How to fix your wifi connection and boost your broadband speed

Some surprising things can affect your signal

In the olden days, being technologically prepared for Christmas simply meant making sure the phrase ‘batteries not included’ didn’t ruin the day. Mum would fill a biscuit tin with enough Duracell to power an army of bunnies. Yet still, she often had to do the ‘battery shuffle’, rendering the remote control useless until Dad made a fuss because he wanted to watch The Queen’s Speech.

But now it’s not just power you have to worry about. There’s also the demand that the smartphones, tablets, games consoles and wifi speakers that Santa sneaked into your stockings are going to put on your home wifi network. Not to mention all that festive TV you’ll want to stream on catch up.

According to a recent survey by the Post Office, two in five (40 per cent) of us admit to not doing anything about problems with our broadband. So to make sure you stay online this Christmas, we’ve got some top tips on how to fix your wifi connection and boost your broadband speed.

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1. Choose the right spot for your router

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Like cats and teenagers, routers can be temperamental beasts. For example, did you know that placing your wifi router by the TV or next to an electrical appliance can lead to significant signal interference? The Post Office survey reveals that 28 per cent of us do just this, and a further 24 per cent have their router by a window, shared wall or at the top of the house, all of which can lead to notable signal interference.

Not sure where to place your router? It’s best off in the middle of the house where it will cover the most ground, connected to the master socket where the phone line enters the building. And whatever you do…

  • Don’t put your router on the floor. It’s better off high up and away from your cordless telephone, microwave or baby monitor, which can all mess with your signal. Even your Christmas fairy lights can cause interference!
  • Keep it away from metal objects, such as TVs and radiators, and thick walls.
  • Avoid reflective surfaces like mirrors, as wifi signals may bounce off them.

2. Keep your router on at all times

It’s tempting to switch off the power to your router to save energy. But if you do so regularly (for example, when you go to bed), your broadband may slow down. This is because the local exchange will think your phone line is unstable and can’t cope with high speeds.

3. Fit a microfilter

This is a small box that’s supplied with your router. Plugging it in between your phone socket and the router stops the services from interfering with each other. Without one, your broadband will slow down and you’ll hear high-pitched noises on phone calls.

4. Upgrade your web browser

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Image Credit: Tim Young

Check you have the most recent version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer, as it will download web pages faster.

5. Check you’re getting the right speed

You can do this by conducting a speed test on websites such as broadbandchoices.co.uk. Now check your broadband plan and if you’re not getting the speeds your provider is promising, give them a a call.

If you’re not sure what speed you really need in the first place, use Post Office Telecom’s Speed Quiz to find out.

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6. Access your router’s advanced settings

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will tell you how to do this in the help section of their websites, but it’s simple enough – using a computer or tablet that’s connected to your home network, type in the given web address (see box below), log in, and you’ll be able to access various settings that you can change to make your router more efficient.
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7. Change your network name

The SSID is your network’s name and defaults to something like ‘WIFI12345’. Change it a more memorable phrase, such as ‘Amy’s network’, and it will be easier to pick out when you’re connecting your smart TV, tablet, etc.

Do so by accessing the settings (see point 4) and entering the new name in the field marked ‘SSID’ or ‘Network Name’. Don’t forget that anyone in range of your wifi will be able to see it, so avoid anything that could upset the neighbours!

8. Secure your network with a password 

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Image credit: Colin Poole

This will stop your neighbours from using your broadband and slowing it down. Your router might already have a default wifi password, but you can find and change it to something memorable by going into your router settings.

9. Change your wifi channel

Like walkie-talkies, your router can broadcast on different channels. If your neighbour is using the same channel as you, this can interfere with your signal, so you might be able to improve your connection by changing it.

From the online settings screen, experiment with different channels until you find one that gives you fast speeds – if you have a dual-band router (see below) you’ll need to change each band separately. Take a note of the original channel(s) first, in case you want to switch back.

10. Use powerline extenders

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These plug into your sockets and ‘carry’ your internet connection through your wiring, bringing it to parts of the house your existing wifi signal might not reach due to beams or thick stone walls. ‘Hotspot’ versions create extra wifi hotspots, while standard extenders let you create a wired connection with an Ethernet cable.

For example, you can create two extra wifi hotspots where you previously had no access with Devolo’s adaptor kit. It comes with a free app that you can use to set up parental controls and guest accounts. With a guest account, visitors can log in into your wifi with a separate password and be unable to access the files on your network.

Buy now: Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi AC Powerline Starter Kit, £119.99, Amazon

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Think of it this way – if you had a dripping tap or a leaky pipe, you’d probably want to fix it as soon as possible. So why shouldn’t it be the same with your wifi? As Meredith Sharples, Managing Director of Post Office Telecoms says: ‘We are increasingly reliant on the internet for so many aspects of our lives. It’s therefore so important that we can trust in the reliability of our service.’

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