Monday, February 25, 2013

How to find a better wi-fi channel (again)

My Devolo dLAN power-line adapters stopped working recently (just not being able to find each other) and I had to go back to my old wi-fi WDS setup to connect to Xbox Live - which was working fine most of the time, but occasionally dropping connection, most annoying when in the middle of a game.

Now it's been a while since I last checked the wi-fi channels around as everything was fine for my laptop(s) and mobile phone. Will use MetaGeek inSSIDer 3 to check the signal strength - they've got a pretty good video overview for version 2.

First screenshot, from the living room (away from the router) - on channel 6 the signal strength is wavy, with a good few networks around, I guess that explains my connection dropping. (side note: I turned off my other WDS router, just to simplify things and make channel switching easier).

Trying a few channels I eventually got to channel 10 where the signal strength seems to be stable.

You're probably wondering why din't you go for channels 1-3, there's no network there?! Well, I did - 10 wasn't my first choice, I tried a few, including 1, which proved that although the signal strength was very good I was not able to connect to my network at all!!! Windows going in "limited connection" mode.

That was surprising, but coming closer to the router shows some networks I could not see from further away! So I guess it's either that or some other non wi-fi device causing the interference on that frequency, but it was completely unusable for me although the signal strength would have indicated it as a very good choice.

Some final notes:

  • try a few channels and see how they fare, rather than just go for the usual recommended (non-overlapping). is a good test, although the actual external Internet speed may fluctuate giving you inconsistent results, run it a few times per channel. Pinging your router might give you a better (local) picture or transfer a larger file between two computers.
  • check things again when you see a drop in performance or connection. Other people turn their routers on / off at different times.
  • check that all your devices can still connect.
    Although your router might offer channels above 11, some of your devices will not be able to connect to them (e.g. Android phones) as some frequencies are not allowed in North America and the device OS / driver will not allow it even if you are living in Europe, see 802.11 Channels and international compatibility.