Wi-Fi Tips

Boosting your Wi-Fi Signal    Router-Icon-Image.png

One limitation of Wi-Fi networks is how far their signal reaches. Sometimes the range of a Wi-Fi network won’t even cover your entire house. Fortunately, there are things you can do to boost your Wi-Fi signal strength and expand your coverage area.

First, try relocating your router to a different location in your home. It is best to try and put your router towards the center of your home. This will help to maximize your Wi-Fi coverage area. You should also avoid physical obstructions in your home like brick, stone, or metal walls. Also, don’t place your router on, or near, large metal objects like filing cabinets or metal shelves. All of these things can block your Wi-Fi signal.

Most Wi-Fi routers use radio frequency, but other electronics in your home may use the same frequency. This will lead to some interference with your Wi-Fi signal. These electronics could include cordless phones, garage door openers, baby monitors, and microwaves. Try to move these items away from your Wi-Fi router and make sure they are not located between your router and computer.

4_Frequency_Follies.jpgSome wireless routers can drop connections during times of heavy workload. For example, when online gaming or copying a large file, routers can become overloaded with too much data and temporarily fail. You may need to upgrade your router to one that will be able to better handle your heavy usage. Also, if a router’s temperature increases too much, it may fail until it has cooled. Make sure to install your router in an area with good airflow and keep it clear of dust, animal hair, and clutter.

You can also try adding a Wi-Fi signal amplifier or signal booster. These amplifiers attach to the router where the antennas are normally connected. Make sure your amplifier is bi-directional, meaning it will boost the wireless signal for both transmitting and receiving data. 

What’s the difference between a modem and a router?

You know those two plastic boxes that sit on your desk? The ones that have flashing lights to indicate they are doing their job? They are about the same shape and size, but what is the difference? And why do you need both?

You probably know that one's called a modem, the other is called a router, and they're both involved with getting you on the Internet and connecting you to the world.

Most people aren’t able to explain the difference between the two; that’s where we come in!

Although they're working hand in hand to get you connected to your favorite websites, they're doing totally separate jobs. So what is it that they do?
The modem connects to a cable/wire from the outside, bringing Internet data (email, You Tube videos, Google search results, files) into your home from all over the world. A different wire that goes from your modem to your computer, delivering your Internet requests and activities to your computer and monitor. What you see is what you asked for. Thanks, modem!

Now, you could use the Internet by plugging your modem into your computer. The reason why this is not the best decision is because while modems are useful and an integral part of getting the World Wide Web on your screen, they don’t provide much Internet safety. When you are only using a modem, you put your computer at risk for viruses and hackers. That’s where the router comes into play! 

A router takes the digital signal from your modem and shares it with other Internet ready devices in the
house. You now have a computer network at home. The router also adds security by modifying the IP address on your computer(s). Your IP address is a set of numbers that is specific to your device and allows you to access the internet and allows other devices to communicate with yours. Doing this makes it harder for hackers to invade your network. 

A wireless router allows you to connect to your Internet at home with any wireless device, such as a laptop, Smartphone or iPad.

Locking Down Your Wireless Networklock-wifi-image.jpg

Wireless networks, aka Wi-Fi, allow you to access the Internet anywhere in your home and provides an easy way to share a single Internet connection among multiple devices. While wireless networks are very convenient, they can also be very insecure. If your Wi-Fi network is not secure, you open the door for hackers to steal your information or neighbors to hijack your Wi-Fi for their own use. Not only can this slow down your Internet speed, it also leaves you vulnerable to identity theft or illegal activity. Here are a few basic tips from PC World and the University of Illinois for locking your wireless network to help prevent unauthorized access.

The first thing you should do is change your routers default settings. Every manufacturer ships their routers with default username, password, and Service Set ID (SSID). All of these default values can easily be found online, meaning anyone could easily connect to your network. To change the default username, password, and SSID you need to log into your router’s administrative console.  To start, open a Web browser and type in your router’s IP address. An IP address commonly looks like  Since IP addresses do vary slightly by router, you may need to consult your user manual to determine your router’s specific IP address.  Once entered, a box will pop up asking for your username and password. Once again, if they are still the default values, they can be found in the user manual. Once you are logged in, change your username, password, and Service Set ID (SSID) to something more secure. Be sure to change both your Wi-Fi password (the password a guest types in to access your Wi-Fi) as well as your router administrator password (the one you use to log into the administrative console).  If you need help determining a password, check out our previous post, “Creating Strong Passwords."  

In securing your Wi-Fi network, passwords are only half the battle. Turning on and choosing the proper level of security encryption is just as vital. Security encryption scrambles data sent over your network to hide information from humans. Also, by turning on the encryption, no one can log into your wireless network without the password. When logged into your network’s administrative console, you should be able to find the security encryption option under the “wireless” or “security” menu. You will have a number of encryption options, but WAPA2 is the strongest form of wireless encryption available as of late 2011.

To help make finding your wireless network easier, wireless routers broadcast Service Set ID (SSID) so all users within its range can see the network. To help make it more difficult for someone to find your network, you can disable the SSID broadcast feature. This capability is typically found within the routers settings page. Do note, that if you disable the SSID broadcast, you will have to manually enter your router’s unique SSID when you want to connect any new device to your network. While there are still some programs out there that can find “hidden” networks, the thought was that if people are unaware that a wireless router exists, they will not attempt to access it. That’s why it is important to still change the passwords and turn on the security encryption.