Competing wireless networks can be one of the biggest causes of congestion on your wifi network. This is especially the case if you live in an area like an apartment block or student residence, that has a lot of wireless connections competing within the same physical space.
As such, changing the channel that your router uses to broadcast wifi, is an excellent way to reduce network congestion.
The aim of changing your channel is to move it to a channel 'further' from the ones your neighbors are using. This will potentially result in less congestion and, as such, a better, faster, and smoother wireless connection.
Luckily, changing the channel on your router is also a fairly simple process. Please read on to find out exactly how to change the channel on your router.
Before You Make Any Changes To Your Wireless Setup
First of all, it is important to know why the channel you are currently using might be causing problems.
To put it simply, your router uses a particular channel to send data wirelessly. There are 2 main problems with this:
- There are a limited number of channels available (13 on the 2.4GHz band - only 3 are actually usable!).
- Many routers default to the same channel.
If you live in a building with a lot of access points (wireless connection points, or hotspots), there is therefore, a fairly decent chance that another wifi network in range is using the same channel as you and therefore interfering (or competing) with your channel. For example, just sitting at home now, I can see 10 other available SSIDs right now!
By switching from the congested channel to one further away on the band, you can reduce the amount of congestion on your network.
While it may not seem so at first, changing the channel your wifi signal uses is a fairly simple process. There are a number of devices you will need to complete the steps in this tutorial. Don’t worry though, as they will likely all be things you already have or can easily download.
What You'll Need:
- A Wifi analyzing programme (Acrylic Wifi Analyzer is a good one)
- Router (obviously!)
- Your Router's IP Address (don't worry, if you don't know this, we'll walk you through how to get it...read on)
Hang On, What About 5GHz?
Before we proceed, there are a few other things you can do before making changes to your network.
Firstly, many routers nowadays are dual (or even tri) band. By switching to the 5GHz band you will be moving to a much less congested band, with more channels to choose from. This could reduce or remove many of your congestion problems without you having to change your wifi channel.
You can of course use Acrylic Wi-Fi analyzer, or alternative, to check you aren't on a congested 5GHz band as well!
Be warned, though, while the 5GHz band is less congested, it doesn’t have as wide a wifi coverage range as the 2.4GHz band. As such, if your router is far from your computer, you may have some signal problems.
Good Old Auto-Detect?
It should also be mentioned that many routers nowadays also have an ‘auto detect’ function for choosing the best available channel. If you are already using this feature, you may find that the problems on your network are being caused by something else.
If your problems are really bad and having a significant affect on your network, it could be a good idea to switch to an Ethernet connection where possible.
How To Change The Wi-Fi Channel On Your Router
This is a general overview of how to change the wifi channel on your router. Of course, every router is slightly different so if there is any confusion about any of the steps, please consult the manual for your router.
Step 1: Analyze Your Area
The first step is to find out if your channel is congested. To do this, you can use a wifi analyzer, such as Acrylic Wifi Analyzer, to find out which channels are being used by the competing networks in your area.
Download and install the analyzer software (or an equivalent), and run the program. Once you have done this, you will likely end up with a graph that shows which channels competing networks are using. This will show you which channels to avoid, and where you may be able to find a better connection to use.
Check out this screenshot for an example (of the 2.4GHz range in my area):
If any SSIDs (wifi networks) have as high a signal as yours (like you can see above - on channel 1), or close to it, then consider changing channel.
The below video is a basic walkthrough of what Acrylic Wi-Fi can do. You can go really in depth with it. But for the purposes of this how-to, we just want to be looking at how strong our neighbor's wifi signal is, compared to our own.
Check out the 5GHz band in the video. Only one neighbor! Compared to all the access points competing within the 2.4GHz band. Your 'hood will likely be the same. Consider going 5GHz if you can (make sure your wifi gadgets support it!).
Step 2: Log Into Your Router
Now you know which channel to use, it is time to log onto your router and change the channel. To do this you should open up a web browser and type in your router’s IP address.
If you don’t already know your router IP address you can either: check the paper that came with your router. Or open a Command Prompt Window and type in “ipconfig” (omit quotes). The 'Default Gateway' will likely be your router.
Or alternatively try one of these common IP addresses:
We wrote a detailed guide on how to find your router's IP.
Step 3: Change your network’s channel
Once you are in your router’s web interface, you will need to search for the section that deals with the setup of your wireless network. This will generally be under a page called something like ‘wireless network setup’. From here there will be a section called ‘wireless channel’.
Find this section and then choose the channel you want to use from the drop-down list.
Remember to only choose either channel 1, 6 or 11
Once you have done this, make sure to save your changes. Your router may also require a restart, depending on your router.
Step 4: Enjoy your new connection
Now you have changed your channel, it is time to see if it has actually made a difference to your network. Hopefully, you will notice over the next few days that your connection is both a little faster and a little more consistent than it was before the change!
A good, but not definitive way, to see if it helped is to use Speedtest.net to baseline before and after. ?Of course, it will only test your internet connection, from your wireless device, but it can indicate an improvement in some cases.
...And That's It!
Hopefully, you have enjoyed this article! As you can see, changing the channel your router uses is not a particularly complicated process and it can make a real difference to the effectiveness of your network.
If you have enjoyed this article, and have found it useful, then please share it with anyone whom you think would find it useful. Alternatively, if you have any questions, or anything to say about the article, please leave a comment below.