How to optimize your router
For most people, installing a new router is a quick, painless experience. And yet, few people know that wireless performance can be significantly improved by applying a few less known, and yet very effective tips. Advanced users can replace the router antennas, or just reposition them using long sma extension cables and adapters, thus getting a significant signal strength increase, for example. But we'll just focus on simple tips for this article.
Everything begins with choosing the proper router. Spend as much time as you need to determine the best product that fits your budget and wish list. You don't have to purchase a new router, of course. Sometimes it is enough to upgrade its firmware! And if new firmware isn't available, you can easily install a third-party router OS, which will breathe new life into it.
But let's assume that you want to buy a new router. It is a wise decision, because new routers have more useful features and benefit from firmware patches more often, in comparison with the older models. Your ISP may have already bundled a router with its Internet package, of course, but don't expect it to be a top-of-the-line product.
No matter what route you choose, the minute you are online, you've got a few things to take care of. Begin by logging into your router admin panel; the manual will tell you how to get there. If you don't have the manual, you can look it up online, using the Internet connection provided by your smart phone.
Once that you are logged in, it is time to change the router admin password. In fact, while you are here, why not change the user name as well? This will make it much harder for hackers to get access to your network.
Then, upgrade the router firmware. Modern routers allow you to do that from within their admin panels, and most of them can even be upgraded remotely. Nevertheless, this is a feature that I cannot recommend, because it also introduces some serious security vulnerabilities.
It's time to activate your Wi-Fi network. If your router is a dual band version, it can broadcast signal using both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. Of course, both networks need to be configured independently. If you need good quality signal that is able to travel at longer distances, you should pick the 2.4 GHz network. However, if your device is really close to the router, the 5 GHz frequency will do, and will provide a higher data throughput.
Choose the network name, also known as SSID, wisely. You want to give away as little information as possible. So, choose a network name such as Tim24 or so. Don't ever include the router name and/or model into the SSID.
Then, it is time to choose the wireless encryption protocol. There is a single option that is secure: WPA2 in conjunction with the AES data encryption algorithm. In fact, even WPA2 has some serious security issues, but that's the only option we've got until the products which utilize WPA3 will be launched on the market.
Choose a strong password for your wireless network; it's a very powerful method of keeping hackers away from your Wi-Fi. The password can have up to 63 characters, and should consist of a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters, special characters and numbers. Since you won't have to remember this password, it's easy to create a complex one, and then store it in a document. This way, you will have easy access to the password anytime you need it.
What about Wi-Fi channels? Most routers use the default #6 or #11 channels, so signal interference will be quite big, especially if you live in an apartment building. To fix that, install a Wi-Fi analyzer app on your smart phone, and then change the channel to the least used one.
Modern routers utilize WPS, a useful feature that allows you to easily add new devices to your Wi-Fi network. However, Wi-Fi Protected Setup has proven to be vulnerable, so it's best to disable it. You can add each new wireless device manually, and my guess is that you are only going to do this a few times per year, at most.
The same thing happens with guest networks. You may be tempted to create one and keep it on at all times, but that would be a huge mistake. It is best to create a guest network, but only keep it active while your friends or family are visiting. In fact, modern routers will give you the option of creating guest networks that will self-destruct after a few hours.
Armed with these tips, I am confident that you will be able to squeeze the biggest performance out of your router, while keeping the unwanted visitors away from your network.