Troubleshooting Document

WiFi: Improving reliability of connections


Causes of unstable connections with possible solutions


  • The wireless access point may be too far away. Move closer to it and monitor the connection for awhile to see if there is a noticeable improvement. If so, relocate the access point (or the router that it is built into) to an area closer to where you want to work.

  • Minimize the number of walls and other solid objects between the computers and the access point. All material -- including wallboard, brick, wood, insulation, shelves full of books, furniture, metal filing cabinets, refrigerators and other appliances, and even aquariums full of fish and water -- absorb significant amounts of energy from any wireless signal, thereby reducing its range. If the computer is close to the edge of the access point's signal range, the connection will be easily disrupted by interference, signal reflections, and slight variations in signal strength. If possible, move the computer to a room closer to the access point. Try positioning the access point on a high shelf, or mounting it on the ceiling so it can "look over" furnishings, book shelves, cabinets, etc, that would otherwise be in the signal path. Be sure not to place the access point on top of a computer's monitor screen, which may emit significant amounts of RFI (radio frequency interference).

  • Consider attaching an external antenna to the access point, if possible. Sometimes, one or more of the existing antennas may be replaced with an external antenna. Mount the external antenna as close to the ceiling as possible.

  • Avoid interference from other nearby wireless networks. Try using the management utility for the access point to select a different channel for it. Choose from channels 1, 6, or 11. Try each one in turn to see which delivers the best performance and most reliable connections. It's not necessary to select the corresponding channel for the WiFi card or adapter in your computer, as it will auto-configure itself to use the channel employed by the access point.

  • Steer clear of microwave ovens -- which use the same 2.4Ghz frequency range as WiFi networks, and create interference for them. Generally, the less expensive the microwave oven, the more interference it will create. Locate access points as far as possible from any nearby microwave oven. Avoid having a microwave oven positioned between your computer and an access point.

  • Try relocating cordless phones, or moving your WiFi equipment farther away from them. Some cordless phones operate in the same 2.4Ghz frequency range as WiFi networks, in which case they will create interference for them. 

  • Upgrade the access point's firmware. Manufacturers typically make many improvements to firmware over the lifespan of WiFi products. Some of these changes can dramatically improve performance, stability, and security.

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