Ways to boost slow WiFi speeds

Wednesday, 8 July, 2020

Over the last three months, domestic internet connections have been placed under unprecedented strain.

The lockdown has meant almost everything we do goes through our broadband routers, from working to socialising and shopping.

This has shone an unflattering light on the limited connectivity endured by millions of UK homes, with many of us unable to achieve broadband speeds greater than 11Mbps.

And while that’s sufficient for Netflix streaming or Xbox gaming in isolation, it’s not always capable of supporting half a dozen things simultaneously.

This becomes even more apparent when devices are connected via WiFi – a far less efficient method of data transmission than an Ethernet cable plugged into a broadband router.

WiFi signals are transmitted across the crowded 2.4GHz frequency also used by other devices around the home, often resulting in interference.

The less cluttered 5GHz frequency has problems of its own, including shorter range and limited ability to penetrate solid objects like walls.

Eight ways to boost slow WiFi

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to optimise domestic WiFi.

Below, we’ve listed eight easy steps which don’t require a computing qualification or an intimate knowledge of wireless technology:

  1. Unplug data hogs. A good way to boost slow WiFi is by disconnecting devices that aren’t being used. A Sky box can draw down 5Mbps, even on standby, so turn it off at the wall.
  2. Change the default connection frequency for specific devices. If your dual-band broadband router is struggling to power a device over 2.4GHz, switch to 5GHz instead.
  3. Change wireless channels. Broadband routers usually have 11 different frequencies, with 1, 6 and 11 not experiencing any overlap. Experiment to see if one is more effective.
  4. Reboot the router. This often speeds up broadband connections by allowing the router to install firmware updates and clear its memory. Change the password periodically, too.
  5. Refresh connected devices. Don’t assume sluggish WiFi is the router’s fault. Specific wireless devices may run faster after rebooting, updating or virus-checking.
  6. Reposition it. Moving the router can provide a quick boost to WiFi performance and access. Try to position it as centrally in your home as possible, away from solid walls.
  7. Hardwire wherever possible. The more devices you connect via Ethernet or Powerline, the less competition wireless-only devices face for available bandwidth.
  8. Replace the router. Boost slow WiFi by investing in a third-party router with external aerials and signal boosters. It’ll do a more efficient job than the router your ISP supplied.

If these steps still don’t deliver acceptable speeds, it may be necessary to consider upgrading your internet connection by switching to full fibre broadband if it’s available in your area.

Any ISP reliant on your phone line will be limited by the connection from the local exchange to your property, so switching broadband provider may not significantly affect speeds.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!