We’ve all been there: You’re watching the latest season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix when, all of a sudden, the video jerks to a stop—and the endless buffering begins.
It’s frustrating when your network slows down (or shuts down completely), but there are a few tricks you can use boost your Wi-Fi signal.
Here are a few of tips to help you:
1. Don’t hide your router
Most people hide their routers because they’re unsightly or in the way, but placing a router in a closet or in a cabinet is a one-way ticket to slow Wi-Fi:
Walls and doors can degrade and absorb signal strength.
Find a central location in your home and put your router on a table or bookshelf. Because some routers are designed to project a Wi-Fi signal slightly downward, keeping it higher off the ground will evenly distribute a Wi-Fi signal throughout your home.
2. Stay away from appliances and metal objects
Microwaves, cordless telephones, fluorescent lights, and even other routers in your neighbor’s home or apartment may interfere with your Wi-Fi signal. To reduce interference, place your router away from household appliances and set it to a different wireless channel and frequency.
Using online tools—Acrylic Wi-Fi for Windows and AirGrab Wi-Fi Radar for Mac, for example—can help you find the right wireless channel with the least amount of interference. If you want an easier fix, most routers have an automatic option to find the best channel for your location.
You should also avoid placing your router near metal objects, which can absorb signal strength.
3. Reset on a schedule
It sounds simple enough, but a majority of tech support problems can be cleared up by simply resetting or rebooting your router or modem on a regular basis. (It’s also probably the first thing your Internet provider will ask you to do when you call to complain, so head them off at the pass.)
And if you buy an outlet timer, you don’t even have to worry about it: Set the timer to reset your router once a day at an off-peak time.
4. Update your firmware
Yes, we know—running firmware updates is annoying and time-consuming. But if you have an older router, those updates ensure your router’s software is running at its best and most efficient. And remember: It’s best to buy a new router every seven or eight years.
5. Adjust your router’s antennas (if your routers have any)
Most routers have two adjustable antennas on top. If yours are parallel, it’s time to switch things up and go perpendicular.
Wi-Fi works best when signals are parallel to a device’s internal antenna, which are horizontal in laptops and vertical in desktop computers. Internal antennas vary in mobile devices, depending on how you’re holding them (in portrait or landscape mode).
Keeping a router’s antennas perpendicular to each other will ensure a solid connection between your home network and your smartphones and laptops.
6. Give your router a superhero metal cape
It’s not for everyone, but here’s a creative DIY solution (if your fiber broadband router has antennas). Cut open an empty soft-drink can. Then fan it out like a sail around the antenna of your router. This can help focus your Wi-Fi signal and squeeze out a little more distance. If it’s just a small corner in your home suffering from slightly slower speeds or minor drop-offs, it may be enough.
You can read about it in more detail here. But be careful not to hurt yourself!
7. Password-protect your network
Because home Wi-Fi speeds are (slightly) dependent on how many people are using it at one time, a strong password is key: It will ensure that only authorized people are using your network.
Take advantage of the security already built into your router and select a password (or better yet, a passphrase) that is a hard-to-figure-out combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
8. Stagger heavy bandwidth usage
If too many people on your home network are using heavy bandwidth at the same time, like playing online video games, watching Netflix, and downloading movies and music from iTunes, then your entire network will slow down for everyone.
Try to stagger heavy Internet use to make sure your home network is running fast and smooth for all users.
9. Invest in a repeater
Most routers have a range of about 150 feet. If you live in a big house, devices and computers in rooms farthest away from your router might have a hard time connecting to your home Wi-Fi network.
The easiest fix to boost the signal in those rooms is to buy a Wi-Fi repeater, which can plug into any wall outlet and will increases a signal’s range and strength to the farthest parts of your home (with a corresponding decrease in internet speed for those connecting to the extender, but you can’t have everything).