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Smart Home

The best location for your router for actually good Wi-Fi

Buying a new, fancy router won't solve all your problems, but where you put it might.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Just because you pay for the fastest package your internet service provider (ISP) offers doesn't mean you're actually going to get those speeds. For starters, those speeds are theoretical speeds under ideal conditions with the recommended equipment.

There are a lot of factors that determine the internet speeds you'll actually get and, likewise, a few tricks or guidelines you can follow to improve the overall wireless speeds and coverage in your home.

One of the most crucial things you can do pick the optimal location in your home for your router.

Start with proper equipment

tp-link-router-7
Chris Monroe/CNET

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.

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.

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.

Pick 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 signal 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 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 2018.

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