How many times when trying to watch a film or TV show online, have you instead been left staring at frozen screen because your connection is buffering?
We regularly hear from readers with poor internet connections, and it can be incredibly frustrating when you’re paying for a service every month which you’re not actually getting.
But there are a number of things you can do to boost your broadband speed, from making sure your router is in the right place, to using an Ethernet cable instead of wireless internet.
Wifi can reflect so keep your router clear of mirrors and reflective surfaces for a better signal
Switching providers can be a first step to improving your service, but this might not always be possible and doesn’t guarantee your broadband connection will be improved.
This week we reported that three in four households have at least three broadband breakdowns every month, either when the service stops completely or when it is much slower than it’s meant to be.
One in 10 households endure an average of 10 outages every month, according to the research from comparison website Comparethemarket, which asked 2,087 adults about their broadband experience.
Here instead we’ve listed six ways you can boost your broadband signal right now.
1. Keep your router away from baby monitors, microwaves and mirrors
If you’re using wifi, the nearer you are to the router, the better your connection will be and this can make a big difference to the speed you’re receiving.
‘Whilst we have all been inclined to lift our phones over our head in pursuit of better receptions, you are less likely to see people picking up their router and waggling it about seeking higher speeds but actually where your router sits can actually have an effect on the signal,’ explains Vix Leyton, spokesperson for Broadband Choices.
She says it’s better to have it higher up and away from anything that might interfere with the signal – think things like baby monitors and microwaves.
Ethernet cables might be better if your signal’s bad because they transmit data faster than wifi
‘Try not to surround it by metal objects, and – bizarrely as it may sound – wifi can reflect, so keep them clear of mirrors and reflective surfaces’ she adds.
Water can also absorb the signal so if you have a fish tank, for example, keep your router away from it if possible.
2. Watch out who you give your password to
The more people who have your wifi password, and use it at the same time, the slower it will be.
If you haven’t got a password, or yours is easy to guess, anyone nearby could potentially log onto it and use it for free. Not only could this be a security risk, it means your connection will slow down.
If you need to set a password, or change your existing one, open your router settings by entering its IP address into your web browser. You’ll find the address printed on the router itself somewhere, and it will look like this: 192.168.0.1.
You may need to log in – the admin password and username will also often be printed on the router, but if it isn’t, check with your provider for further instructions. From your settings you can then set up or change the password.
3. A broadband booster or wifi extender can help
There are a number of different gadgets on sale which claim to boost the speed and reliability of your broadband connection.
However, these are designed more for larger homes where there are spots the wifi signal doesn’t reach and won’t actually make a difference to the quality of connection you’re getting.
You’ll need to plug it in somewhere inbetween your router and the areas of your home where you can’t get wifi, or where the signal is weaker, and it will pick up your router’s signal and extend it.
If your wifi is slow it may be worth changing the channel of your router to get a better signal
4. Try changing the channel of your home network
If your wifi is slow or continually cuts out, it may be worth changing the channel of your router.
Most routers run off the 2.4Ghz frequency spectrum which is made up of several different channels, some of which can be clearer than others.
Some routers will automatically switch to different channels, but you could also try manually doing this to improve your signal.
How you do this will depend on the type of router you have and there will be instructions in the user manual. For most, it’s a quick job and the following instructions, from Broadbandchoices, show you how to change it.
1. First find the best channel using an app like Wifi Analyzer which is free and displays less crowded channels to switch to.
2. Log on to your router, and look for the wireless network settings. Find the prompt that lets you choose a channel, and select the number you want to switch to.
3. If there’s an ‘Auto’ option, always pick this – the router will do the wireless analytics for you and automatically pick the clearest channel.
4. Wait a few minutes for everything to adjust, and see if your speeds improve.
5. Use an Ethernet cable instead of relying on wifi
An Ethernet cable is a little old fashioned, and might seem like a step back from using a wireless connection, but it should improve your broadband signal.
These cables provide a faster service than wifi because they transmit data at a quicker pace. You also won’t need to worry about obstacles such as thick walls or microwaves getting in the way and causing an interference.
6. Where you position your router is important
The position of your router can make a big difference to the speed and accuracy of your broadband signal.
Therefore try and keep the router in the middle of your home, so its signal can reach every room, and don’t shut it away in a cupboard as this can affect the signal.
It needs to be visible so if it’s out-of-sight or you’ve put it in a corner of the house away from where you usually are, the speed and distance the wifi can travel will reduce.
Other things to watch out for include thick walls, as if the concrete is dense it can dull your broadband signal, while steel joists within the wall can also affect the signal. Also try and avoid placing the router directly next to your window as some of the signal will be sent outside if so.