Looking at how to find the best WiFi channels when setting up your router? You came to the right place.
Have you ever been in the situation where your Wi-Fi becomes inexplicably unreliable, slow or weak? It was working great yesterday, right?
This conundrum, as well as being unable to find a router with a reliable wireless signal for your home could all be the result of one simple thing.
You may not be using the appropriate wireless channel, and this could be the case for a number of reasons.
I recently moved house and had noticed that my router was underperforming in the wireless department. I had been getting 10% drops in wi-fi speeds and virtually no reception outside of the living room.
After doing a little research and tweaking the settings on my router, I have come to notice just how much of a difference selecting the right one can make.
After just 5 minutes of going through the best possible channels, my router is connecting to devices at higher speeds than it ever has.
And so, without further ado, here is a guide to selecting the best WiFi channels depending on your situation and setup.
What you need have in order to follow this tutorial
- A single band (2.4GHz or 5GHz) or dual-band router.
- Wirelessly connectable devices, preferably a laptop or notebook. You may want to have at least one device (the one you are working on) connected to a LAN cable in case you have trouble connecting wirelessly.
- Wireless scanning software to pinpoint channels with the least interference (optional).
- Administrative access to your router’s settings and basic knowledge of its interface and options.
- No small amount of patience, something to drink and some alone time.
Let's Find The Best WiFi Channels
1. Do You Need to Select a Channel Manually?
It is important to understand that your router is limited in the amount of throughput it can muster by its hardware. However, there are plenty of reasons why interference could be affecting your wi-fi strength and speed. Let's find out the best wifi channels.
So, before you start, it is a good idea to know as much as you can about your router’s specs and capabilities. That way you will be able to see if it is living up to its potential.
If not, you might be getting interference. Check out the manufacturer’s website if you didn’t keep any paperwork, they generally have detailed information about their products that can give you a good idea of their capabilities.
If things don’t add up, then this could be a beneficial project for you; if they do, then there is no sense in expecting results, but it might still be worth a try to manually select a wi-fi channel.
2. Determine What Type of Router You are Using
Whether you have a single band 2.4GHz or 5GHz router, or you have a dual band one; you’ll be taking a slightly different approach to manually selecting the best channel for wi-fi.
This is because each provides a differing spectrum of frequencies, each with specific channels that are ideal for eliminating interference. The next step will show you how it does this.
3. Understanding WiFi Channels
Depending on the type of router you are using, your wireless network will be allocated to one of several channels that make up a spread of frequencies that take up a specific width. These can be represented as follows:
Although it operates over a 100MHz spectrum, in truth, 2.4 GHz is only 80MHz wide. The 100MHz spectrum is made up of 14 channels of 20MHz each, which it doesn’t take a math’s genius to realize doesn’t add up.
This is because each overlaps with at least two and sometimes even 4 others, which is often the cause of interference.
5GHz provides a much wider spectrum on the higher frequency bands than 2.4GHz does.
With a limited number of channels and more frequencies to work with, there is virtually no overlapping between bands. This makes it easier to find clear channels for better connectivity.
4. Identify Possible Interferences
Look out for some things in your environment which might be interfering with your wireless connections. Microwaves, cordless phones and baby monitors all operate on the 2.4GHz band.
If it is not viable to move them further away (or rather to move the router away from them) then experimenting with different channels will solve the problem, or be sure to use the 5GHz bands if they are available.
Which brings me to my next step.
5. Selecting a Channel
Now that you know what could be interrupting your wireless signal, and also what type of router you have, it is time to get to work manually selecting a channel.
Though the process is the same with 2.4GHz and 5GHz, they each have specific channels which are likely to get you the least interference due to minimal overlaps with other ones.
To begin, go into your modem’s settings by entering its IP address into your browser, log in to the admin account and look for your WLAN settings.
Almost all wi-fi capable routers allow you to toggle between channels using these options.
2.4Ghz in Most Countries
As I have said previously, 2.4GHz bands provide 14 channels, all of which overlap with others to cause interference.
This makes it necessary for you to be able to identify those channels in your network spaces that likely overlap the least while providing less interference.
Out of them, 1 through to 14, three standard channels generally provide the least interference by working with very little overlapping. These three channels (on a 2.4GHz band) are 1, 6 and 11.
They work particularly well on non MIMO setups, and will generally give you the best possible connection speeds so long as there are a minimal number of nearby networks using the same channel, or those offbeat ones that are close to it but don’t fall between 1, 6 and 11.
You might want to flick through these channels and test them once the settings have been changed by transferring a file across your network to see how much data can be moved at once.
5Ghz in Most Countries
5GHz bands allow for a little more freedom of choice between channels since there is a lot more space available on the higher frequencies.
It offers 23, non-overlapping channels, which means far less interference and less of a struggle to find the right one than you would off of 2.4GHz bands.
They also allow you to use larger channel streams of 40, 80 and 160MHz which could either strengthen your connection or bring a lot of interference depending on the environment that your network is set up in.
But for the most reliable connections, 20 MHz will always be your best bet (unless you are sure that the other bands can be used without any interference from other devices or networks).
Your choice of which 5GHz channel to use will be affected by a number of factors:
- The channel width:
- The wider the channel, the more data you’ll be able to process at once, however, it does come at a cost of available channels elsewhere. Since there are only two 160MHz available, this one is generally not a good option for dense network environments, 40MHz has 12 non-overlapping channels, while 20MHz has 23 that can be used. Because of this, you may find that a narrow width gives you the best reliability, but not the best speeds.
- DFS Client Support
- You may find that many of your devices (especially the older ones) do not provide support for UNII 2 or UNII 2 extended channels.
- Surrounding infrastructure
- Many of the higher channels on the 5GHz band are used for radar, weather stations, and military communication. When you select a similar one for these services, your network may be bumped over to another frequency, which could cause issues.
Having said this, selecting a channel which has been designated for domestic use will likely get you the least interference.
On 5GHz, the 35, 40, 44 and 48 are generally the domestic standard and will provide you with a reliable reception so long as those channels are not already under strain.
6. Still having problems?
The above available channels are only a general representation of a standard, which means they might be bogged up by other networks and radio devices in your home or neighborhood.
For this reason, it might be necessary for you to conduct a survey of which wi-fi channels in your area are the most vacant.
Programs like these will show you which ones are most in use, and which are vacant.
This gives you a little freedom in terms of planning your channel setup or will allow you to talk with your neighbors to come to an agreement as to who uses which Wi-Fi channels, giving all of you a better shot at connection reliability.
Ensuring that your home gets the best possible wireless signal from your router will ensure that all of your devices enjoy seamless connectivity and reliability.
Hopefully, this bite-sized tutorial has given you a better idea of how to amicably find the best WiFi channels while eliminating interference and boosting speeds and reliability.
Did you find this tutorial useful? Has it helped you get better speeds, greater range, and more reliability?
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Let us know if there is anything we missed, anything that helped, or if you have any wireless toggling tricks of your own that you think you could add to this. We would love to hear what you have to say.