streaming or gaming and have outgrown the router your ISP gave you “for free?” If all else fails, or you live in a larger apartment, you may need to explore a more expensive – but still affordable – option. Invest in good quality mesh router.

This option gives you range extender satellites that can help you stretch your signal beyond 100 feet. If you would like to integrate your router into your smart homelook for those that specifically work with your devices (Google, Alexa, HomeKit, etc.).

Also worth considering when looking at your purchase: If you imagine your apartment as a temporary housing situation, buy a system with WiFi 6 and other forward-looking abilities. For example, you might want to prioritize the router’s ability to handle multi-gigabit speeds. Or make sure you can add more satellites to your system if your home size or number of devices grows.

A final word

Maybe I should have started with this, but I’ll go ahead and end it. If you’re having trouble with the Wi-Fi router in your apartment and experiencing speeds far below what your ISP promised, I have to ask: Have you tried rebooting it? I know. I’m not crazy about hearing that question either. It makes me feel like an idiot. But sometimes it can be that simple. Just try restarting your router. But if that doesn’t work, you now have a road map of other options you can try as well.

Get stronger Wi-Fi in your apartment frequently asked questions

Will my Wi-Fi speed always be bad because I live in an apartment?

Not necessarily. Living in an apartment definitely means that you will have challenges with your Wi-Fi connection. Namely, the proximity of other neighbors and the potential interference from all their devices and signals. But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to have bad Wi-Fi. It just means you might need to work a little to optimize your Wi-Fi experience.

Is there a way to upgrade my apartment’s Wi-Fi?

Yes. Perhaps the fastest way to upgrade your Wi-Fi is to get a faster speed plan from your ISP. But it may not be financially feasible for many. So the next best option is to try moving your router to a more central location in your apartment. It should provide better Wi-Fi to more areas of your place. But if that doesn’t work, you can try to buy a Wi-Fi extender to extend the range of your Wi-Fi connection in the apartment.

Can I get free Wi-Fi in my apartment?

It depends on. While some apartment complexes advertise “free Wi-Fi,” this typically means that there is free Wi-Fi in common areas such as lobbies, gyms, and clubhouses. It usually does not extend to your apartment. That said, you can essentially get free internet — and by extension, free Wi-Fi — if you qualify for the government’s Affordable affiliate programwhich will help low-income households qualify for high-speed Internet.

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