Most People Put Their Router in the Wrong Place (and Wi-Fi Speed Suffers)

This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical advice for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

Have you ever been in the middle of an important Zoom meeting and suddenly your internet connection glitches? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly lost my mind because of this exact situation. Proper internet connectivity is essential, especially as many of us continue to work from home. But despite paying monthly fees to an internet service provider and having my router professionally installed, I still find myself spending too much time watching my computer grind… and I bet you’ve been there too. 

The good news is there’s an easy fix to these issues that will take you just a few, short minutes. 

There are a lot of factors that determine internet speeds and while there’s a few tricks or guidelines you can follow
to improve the overall wireless speeds and coverage in your home, one of the most crucial factors is the location of your router. And note, it’s not always where the technician set it up. So keep reading to learn about the best place in your home for your router and other tricks for faster Wi-Fi. 

Read more: Internet Connection Types Explained

tp link router on a blue background

Check out all of the different routers available to you: Wi-Fi routers, mesh networks and more. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Start with the right router

First things first: It all starts with choosing the right router or other equipment. Not all routers are made equal and the size and layout of your home will determine what type of wireless network you need.

For most apartments and smaller homes (under 1,500 square feet), a single wireless access point should suffice. That said, if your router is several years old, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer model with support for wireless 802.11ac and dual-band support. This will give you the fastest wireless speeds possible and the best overall coverage.

For bigger, multilevel homes, it’s worth considering making the upgrade to a mesh network to offer consistent coverage throughout the entire house. Once the main access point is installed, if you find a far corner of your home doesn’t have solid wireless coverage, just add another node to that area. Problem solved.

To learn more, check out our list of the best mesh routers of the year and if you’re not sure where to begin in choosing your next router, consult our buying guide.

Regardless of whether you have a single access point or a mesh network, where you place the primary access point still matters.

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Where should you place your router?

When you first move into a new home or apartment, the modem is usually installed along the wall in one of the far reaches of the house. This is simply because that is where the line comes into the house and the technician’s job is to set up the connection — not optimize your network. That part is on you.

It’s tempting to just leave everything where the technician set it up. But it’s unlikely that this is an optimal location to have your router.

Choose a central location

Routers send the signal out in all directions, so if it’s left in the corner of your home, a significant percentage of your wireless coverage is being sent outside your home. It’s best to move the router to a central location to optimize the signal.

Installing a router across the house from the modem may prove troublesome. It may require manually running a CAT5 cable under the floor or enlisting the help of powerline network adapters. But the improved wireless coverage will be worth it.

Raise the router

Routers tend to spread signals downward, so it’s best to mount the router as high as possible to maximize coverage. Try placing it high on a bookshelf or mounting it on the wall
in an inconspicuous place.

Avoid other electronics

Try to pick a location that’s away from other electronics and large metal objects. The more walls, large obstructions and electronics near your router, the higher the chances are that something will interfere with the signal. 

One electronic to especially avoid is the microwave, which emits a strong signal in the 2.4GHz band, the same wireless band your router operates in.

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Those funny-looking antennas actually matter

Some routers have no antenna at all, but some have up to eight. These antennas help direct the signal. If there are two or more antennas on your router, don’t position them all in the same direction. 

Instead, make them perpendicular to one another — position one horizontally and the other vertically. Or slightly change the position of all the antennas to cover a wide range of angles.

Try mapping the signal

In worst-case scenario situations, it may prove useful to map out the signal in your home to see where there might be gaps or problems areas in your coverage.

If you’re considering upgrading your router, be sure to check out CNET’s best routers of 2022.

For homes with children, make sure to explore the parental controls of your router, too.

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