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6 simple ways to improve your router's performance

There's always a desire for more speed or range from your router, try these simple changes to make the most of your router's wireless performance.

1. Location, location, location

Positioning your router can make a huge difference. Your ideal position is in the very centre of your house, to give maximum wireless coverage. This may not always be realistic, as your router also needs to be fairly close to your modem, which in turn normally needs to be close to your phone or cable socket. Long network cables can give you some flexibility here, but aren't very pleasing to the eye.

Try and keep the router out in the open, putting it inside furniture or hiding it under a table may conceal those blinking lights, but will seriously reduce your wireless signal. An unobstructed position is the ideal (usually fairly high in the room).

Microwave ovens and speakers are also good things to avoid having very close to your router, as they can interfere.

2. Just the one

All of the 802.11 wireless standards are backwards compatible, meaning they will work talk quite happily with computers or devices using older versions of the wireless standard. So, a wireless N router can talk to a wireless G Playstation3, and a Wireless B laptop. This is great because it means you don't have to constantly buy new kit.

However, it also a cause of slowdowns. A wireless N router (capable of running at 450Mbps) will slow everything down to 130Mbps if it sees wireless G devices on the network, to maintain this compatabilty. If at all possible try to keep your devices on a single wireless standard. This is made much easier if you have a dual-band router, as you can put high-speed devices onto one band and slower devices onto the other.

3. Change the channel

Some routers now automatically scan for the emptiest part of the wireless radio spectrum to use, however not all of them do. If your router is sharing a particularly busy part of the spectrum, this will slow you down and may be responsible for drop outs. The wireless router terminology for the part of the spectrum used is the Channel. In the UK the wireless channels in the 2.4GHz band range from 1 - 13.

Use a program such as inSSIDer to see which of your neighboursare using the same spectrum as you are and if there is a better channel to switch to. Note that you may also need to change your wireless settings on your computers/devices to make sure they are using the same channel as your router.

4. Speed and security

The wireless security standards are all quite different, both in the security they offer, but also the amount of processing it takes for the router to process.

If you have a choice then the security standard you should go for as a home user, for speed and security is the WPA2 standard combined with AES encryption. These settings can be changed from your router settings pages.

5. Channel width

The default channel width on most routers is 20 MHz, this is kind to your neighbours (as they will have plenty of spare channels to use) and is sometimes known as neighbour-friendly mode. However, your router is capable of using wider 40MHz channels, and to get full speed you will need to use these.

The channel width can be set in your router settings page.

6. Upgrade

If you've squeezed every ounce out of your existing router then it could be time to take the plunge and trade it in for a new model. The latest generation of wireless AC routers are powerhouses of both speed and signal coverage, and are an outstanding upgrade, especially for owners of older routers. Take a look at our latest router reviews to see our thoughts on the wireless AC routers available now.

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