Today’s blog is simply about sharing a few tips in solving Wi-Fi signal strength problems around your home. Lately we have had a fair amount of requests for this sort of computer repair service, so it maybe of interest to a few people. The most important thing to know, is that you need to understand how your home or office layout affects the signal strength. When you understand the home or office layout affects your signal strength you can decide whether to replace your Wi-Fi router with a stronger model, reposition your current router or whether some sort of signal repeater will be a better option.
The practical difference between the signal strength of your Wi-Fi router and the abilities of a Wi-Fi are best explained by example. If you find that at multiple places in your home or office that the signal of the Wi-Fi is reduced, at a rate which is fairly consistent, that would normally indicate that the easiest method of gaining additional strength to all areas is to boost the signal of your Wi-Fi router by replacement with a model containing a better signal strength. Instead if you find only certain areas of the house or office are severely limited in a short distance, a Wi-Fi repeater may be the best option. I say “may” carefully because the source of the interference needs to be identified. If a piece of electrical equipment or a structure is interfering with your Wi-Fi signal, it is also likely to interfere with any repeater.
Signal strength is measured in decibels (db), which is a logarithmic scale. If I just lost you by saying “logarithmic,” let me quickly explain in simple terms. A 10db change refers to 10 times difference, 20db change refers to 100 time’s difference, and 30db refers to 1000 times. You can see the progression. If you notice a signal strength going from 50db to 90db, the difference is 40db, therefore 10,000 times difference.
The tool that I find to be essential is an Android app called “Wi-Fi Analyzer.” There should be a similar app for Apple based mobile devices too. This application essentially displays the signal strength of your Wi-Fi router as you move about the house. It includes an audible signal which reminds me of scene from Ghostbusters when they are walking around the library at the early scenes looking for the ghost!
Using the “Wi-Fi Analyzer” you can start to form an idea of any part of the house that has very low signals, and parts where the signal is not strongly affected (attenuated). It is best to concentrate on the signal loss rate over distance, as it should be fairly consistent. When you notice inconsistent losses, you then can start to find the reasons why the signal might be reduced. These can be other electronic devices or structural parts of the house. This information leads you to make better decisions on what you might be able to do to cut the attenuation rather than spending money on extra devices that will be affected similarly.
In one job I was called out for, I determined that the back room that was used as a home office was actually an extension of the house, and the internal wall was likely previously an external wall with some sort of metal insulation as the signal went from -60dB to -99dB in a matter of 1 metre. Therefore with that knowledge we could work out a solution to the insulated wall that was causing all the problems (put a range extender underneath the floor at the wall junction). Replacement with a stronger Wi-Fi router would not have helped in that instance, and placing a range extender on the other side of the wall would have only boosted a signal that basically didn’t exist.