Is your home WiFi a bit pants? Your smartphone can help!

If you read my epic explanation about how cable broadband works then you may have noticed that, like a lot of people, my phone, the internet router and the TV is all in the corner of the house.

In the “old days” the smiley BT engineer would instead come and stick the phone socket in the hallway. A lot of people would have their telephone on a special table right next to the front door. Some people still have it like this, while others will have their cables coming into the house near to the front window. Either position isn’t very good for spreading reliably internet around your home. It’s even worse if that magical internet router is on the floor behind your TV.

At the other end of the house your WiFi coverage might be weak, slow or spotty. If there’s supporting brick walls in the way it’ll get worse.

So here’s our main internet router, complete with a range of geeky Ethernet cabling in the back. It’s behind the TV and I’ve balanced it as high as I can so we can get WiFi upstairs when I’m sat on the throne “contemplating”. Trouble is, I only get one bar of WiFi while I’m offering a sacrifice to the porcelain gods, and it kept dropping out. I also couldn’t get WiFi while I’m in the garden.

No. None of this is super important. Yes, I could use mobile data through my network provider but…

..I’m a geek and I want this to work.

So I bought a WiFi repeater. Less than £10 off eBay. This one seemed OK, and accepts either a LAN input or it’ll repeat the existing WiFi and boost it. That worked brilliantly, but I still wasn’t happy with the speed. Here it is in that magical cubby hole under the stairs, and yes, the cabling is horrific..

Now, if this is you or you’ve got a bit of a choppy signal, you might actually be able to get a better signal without having to get a booster. On Android WiFi Analyzer is a great option. There’s similar tools available on iOS but I keep coming back to this particular one on Android whenever I’m doing geeky stuff like this.

So, I’ve got coverage but I want to make it as good as I can. First up, connect to your wireless access point and then switch to the signal meter. Ensure you have your WiFi name selected and walk around your home. Look for the “black spots” where the meter dips into the grey. This is the area you need to concentrate on, so when you find a weak area, change to the “Channel Rating” or the “Channel graph”. It’ll show you which WiFi channels are the most congested and which (shown by stars or an area of the graph which is empty) are the best ones to use.

In my instance, the app said that channel 12, 13 or 14 was the best.

Switching WiFi channels is done on your WiFi router and it’s usually in the advanced settings. Some routers are clever and they’ll switch to the least used channel automatically. The cheap WiFi repeater I bought doesn’t do that (because… ermm.. I’m tight and didn’t pay much for it), so I have to log into it, go into the Advanced WiFi settings and choose a band of channels.

Above you can see that I switched the “RegDomain” to Channel 10-13. I also double-checked the main router, but – as I suspected – that was clever enough to switch WiFi channels itself with an “Auto” setting. You can manually switch it if you want, but there’s really no point. The main router is going to have a sniff around and think “MAN! I’m not using that channel, all your neighbours are using it too!” It’ll switch to a clearer channel by itself.

So now, to check the WiFi channels again, and mine (which is just called “TheInternetz”) is now up in a clearer channel and is nice and strong.

Even if you don’t do all this, the WiFi Analyzer app will help you find out where your WiFi isn’t so great so you can either move your router, place a WiFi repeater in the right place or reconfigure your WiFi channels to work better.