You’re halfway through watching the final episode of Game of Thrones. Then at the height of the action, the worst happens. The dreaded wifi buffering circle appears.
Whether you’re desperate to find out who ends up on the Iron Throne, or rushing to buying Glastonbury tickets, there’s no doubt about it – sluggish broadband is super frustrating.
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A lot of strain is placed on our broadband, with smartphones, tablets, games consoles, wifi speakers and home assistants, like Alexa, all vying for our wifi’s attention. With all sorts of high speed wifi options available these days that shouldn’t be a problem, but sometimes that buffering circle appears more often than we’d like.
Yet, when that loading bar slows to a crawl, aside from violently stabbing the refresh button and hoping for the best, we’re unlikely to do anything to give our wifi a little kick. In fact, 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 though all those crucial TV finales, we’ve got some top tips on how to make the internet faster and boost your broadband speed.
1. Choose the right spot for your router
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? Dan Clifford, Home Communications Expert at broadbandchoices, says: ‘If you can, try and position the device somewhere near the centre of your home – that way, its antennas stand a better chance of reaching your PC with few obstructions.’
Make sure it is 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.
- 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.
If you don’t notice any improvements, you could get a smart router that automatically adjusts for interference and can be bought from major providers like BT and Virgin Media.
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. Except, to give it a boost
You might roll your eyes, but sometimes, turning your modem on and off is the kick-start your wifi needs. ‘Just like a computers, the components inside your router can overheat and harbour nasty bugs and viruses,’ explains Dan. ‘By turning the device off, you’re giving all those components a chance to reboot and fix any problems.’
That being said, turning it on and off again is only a short-term fix.
4. 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.
5. Upgrade your web browser
Check you have the most recent version of Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Internet Explorer, as it will download web pages faster.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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 7) 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!
9. Secure your network with a password
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.
10. 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.
11. Use powerline extenders
These wifi extenders 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.
12. Use an ethernet cable
You might recognise these cables from the days before Wifi. Yet, if you’re keen to avoid any lag time when browsing the internet, plugging one of these cables between your router and PC is just the ticket for a strong broadband connection.
13. Check for data caps
Sometimes, a data cap which limits your internet usage, can slow down your broadband. If you exceed your limit, the provider with likely restrict your internet speeds.
Don’t know if you have a data cap? You can contact your provider. If you find you do have one, an online usage checker is an easy way to monitor your usage limits. There are loads online to choose from.
14. Clean up your computer
You might not realise it, but all those apps your keep forgetting to close could be to blame for your endless buffering. ‘Media pop-ups and Windows updates are some of the worst culprits,’ explains Dan Clifford. Make sure any applications you don’t use are turned off, or the services you no longer want are removed from your computer.
If you have a PC you can manage your apps by hitting ALT + CTRL + DEL and clicking task manager. This will show all the programmes that are running, so you can close any you aren’t using. As a bonus tip, it all won’t hurt to clear any old files and deleting your browser history. Wifi likes a tidy computer.
15. Switch broadband providers
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t buy a bedroom lamp online because the checkout page is taking too long to load, it might be time to switch broadband providers. If that’s too big a step, maybe look into a faster package.
There are plenty of helpful comparison websites, like broadbandchoices.co.uk out there to help you look for a better deal.
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.’