Basic Answers to Basic Questions: How to Get the Best Wi-Fi Signal in Your Home

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Sometimes you find yourself confronting questions about your gadgets that are so basic you don’t want to consult your IT guy, your manual, or your niece. That’s why we’re here. This week, in basic answers to basic questions: how to get a better Wi-Fi signal around your house.

There is perhaps no gadget more vital and, at the same time, more completely incomprehensible than a wireless router. Companies ranging from giants like Apple (the AirPort line, $99–199) and Google (the OnHub, $178) to startups like Eero are doing their best to simplify them, but the basic facts remain: A router is a device in which even the most basic of settings and options are wildly unintuitive and mostly ignored because of that. If you know the difference between a 2.4GHz and 5GHz band, you’re probably paid for your tech expertise in some way. And that’s not an obscure setting; that’s as basic an element of a router as a megapixel count on a camera.

The truth is that most routers are, in fact, bad gadgets that generally fail to adequately perform in one of several ways. One of the most common failures is their inability to cover an entire house in a decent signal. There are reasons for this, and solutions (some better than others, to be honest), but the router itself isn’t going to be much help in diagnosing or fixing those problems.