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Expert Tips for Maintaining a Home Wi-Fi Network

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A basic Wi-Fi wireless home network can be assembled fairly quickly. However, many homeowners aren't aware of the options available to maintain a network and make it better over time. Consider the below ideas for improving the capability, performance and security of your wireless home network.

1. Upgrade and Add Equipment

Many homeowners have heard of the basic Wi-Fi equipment like network routers (or access points) and wireless adapter cards. While Wi-Fi gear can run for many years before it fails, you should consider replacing older equipment periodically. Newer Wi-Fi gear is typically faster, more reliable and offer better compatibility with your home electronic gadgets.

Some people fail to consider the benefits that more advanced gear like wireless print servers, game adapters and video cameras can bring to their home. Before settling for a bare-bones network setup that supports only a few PCs or phones, research these other types of products also (that can be acquired for very reasonable prices).

2. Move the Router to a Better Location

Some homeowners quickly assemble their wireless network only to find that it won't function in certain areas of the residence. Others enjoy a working setup at first but find later that their network crashes when a microwave oven or cordless phone is turned on. Perhaps even more common, PCs in a basement, attic or corner room may suffer from chronically poor network performance but the homeowner fears attempting to fix it. One easy way to address these common Wi-Fi networking issues is to move the wireless router to a better location.

3. Change the Wi-Fi Channel Number

In most countries, Wi-Fi equipment can transmit signals on any of several different channels, similar to televisions. Most wireless routers ship with the same default channel numbers, and most homeowners never think about changing this. However, if you experience radio interference from a neighbor's router or some other piece of electronic equipment, changing the Wi-Fi channel is often the best way to avoid it.

4. Upgrade Router Firmware

Wireless routers contain built-in programmable logic called firmware. A version of firmware is installed on the router by the manufacturer, and this logic is essential to the operation of the device. However, many routers also offer a firmware upgrade capability that allows homeowners to install newer versions. Updating your firmware can provide performance improvements, security enhancements or better reliability. Watch for firmware updates from the router manufacturer and upgrade as needed.

5. Increase Signal Strength and Range of the Router

No matter where in a residence a wireless router is installed, sometimes the Wi-Fi signal will simply not be strong enough to maintain a good connection. The likelihood of this problem increases with longer distances and with severe obstructions such as brick walls between the router and the wireless client. One way to solve this problem is to upgrade the Wi-Fi antenna installed on the router. Some routers do not support antenna upgrades, but many do. The alternative involves installing an additional device called a repeater.

6. Increase Signal Strength and Range of the Clients

As with wireless routers, you can also improve the signal strength of wireless clients. Consider this when dealing with a single Wi-Fi device that suffers from a very short signal range compared to the rest of your devices. This technique can improve the ability of laptop computers to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots, for example.

7. Increase Wireless Network Security

Many homeowners consider their wireless network setup a success when basic file and Internet connection sharing are functional. However the job should not be considered finished until proper security measures are in place. Follow this checklist of essential steps for establishing and maintaining good Wi-Fi security on a home network.

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