How to Improve Wi-Fi and Internet Speed in an Apartment

Phone and Laptop
Your Wi-Fi typically gets the job done, but at 5 p.m. on a Friday night in your apartment complex, with your roommates blasting a movie with ten of their closest friends in the other room, you can’t seem to get any connection. What needs to change? These tips will help you boost connectivity speed in an apartment and prevent this from happening again.

Check your internet

Can your Internet plan handle your Wi-Fi demands?

“Don't forget to test the internet bandwidth that you are getting from the provider to ensure you’re getting what you paid for,” IT Consultant Trevor Textor advises. “Use an Ethernet cable for this, never use wireless.” Textor recommends running this bandwidth test, and plugging a device into your modem using an Ethernet cable, to determine if you’re getting the megabits your plan advertises. Your upload speed will affect outgoing activities such as video calling or sending an email; your download speed will affect incoming activities such as streaming video or downloading files. A 25 mbps download speed is typically good for most common device activities. Your upload speed can be much lower. For live streamers emphasizing even the highest quality, 15 mbps could be overkill.

If you’re getting less than your plan claims, talk to your provider about sending a servicer to help. If this still doesn’t resolve the issue, look for other ISPs in your area and do your homework on their pros and cons. If your problem begins here with internet, you’ll want to upgrade your plan or find a better one offering higher speeds.

Move the router

There might be too many barriers to establish a strong connection between your router and your device. “Try to place it in the center of the apartment if you need to cover the entire place,” Nick Galov of suggests. “If, however, you need it most in one room, try placing the router close to you.” Are you the one paying the internet bill? Give yourself the credit and keep the router close to your bedroom.

However, if you’re all playing equally, here’s where you should put it: “In a one-story apartment, the best place for your router is on a living room shelf halfway up the wall,” Kristin Cooke of suggests.

Buy a Wi-Fi range extender or powerline adapter

“Not everyone is situated evenly and there are walls in the way,” Jamie Cambell, founder of GoBestVPN, explains. “One workaround is a repeater or Wi-Fi extender.” A range extender will repeat the wireless signal from your router to a different location with a poor signal in your home. For some devices, such as gaming consoles or laptops, you can connect an Ethernet cable directly to an extender for a better connection. This will keep your important devices from having to compete for a congested network.

Powerline adapters follow similar principles but using two adapters plugged into home outlets rather than a wireless connection. One outlet is wired to the router via Ethernet cable, and the other adapter is plugged in by your device with a separate Ethernet cable leading to your device. Powerline adapters are considered more reliable than extenders because of their Ethernet connection to the router.

Upgrade your router

Sometimes your router is simply outdated. “The router could be a decade old and cannot support modern speeds,” Cambell says. “The best routers can not only handle more bandwidth, but have better processors to properly manage the traffic as well.”

“Routers are essentially PCs with purpose built software,” Textor explains in an article on improving home internet. “They make them cheaper by putting in less expensive CPUs and less memory. A router above $200 will actually weigh more . . . More CPU and memory takes more metal.” Look for a router that holds features such as 802.11ac specifications, dual-band networking, and a Quality of Service feature.

Check your channels and prioritize devices

Most routers are dual-band and prioritize devices between faster short-distance 5Ghz and slower long-range 2.4Ghz channels. “For Wi-Fi in an apartment, the single best thing to do is to use 5.8Ghz, never 2.4Ghz,” Textor explains. “In fact, turn off the 2.4 Ghz radio.“

Make sure your router also has the capability to prioritize your devices. Textor says, “With a proper Wi-Fi router, you can also apply Quality of Service (QoS) settings. This can be a simple as telling the router which devices have the most priority.” Research how to use this function for your specific router; QoS can also determine which applications, such as Netflix or Skype, will have priority.

Create house rules

“It may happen that there are too many people connected to your Wi-Fi (if you or your roommate have shared a password with others),” Galov says. “Also, illegal downloading or streaming may significantly affect internet speed.”

When you have more people in your home, you’ll have more trouble connecting wirelessly. And if all these people are trying to enjoy activities that hog bandwidth, such as streaming and gaming, you may need to start scheduling these activities. While you might discourage torrenting altogether because of legal ramifications with copyrighted material, Cambell says, “Do not torrent during ‘awake’ hours! Set maximum connection limits (for example, 50) for torrents.” You can create similar rules for other activities, such as online gaming: “If one of your roommates does online gaming, make sure they download new games in the middle of the night or you could be blocked out for hours at a time,” Cooke advises.

Sharing Wi-Fi is a lot like sharing a physical space, like a kitchen. If you’re using all the oven burners and the microwave when another roommate wants to cook dinner, there could be a problem. If your roommate is Twitch streaming a game and you need to FaceTime your mom, there could be a problem. And that’s why Wi-Fi usage needs to be negotiated like it’s a physical space. This is where router Quality of Service will come in handy. “Perhaps each roommate gets to only have one device that is super high priority,” Textor suggests. You can talk with roommates and family members about the problem and adjust your router’s QoS settings to make this happen.

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