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7 handy tips for your home Wi-Fi network

Your router and wireless network might seem like complicated beasts – and indeed they are if you stumble into the advanced configuration sections of some router interfaces – but on a basic level, they’re pretty simple. And there are some very easy to follow and understand tips you can apply to improve your home Wi-Fi network. Here are seven such tips for your delectation.

Place your router up high: A wireless router with an integrated access point (AP) or an AP all by itself should be placed as centrally in a house or office as possible to provide the best signal. Put it up high – even mount it on the wall – not down low and definitely not under a desk.

Avoid radio signal bounce: Metal objects like big filing cabinets, or obstacles like cement walls can cause interference for wireless network signals, so try to keep your router/AP away from them. Even the slightest move could change the way the radio signals bounce.

Change default settings: Change the default username and password on the router. They're usually the same on every router from the same manufacturer. It’s the same deal with the service set identifier (SSID) of the Wi-Fi network. Linksys, for instance, defaults to a Wi-Fi network called "Linksys" or some variation. Not changing it can signal to snoops that the network may be wide open.

Upgrade to better security: Use a long and strong password on your router, and also make sure you’re using WPA2 encryption. Almost all routers these days support the latter, and you’ll only be lacking it if you have an ancient model (in which case it might just be time to upgrade).

Look for interfering networks: If you suspect interference – for example, if your once fast network suddenly seems slow – see if your laptop can see networks other than your own. Someone nearby may have a network on the same channel as yours. Check with your neighbours to find out which channels they are using, and make a switch if needed.

Firewalls can block shared PCs: If two computers on the same network refuse to see each other for sharing files or printers, temporarily deactivate any software firewalls you've got running. If the connection works, you know the culprit. Enter the IP address for the entire network on each firewall to allow continued access.

Keep your router firmware updated: Always make sure that when a new firmware update becomes available for your router, you download it in good time. It could contain security patches to smooth over dangerous vulnerabilities.