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This story is part of 12 Days of Tipshelps you make the most of your appliances, home and health during the holiday season.

I’ve spent the last few years at CNET Testing and reviewing Wi-Fi routersAnd if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this. In most homes, the most common way to improve Wi-Fi is to upgrade. network router.

The reasoning here is simple. Traditional routers connect to a Wi-Fi signal from one point in your home, but network routers use multiple devices to extract a usable signal from multiple points in your home. That makes them more like a team of routers working together to route your traffic to the modem. It’s a much better approach for home networks, especially in large, multi-story homes, where a traditional, single-point router is likely to leave you with dead zones in the most distant rooms. They can even make a big difference in smaller homes, especially if you have dead zone rooms where speeds aren’t as fast as you’d like.

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Most network routers are fairly simple to get started. Simply connect a device to your modem with an Ethernet cable, turn it on, and follow the instructions in the system application. From there, you’ll need to select points for the rest of the satellite extenders, sometimes called hubs (or “Points” if you’re a Nest Wifi user). However, you should consider where you place things, as their specific location will have a significant impact on system performance. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as you go. (You can also check out our tips the best place for your Wi-Fi routerand: How to protect your home Wi-Fi network from hackers.)


Network routers and other Wi-Fi devices perform at their best when they are outdoors and off the ground.


Where should you place your network router?

As with most wireless transmissions, it doesn’t take much to disrupt a Wi-Fi signal and slow it down. That’s why it’s important to place your network extenders strategically in places where they’ll be able to perform at their best.

Move the main router

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First and foremost, you’ll want your main router, the network device connected to your modem, to be as close to your home as possible. it is the same approach you would take with a single routerand the reasoning is the same. routers emit Wi-Fi signals in all directions, so centralizing your home makes the most of your connection.

That goes double for mesh systems, where the connection strength at your extenders will depend heavily on the incoming signal strength from the main router. A stronger connection between the two will help ensure you’re getting the fastest possible Wi-Fi speeds throughout your home.

Your options for moving your router may seem limited by location your modem, and input wires for your home Internet connection. This is where an extra long Ethernet cable can come in handy, allowing you to move the router away from where the modem sits if needed. If that’s impractical, you’ll at least want to move that main router to an open area, and preferably as high off the ground as possible.


This Asus guide highlights the main rule of thumb for networking. for best performance, try to keep each device in your setup no more than two rooms away from the other.


Move those extenders around

Once the main router is placed in the best possible location, you’ll want to pick good spots for the extenders. With most systems, you can connect each device to the main router with an Ethernet cable for the fastest possible speeds, but most users prefer to connect everything wirelessly. In that case, you’ll want to be extra strategic about where you place the extension cords throughout your home.

Again, outdoors and off the ground is your best bet for a clear signal, but you’ll also want to give some thought to the layout of your home, as there may be physical obstacles between the main router and extenders. slow things down.

A general rule of thumb is to try to keep devices no more than two rooms apart in your network setup. This will vary from home to home, especially if yours is built into walls with dense materials like brick or concrete, which can be difficult for Wi-Fi signals to penetrate. You also need to be wary of electronic interference from TVs and other large appliances, so if you stick a power strip in the kitchen, resist the urge to hide it above the fridge and away from your appliances. in general.


Most networking systems have companion apps that include guides for setting up your devices, signal strength checks, and other diagnostic tools to help you make sure you have everything in the best place.

Screenshot: Ry Crist/CNET

Furniture can also block Wi-Fi signals, so if you have anything big or bulky between your two network devices, consider moving them. Aquariums are another classic adversary for your network setup, as Wi-Fi has difficulty transmitting through water.

The best way to ensure that your mesh network is connected as well as possible is to open its app and check the signal strength of each device, which most systems offer. You can also find a system-specific guide online at the links below:

Avoid these dead zones

If you have a corner in the back of your house where the signal drops, it can be tempting to stick a network extender in the middle of that dead zone to boost speed. In most cases, that would be wrong.

Remember, just like your phone or laptop, your network extenders must have a wireless connection to your main router. And if that back corner is a dead zone for your phone or laptop, it’s likely to be a dead zone for your network extension as well.

A better approach is to install that extender next to to a dead zone where it will be easier to connect to the main router. In some cases it may be half way between the dead zone and the main router, but you can experiment a bit. Tap the sweet spot and the Wi-Fi signal it’s emitting should be healthy and it will spread to the dead zone to bring it back to life.

Mobile phone showing internet speed test results of 33.36 Mbps

A good speed test will help you understand how your Wi-Fi is holding up from room to room.

James Martin/CNET

Run a speed test

Aside from the diagnostic tools in your network router application, the quickest way to check your system’s performance is to run some speed tests. There are many free online services we recommendany of which will report the upload and download speed of whatever device you’re using in a minute or less.

For the best intelligence, grab your laptop or phone and run multiple speed tests in every room in your house where you need a usable Wi-Fi signal. Finally, you should have a good idea of ​​where speeds are most consistent and where they drop off. From there, you can try moving your extenders around to try and balance things out, or you can consider buying an additional extender to fill in the gaps. Either way, your home should have a strong signal wherever you need it.

Our top picks for mesh Wi-Fi routers this year in a row, with Google Nest at the center.

A speed test can help you figure out the best place to place your network router.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Other things to consider for your network router

Just remember that your network router can only offer speeds that are as fast as what you’re paying for from your ISP:. If the speeds in your home are widely insufficient, then maybe it’s time to think upgrade to a faster plan (and it might be worth seeing if your ISP will let you try a faster plan for a few days to see if it’s really a problem). Your ISP may also provide it to you updated modem it will bring better, faster speeds to your network system right from the start. Can’t be bothered to ask.

If speeds still seem slower than you’d like and your ISP isn’t the answer, there are a few other things you can try. For starters, if your provider’s modem is a gateway device that is a dual router, you’ll want to disable their Wi-Fi network so it doesn’t interfere with your network system’s Wi-Fi network.

Speaking of interference, it’s possible that your neighbor’s Wi-Fi network is interfering with yours. To fix this, go into your network router app and look for channel settings that allow you to tune your network to a different part of the Wi-Fi airwaves, potentially moving away from the channel that nearby networks are using. You’ll also want to make sure your network system’s firmware is up-to-date, which should be easy to check in its app.

For more, check out our selection the best Wi-Fi 6 routersand: how to find free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world.


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