MARCH 2016 ;e Costco Connection 21
QUICK QUESTION: What’s the one technology
that lets all of your wireless devices access the
Internet in your home? If you answered “Wi-Fi,” you
While your high-speed router is responsible
for letting your devices—such as your smartphone,
tablet, e-book, laptop, printer, video game console
and Smart TV, to name a few—get online, your
Wi-Fi network also facilitates communication between many of these devices, such as accessing your
smart thermostat from your tablet or playing music
from your phone to your multi-room speaker system.
These days, it’s not only the number of gadgets
that is putting pressure on your Wi-Fi network. The
devices themselves, such as the new 4K TVs, are
demanding more bandwidth. To ensure optimal
performance, consider the following advice.
; Put your router in the optimal spot in your
home. For example, never keep it in the basement,
because it will be tough for devices elsewhere in the
home to communicate with it. Instead, put the
router on the main or top floor and close to the center of the house. Older homes with concrete walls
might have more dead zones than houses with drywall, so you might need to experiment a bit.
; If you live in a larger home, you might con-
sider an inexpensive wireless extender (sometimes
referred to as a “repeater”) and place it in the area
of your home where Wi-Fi reception is poor. This
small device, which just plugs into an electrical out-
let or sits on a desk, communicates with your router
to extend its range. If this still doesn’t do the trick,
check with your Internet service provider to see if
there’s a faster service you can go with—budget
permitting, of course.
; If it’s been a few years since you’ve upgraded
your router, consider picking up a new one with
802.11ac speeds instead of the older 802.11n protocol. It’s faster, covers a wider area and supports
more simultaneous users (now many dozens of
devices). While they’re more expensive, you can
also look at routers with powerful (“high gain”)
antennas and with “dual-band” or “tri-band” support, as well.
; If you can forgive the geek speak, newer routers also offer both a 2. 4 GHz connection and 5 GHz
connection. This is ideal, as it could minimize interference among devices also operating on the 2. 4
GHz frequency in the home, such as microwaves,
baby monitors and cordless phones. While the 2. 4
GHz frequency is able to reach farther than the
5 GHz frequency, devices connected to the 5 GHz
frequency operate at faster speeds. When joining
your devices to your router (required once), you can
choose which frequency you prefer.
; It’s strongly recommended that you have a
password on your wireless network to ensure your
neighbors aren’t stealing your Wi-Fi. Not only can
this slow down your Internet performance, but
you want to minimize the chances of someone
hacking into your computer. Plus you can be liable—until proven otherwise—if nearby Web surfers download illegal content on your account, such
as pirated movies.
On a related note, many routers let you set up a
guest network, so when your friends (or your kids’
friends) come over, give out only the guest network
name and password.
; Make sure your modem is up
to date for the best performance. If
you’re upgrading your router, it can
make sense to look at a modem-router bundle.
; Last, when using free public
Wi-Fi hot spots at your favorite
coffee shop, hotel or airport, beware
of “rogue” networks that appear to
be legitimate, but in fact are fake.
When using public Wi-Fi, refrain
from entering sensitive data—like
online banking info or a credit card
number—to prevent cyber-snoops
from accessing your info. Wait until
you’re on a secured, private Wi-Fi
network, like the one at home. C
The Costco Connection
Costco offers a variety of routers in the warehouses and online at Costco.com. You can also
find Wi-Fi extenders at Costco.com.
Marc Saltzman, a leading
high-tech reporter, contributes
to more than three dozen
appears on radio and TV,
and is the author of
15 books. He’s on Twitter
Marc will answer selected
questions in this column.
He regrets that unpublished
questions cannot be
Please include “Marc Saltzman
Q&A” in the subject line.
Q&A with Marc Saltzman
The Costco Connection
P.O. Box 34088
Seattle, WA 98124-1088
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Getting the most out of Wi-Fi in your home