1. Replace your modem
With residential internet connections, modems are often overlooked. If you’re leasing your modem, call your provider and ask if a newer model is available. (Just like rental cars – ask for a free upgrade). Newer hardware works better. Also, if you’re leasing your modem, stop throwing away money. How long have you had your connection at home or your office? A long time. How long do you plan on continuing to be connected? A long time. Buy a modem. Whatever Walmart & Amazon have is probably newer – and faster – than what you’re using. (ARRIS is my favorite cable modem brand, and ZyXel is fine for DSL modems.) DSL uses an RJ-11 connector (a traditional phone line) and comes in three flavors – ADSL, SDSL, and VDSL. Cable modems use coax connector (like Cable TV) and speak a protocol known as DOCSIS. Make sure the modem you purchase is compatible with your provider. Here’s a list of compatible modems for AT&T, CenturyLink, Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox. Sanity check your decision by looking at the back of the modem and ensuring it uses the connection type you have.
2. Skip Wifi and plug in directly
WiFi is awesome, but if you’re using a PC/laptop/TV/Roku/Apple TV/PlayStation/Xbox/printer at a fixed location, plug in. Most of the time, a wired connection is faster than wireless. It isn’t bombarded with interference and doesn’t have dead zones. Another divide-and-conquer idea is to use your laptop for video conferencing and use your cell phone to dial into the meeting for the audio. Be sure to disconnect the phone from WiFi. This will reduce usage of your wired connection a small amount.
3. Using WiFi? Change the Frequency, Kenneth
WiFi uses radio waves, and most of your neighbors are broadcasting on the same frequency, which causes interference. Imagine trying to order pizza over the phone while seven kids repeatedly hit you with sticks – this is the sad life of your WiFi connection. 802.11A runs at 5ghz. 802.11B & G operate at 2.4ghz. Most of America is crammed into this frequency. Consider upgrading to an 802.11AD or AX router which can operate at 60ghz. 802.11AX is marketed as WiFi 6. NetSpot is an excellent free tool for looking at the networks around you. Look for what channel the majority of your neighbors use and set your Wireless Access Point to something else.
4. Update your software and firmware
Log in to your router (maybe at 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1) and update the firmware on your router. Run Windows Update (to manually check for the latest recommended updates, select Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Check for updates), Intel driver update, and any update utility which came with your computer. Here’s how to update the software on your Mac. Check for a newer BIOS version as well.
5. Turn off QoS, and double check connected devices
Now that you’re logged in to your router, try disabling QoS (Quality of service) and see what happens. QoS is a great idea; it allows you to choose which devices (your laptop) or software (Zoom) has priority over everything else. Unfortunately, most under powered residential-grade routers can’t handle QoS well – and end up slowing down everything as they thrash around in the water. Here’s Netgear instructions for disabling QoS. Asus calls it Adaptive QoS. Turning QoS off has always helped me – but your mileage may vary. Also, take a look at the connected devices, and if any exist which you do not recognize, kick them off the WiFi router. If devices continue connecting, change your WiFi password!
6. Turn off Windows Defender Firewall
Odds are your router has firewall capability, and having Windows play gatekeeper is just slowing things down. If you have other firewall software like Norton, ZoneAlarm, or Avast, uninstall it. (same with anti-virus software) It’ll never be as good as the security measures from the manufacturer of the operating system.
7. Replace your name servers
Your devices ask Name Servers for directions to websites behind the scenes; most people use the default provided by their ISP, but many free (and faster) options exist. Some of these free options also provide privacy and filtering options. DNS Benchmark is an awesome free comparison tool.
|Cloudflare My Favorite||184.108.40.206||220.127.116.11|
|Quad9 / IBM||18.104.22.168||22.214.171.124|
|Quad 101 (TW)||126.96.36.199||188.8.131.52|
|UK Gov’s NCSC (UK)||184.108.40.206||220.127.116.11|
|TransUnion Neustar Public DNS (US)||18.104.22.168||22.214.171.124|
|OpenNIC, DNS.SB, CONTROL D, sb|
8. Reposition your router & consider using two access points
Move your WiFi router closer to your devices (whatever isn’t already connected using an Ethernet cable). And if your router can work on multiple bands, like 2.4ghz and 5ghz, setup the same SSID (network name) and password on both, which will make it easier for devices which move around to always find a working signal. If you have a second WiFi router, you may look into connecting it to the first to increase coverage.
- Disable DHCP on the SECONDARY ROUTER.
- Ensure the WiFi settings are the same.
- Allocate the SECONDARY ROUTER a static IP address.
- Physically connect the two routers using an Ethernet cable via LAN port.
9. Replace your wiring
Ethernet comes in a few flavors, and “Cat-5e” is the most common, gaining popularity 2 decades ago. Are you still using the cell phone you had in the 90’s? No. Take a moment to check out the cabling you’re using – odds are it’s time to replace it. Replace it with Cat6a. If you’re wiring a home or building, Consider Cat7. Keep in mind the Ethernet cable included with your Xbox, or router, may not be the latest and greatest.
If you’re facing unknown issues with copper DSL and you’ve checked everything else on this list, you may want to bypass the wiring in your house. This is a last-ditch-effort to speed up DSL: Find the box on the side of your house, install a splitter on the copper going into the home and run a phone line directly to your DSL modem. Here’s a helpful video.
10. Replace your provider
It may be time to see what other options are available in your area, such as community-provided broadband, fiber, 5G cellular, or satellite. Tesla’s sister company, SpaceX, offers Starlink, a new offering which is faster than traditional satellite providers because the satellites are in LEO – Low Earth Orbit, which means they are closer to Earth, so you spend less time waiting for a signal to reach the satellite and return to you. Be wary of any provider which refers to the connection as fast – without telling you the actual download and upload speeds you can expect. It’s also worth asking if the connection is symmetrical – when download and upload speeds are equal. Upload speed is important if you’re using video conferencing tools like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, WebEx, or Zoom. 5G cellular connectivity may also be an option. Cellmapper.net shows a map of cell towers and signal strength.
11. Install an Ad Blocker and reduce bandwidth usage
You can use less bandwidth by not downloading advertisements shown on webpages. My favorite Ad Blocker is Ublock Origin. My favorite browser is Mozilla Firefox (with Ublock Origin for Firefox, of course). Ublock Origin is also available for Chrome.
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