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Home Wi-Fi Networking Tips and Tricks

Get to know your network.

Whether you're experiencing slow internet in your home, concerned about digital security, or you want to make sure your kids are safe online, find the answers to your questions here.

Wi-Fi Health Check

Why is my network slow?

Your home network can feel slow when your stream is buffering or there is a wait time from click to load. These problems can stem from:

  • Insufficient bandwidth from your internet service provider (ISP)
  • An older modem that doesn’t support your ISP speeds
  • A problem with your router

 

To troubleshoot:

  • Run a Wi-Fi speed test to see if you are getting the ISP speed you're paying for. If not, you may need to update your router.
  • Find out how much ISP bandwidth you should have. To do this, look at your bill or statement from your ISP.
  • Determine the number of connected devices that will use your internet and make sure your router can support those devices.


Is my modem up to date?

Different modems support different internet service speeds. Even if an ISP updates or increases your speed, an older modem may be unable to keep up. If your ISP connection comes through DSL or fiber, it may be best to contact your ISP to see if you have the best available modem.

Cable service has more options for purchasing your modem, which can help you save on rental fees. The best cable modem technology can support most ISPs’ speeds and will work in lower-bandwidth situations while also allowing you to easily upgrade your service speed in the future.


How many devices can my network support?

Just as excessive traffic on a highway causes jams and delays, too many devices can cause congestion on your network. Using that analogy, a multi-band router will let you add more lanes to your freeway, allowing for more devices on your network without slowing things down. Increasing bandwidth with Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6 technology is like safely raising the speed limit, which means your devices can all move at the fastest rates.

Wi-Fi 101: What You Should Know

What is an ISP? How does it impact my Wi-Fi?

An internet service provider (ISP) gives your home internet bandwidth, which is measured by download and upload speeds. Streaming a movie requires download speed. Upload speed is needed for activities like posting on social media or gaming online. Inadequate internet speed can cause problems with your home network and make it difficult to run all your devices.

 

What do routers do?

A router takes your modem’s single connection and shares it between your devices, either via a hard-wired line or over Wi-Fi. Routers create one Wi-Fi signal for a home, and internet performance improves based on how close your devices are to the router. Mesh Wi-Fi systems send out wireless signals from more than one location, offering speed at different ranges.

How do routers impact the network?

The more connected devices you have, the more bandwidth you need for maximum network efficiency and device performance. Wi-Fi coverage can vary greatly from place to place within your home. Complicating factors can include interference from appliances, the proximity of your neighbors’ Wi-Fi signals and physical obstacles like walls, especially those made of stucco or plaster and lath.

A good rule of thumb for coverage.

If you have many connected devices, multiple users or a large home, it is best to have a router or mesh node for every 1,500 to 2,000 sq. ft. of space.

What are Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6?

These numbers denote the generation of Wi-Fi technology. Wireless AC, or Wi-Fi 5, is the fifth generation of Wi-Fi; wireless AX, or Wi-Fi 6, is the sixth and latest generation.

  • Wi-Fi 6 provides much higher speed, better range and greater network efficiency.
  • Wi-Fi 6 can talk to many more devices at once, which means less latency and faster performance.
  • Amazingly, Wi-Fi 6 can efficiently support 30, 60 or even 100 devices at a time.

Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 both provide effective home Wi-Fi solutions for those looking to upgrade their outdated equipment.

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What do modems do?

A modem is a device that receives a signal from your ISP and allows you to use the internet. Modems are specific to your ISP’s technology, and the most common types are cable, DSL and fiber.

What should I look for in a cable modem? Should I rent or own?

In general, DSL and fiber ISPs require you to rent or purchase their modems, while you can rent or purchase a cable modem through your ISP or purchase from a retailer. Cable modems offer different numbers of bandwidth channels, usually between 8 and 32. Cable modems that connect to more channels can provide better speed and more consistent performance during heavy traffic times.

Shop all modems ›

 

What networking accessories do I need?

Some accessories can enhance your network’s capabilities:

  • Network switches are like ethernet ports on your router. While most routers provide only four ethernet ports, network switches allow you to add more — like 16 or 24.
  • Range extenders stretch your Wi-Fi reach by piggybacking on your network. Mesh extenders can boost performance both indoors (in your basement, for example) and outdoors (on your patio or deck).
  • Network security devices, which are newer to residential use, help you protect all your connected devices. With the growing number of devices in our homes, antivirus protection for computers and tablets may not be enough.

Shop networking accessories ›


Wi-Fi: After You Buy

Where should I place my router?

If you’ve purchased a single router, place it in the center of your home to cover 30-40 ft. in all directions. Strategic router placement can help you cover your space effectively.

If you have multiple access points (from a mesh Wi-Fi system, for example), keep those within 30–40 ft. of each other for the best speeds. Remember that walls made of brick, concrete or stucco make it difficult for Wi-Fi to pass through.

With a Best Buy In-Home Consultation, an Advisor can come to your home, free of charge, to diagnose your network pain points and provide a solution. If you already have the hardware you need, Geek Squad® can install it, help you optimize your network and connect all of your devices.

Schedule an In-Home Consultation ›
 

How do I create and maintain a secure network?

You've just finished plugging in your router, and the Wi-Fi is working. While it might seem like you're good to go, a few simple steps can help keep your network secure from hackers, breaches and unwanted users.
 

Lock down your Wi-Fi.

Anyone can use unprotected Wi-Fi on your IP address, so take the simple step of creating a strong but memorable password to keep unwanted users away from your personal information. Check your password strength.


Change your router’s password.

Go into your router's settings to change the default password. Routers of the same brand may ship out with the same password and basic information. Simply changing this password creates one extra step to make life difficult for hackers. (And you get bonus points for making your router password different from your Wi-Fi password.)


Update your firmware.

Firmware updates are annoying but important. Having the latest firmware gives you the newest features and bug fixes on your device, plus it keeps you current on security updates. Most products update automatically, but if you hear about a breach or cyberattack, check your app for manual updates. And be sure to update your operating system and antivirus software to maximize protection.

 

How can apps help?

Most premium routers and mesh Wi-Fi systems come with their own apps. These tools can allow you to stay in control of your network by showing who is connected and when, and what speeds you're getting, which can help you troubleshoot problems. Some apps provide advanced parental controls and security features to protect your network and keep your kids safe.

 

How can I make my network even better?

You may want to expand your system’s capabilities or security. If you need more ports, you can add a network switch to accommodate. To optimize security, check to see if your network product supports subscription-based threat protection. Security services and apps can protect all your devices on the network from phishing, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, malware, fraud and other potential threats.