Monthly PC Tips

Find the Best Wi-Fi Connection

December 2013 – by Per Christensson

If you're a laptop user who works remotely, you're probably used to searching for Wi-Fi networks. It's easy to settle for the first one that successfully gives you an Internet connection. But the first one that your computer connects to might not be your best option.

Wi-Fi signals are often listed in order of signal strength, which makes sense. Generally, you'll have the most reliable and fastest connection to the Wi-Fi router with the strongest signal. However, it's possible that the first connection your computer selects might be the most widely used Wi-Fi signal. Therefore, it might also be the slowest. Another router may have more free bandwidth and might be connected to a faster Internet connection as well. If your wireless connection seems slow, it's worth trying another router in the Wi-Fi signal list.

When trying different Wi-Fi signals keep the following things in mind.

  1. Wi-Fi and Internet access are not the same thing. Therefore, just because you can connect to a Wi-Fi router does not mean you'll automatically be able to access the Internet. The wireless router must be connected to an active modem in order to provide Internet access to wireless devices. Therefore, if you can't open a webpage or check your email within 30 seconds of connecting to a Wi-Fi signal, try another one.
  2. Avoid unknown secure networks. Secure networks are often displayed with a lock icon next to the name. These networks use encryption to prevent unauthorized wireless access to the network. Unless you know the password of the network, you won't be able to connect. So it's not worth wasting your time trying to access these signals. Of course, if you are an authorized user of a secure network, it's probably the best option since the router will most likely have less traffic than an open network.
  3. Remember open Wi-Fi networks are not secure. Open networks (those without the lock signal) are not encrypted. That means it may possible for someone else connected to the same network to access your system. While it is unlikely for a hacker to access your computer at a coffee shop, it is not impossible. Therefore, if you connect to an open Wi-Fi network (like Starbucks Wi-Fi or free Wi-Fi hotspot), make sure file sharing is turned off and your system firewall is turned on.

One final tip – if you're having trouble finding a strong signal, your connection may improve by simply changing the direction you're facing or moving a few feet away. Because of the way signal interference works, altering your position by even a few inches could have a noticeable affect on the strength of your wireless signal. Therefore, if you have a weak Wi-Fi connection, moving to a new seat might make turn a spotty connection into a solid one.

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