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Change Your Wi-Fi Router Channel to Optimize Your Wireless Signal

If you live in an apartment complex you’ve probably noticed more than just the passive-aggressive network IDs that your neighbors use—very likely you’ve had problems with your wireless connections dropping out, or just not being as fast as you’d like. Here’s a quick fix.

Of course, this isn’t the only thing you need to do to make sure your wireless network is running at maximum speed, but for today’s lesson we’ll show you how to pick the right channel to make sure you can stream the new Futurama episode to your laptop without skipping.

Note: if your Wireless network is working fine, please don’t mess with it. Or at least, don’t blame us if you break it.

Figuring Out the Right Wi-Fi Channel

Note: the latest version of this utility is not free anymore, but we’ve linked to a download site that provides the free version still. Please be careful to download the right file, as these download sites can be tricky.

The first thing you need to do is grab yourself a copy of the free inSSIDer utility, which will scan your wireless network and probably reveal some humorous names from your weird neighbors. If only they could learn how to park their cars like decent human beings.

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Let’s take a closer look at that window… you’ll need to choose the right channel band, depending on the router you are using. Mine is a Linksys dual-band Wireless-N router, which has two separate networks… if you aren’t sure, go for the 2.4 GHz one first, and then click the Start Scanning button.

Note: If you have more than one network card enabled, make sure the drop-down has your wireless card selected.

image[25]

Ideally you’ve selected the right one, and after waiting for a minute or two, you’ll see your network in the list. For example, my test network is called lhdevnet, and it’s currently running on channel 6. If you looked closely at the screenshot earlier, you’d see that there are loads of networks in my apartment complex using the same wireless channel.

image

Looks like it’s time to change the channel. Hopefully Futurama is on.

Change Your Wireless Channel

If you’re using a Linksys router, you’ll need to browse to the address of your router, which is probably set to http://192.168.1.1 but could be assigned to another address. You can run a quick ipconfig command at the command prompt to check:

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In my case the address is different (because I changed it, of course), but what you’re looking for is the Default Gateway for your Wireless connection, and then go to http://<Default Gateway> in your browser. Enter in the password that you hopefully remember, and head to the Wireless –> Basic Wireless Settings tab.

My router has two separate bands, but your router might just have a single band here. In my case, what I’ve done is set the 2.4 GHz band to only be used for Wireless-G, and the 5GHz one to Wireless-N only. Since I’m not having any problems with the Wireless-N settings, I’ve left those on auto.

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Where I am having a problem, however, is my Wireless-G devices—so what I’ve done is chosen channel 9, since it’s the only channel that’s not being used by any of my neighbors, who are using mostly channels 1 and 6, though a few are using 11 as well.

Channels 1, 6, and 11 are the most common channels to choose, and most routers will use one of them as the default channel—but the general idea is to be as far away from everybody else as you can.

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Note: I’ve also configured my router for 20 MHz only on the 2.4 GHz Wireless-G band, just because that was the only way it would let me choose the standard channel manually.

If you are using a different router, the IP address will generally be the same, but you’ll have to figure out how to change the Wireless channel without any screenshot tours. It’s usually fairly easy, though, once you know what you’re looking for.

Fun Technical notes

If you look closely, you’ll notice that each of the channels are 5 MHz away from each other, but the Channel Width for 2.4 GHz is actually 20 MHz. What this means is while that the channel might be set to channel 6, it’s also partially using 5 and 7, and probably slightly interfering with 4 and 8.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/5/10

Comments (43)

  1. Thorax232

    Mine does this automatically…switches channels depending on new networks that pop up.

  2. James

    Thanks a lot for this, I just lowered my channel from 10 to 6 (there’s 4 people on channel 11) and I’m hoping that stops the wireless from dropping every hour or so.

  3. Aethec

    Doesn’t work on my computer (Win7 x64)…
    When I click the Start Scanning button, an error message pops up : “Unable to use selected interface. Service was not started”.
    I haven’t disabled any services (except smart card-related ones and Windows Defender)… :-(

  4. SquareWheel

    Hey, we have the same router.

  5. Led Zeppelin

    @Thorax232: What make & model router do you use?

  6. -Pablo-

    I understand that you should actually choose channel 11 in your case. If you chose channel 9 or so, it’s frequencies still overlap with those causing the trouble, so you pretty much should only decide between 1, 6 or 11. Pick the less populated one. If I’m wrong, please correct me.

  7. ElaineRuth

    re your “Change Your Wi-Fi Router Channel”

    I now have Win 7 (which I don’t like BTW). When I had XP I knew how to get to the ‘run’ box to go to ‘msconfig’. Now on Win 7, I am lost. Have no idea how to do this or ‘run a quick ipconfig command . . . . . . .’ Please help me with this nagging problem. Also new at this forum. Can you answer me via email??
    Thanks

  8. -Pablo-

    You still get to the run dialog box pressing the Windows logo key + R. But you usually don’t need it. You can just type cmd in the text field in your Start menu, press enter and that opens a command prompt. You can input your commands (like ipconfig) there. It takes one less step than in Windows XP, as you don’t need the run dialog box.

    And, BTW, this is a blog, not a forum. ;)

  9. polarfuchs

    @pablo yes in the US the only channels that do not overlap each other are 1, 6, and 11. You get interference still when using the other channels.

  10. The Geek

    You’ll get interference on any of the channels, if somebody is using a channel close to it. So if you’re on 11 and somebody is using 9, you are going to have interference, although not terrible.

    The only time there is no interference is when there are only 3 wireless networks anywhere around, and they are using 1, 6, and 11.

  11. Aggierandy

    I have a similar linksys router and you note that it won’t let you change the channel on yours unless you have it in 20 mHz mode. I switched mine from 20/40 to 20 to change the channel as well and when I changed it back to 20/40 inssider showed it staying on the channel I switched it to. I don’t know if this is kind of a workaround or if I am just fooling myself but I thought it was worth mentioning.

  12. TrendNet

    When I click the Start Scanning button, an error message pops up : “Unable to use selected interface. Service was not started”. I have Windows Vista 32-bit and haven’t disabled anything either.

  13. Agustin

    VERY USEFUL, I do it and it works perfect, the download speed has increased 200% !!!!!!!!

  14. spidigo

    hey…
    i enterd d default gateway but its askng 4 d password even though i enterd my password…
    wch pasword v hv to enter?

  15. JordanDunne

    The Geek,

    You start with: Of course, this isn’t the only thing you need to do to make sure your wireless network is running at maximum speed…

    Could a future article be about other things to make your wireless run at max speed.

    BTW: You are my longest and most read RSS feed. I love PureText. I LOVE ‘Everything” the search utility. I am more efficient because of you, maybe even I get home a few minutes earlier because of you. The greatest gift ever, TIME (by way of efficiency). THANKS!!!

  16. darklight2002

    Does this work on a 2Wire router that i have with at&t? If so, would it affect my connection to my ps3?

  17. Bing44

    Hi,

    I turned my Laptop on this morning only to find that it couldn’t connect wirelessly. It has been working fine since a installed a new Belkin N+ Router a couple of weeks ago.. I checked my I-Phone and me X-Box and they both worked fine. When I moved my Laptop next to the router, it started working again. That is when I found this board. I have done all of the above and it has started working again. The only issue is that I changed it to channel 1, but on inSSider it is showing as channel 3, is this normal or is there something I have done wrong? Also, could you shed any light on why all of a sudden would my laptop stop after but my other wirelessly connected items stiil work/ Would it be that they are both newer and thus haveing a better connection? The X-Box is a new X-Box slim and my I-Phone is a year old. The Laptop is about 3 years old. I realise this is a lot of questions, but would be really greatful for a reply.

  18. Xone

    Have you ever noticed that your wireless connection is down, when you start a microwave oven?
    It is because it works around 2 Gigaherz the same freq as the lowband of your router.
    and from that 600wat to 1kilowat of power there is always enough power that leaks out.
    probably more power then your router sends.
    So use the highband of your router (if available).
    (other sources of interference computers with open glass doors especially when they run on
    2,2Ghz they dont comply with the FCC interference rules,and that is why you cant buy them
    from a Brand manufacturer)

  19. Playmoon

    Great solution. Especially my phone uses the wi-fi a lot more smoothly now.

  20. cathy

    I kept getting dropped off internet with my wireless laptop, which was just under the microwave and next to the cordless phone. After doing some reading I am assuming they were in to close proximity with each other. I have changed to another channel(11) but would like to keep using the laptop in the kitchen. How far away should my computer be so there is no interference from the microwave and cordless phone? Or can i even have it housed in the kitchen at all?

  21. admin

    how come when i changed the channel on my router my wireless internet could not even connect now?

  22. Dingo

    …hhmm. i got a strange thing going on with my router, since some time, i don’t know how long, i knowthist that about a month a go, that my laptop is picking dubble signal from my router, first one is “tele 2modem” and the 2nd one is “tele 2modem 2″ both in full straingth, i can connect to both of them, but not in a same time. Seems like something is reciving my signall and than sends out again. but if something dos that what it is??? Iz my house buuged?

  23. Dantas

    When using inssider I can only see my own network after I press start. I know for a fact that there are about 10-15 more networks running around me (windows finds them) but I still only get mine when I press start. How am I screwing up, if you can tell from the limited amount of info available?

  24. JustinWireless

    Definitely choose one of the following channels: 1, 6, or 11. Just choose one that is the least crowded.
    Do Not choose a channel like 9 or other.
    We’ve recently run throughput tests using cisco AP’s (1241AG) and iperf using multiple clients to send traffic to saturate the network.

    In our environment there were quite a few networks broadcasting on 1, 6, and 11. When we tried to use channel 9 or 3 or something in between, throughput went down about 40%. This is because it receives interference from multiple channels.

    When we set it to a normal non-overlapping channel (1,6, or 11) we received full bandwidth as long as our AP signal was stronger than others around.

    Note that the max throughput for a 802.11G network is at best ~30Mbps because of overhead and normal contention algorithms. Also Note that windows clients will not use all of their capacity under standard settings. In our tests, Windows machines only try to send out about 17Mbps of traffic compared to Linux and Mac that try to send almost 50Mbps. (These results are for 802.11G tests).

  25. anonEmuss

    I’m using a LinSys router, too, but for some reason I can’t install inSSIDer at all. Not able to read something in the registry, from what I can gather.

  26. No2

    excellent tips here..
    by changing the channel I’ve resolved the frequent drop of internet connection in my office!

  27. lintexas

    By changing the channel, can I also solve the problem of more than one laptop connecting wirelessly in my home and it failing to connect? only one laptop can connect at a time.
    the error message I receive is: “There is more than one IP address”
    Thanks!

  28. scrybe

    @lintexas

    Your laptops have the same IP address. Change one by one digit (ie: 192.168.0.50 for Laptop1 and 192.168.0.51 for Laptop2)

  29. beth

    hey

    i downloaded that inssider.20 but i dont have a scanning button on mine like you do on your print screen. Have i done something wrong??

    please reply back to me i miss my internet and am currently using my neighbours to find out how to fix my problem.

    Many thanks
    Beth

  30. zev

    How can I change the channel of my wireless MOUSE?

  31. monock

    INSSIDER 2.0: The start and stop button is in the upper right corner. If the program is already scanning, the button will display “stop” which you would click if you want to stop scanning and vice versa.

  32. Eduar

    Hi,
    I have a router and I not happy in it, I want to change it for other one. I have a Linksys and I want to change it for a N router.
    can somebody give me some advice.
    Thanks,

  33. buford

    is there some one that can help me change the channel on my 2wire gateway please

  34. criss

    how do you do this in a mac?

  35. CIan

    http:// ISN’T WORKING

  36. Kelli

    I found this to be very helpful But I still have a couple questions

    1) Does this process need to be ran on the computer that wireless router is attached to (with the modem) or can it be done on the computer that is having the issues (using a USB Wireless adapter to get online)

    2) I had to go buy a new wireless router because my 1st one finally died – my 1st one was a G (from Linksys) my new one is an N. BUT my Wireless Adapter is still a G – The employee at the store said that would be fine and It would still work just fine.

    I did have a Belkin G router in between the 2 but a power outage killed it –

    But my issue is I am a pretty good distance from my Router/Modem at the other end of my house, I’m not sure exactly how many feet – But I am one small hall way, a kitchen then to the living room where it all is away (I know not much help) lol I figured this is why I get dropped offline so much Being too far away with a few walls between each room.

    but I’ve talked with others who live in bigger houses than I do and they have no problems – the one has a 2 story house – her Router is in a back bedroom with a door closed all the time She uses wireless all over her house including upstairs and out side and further away in her back yard and never looses connection and never has bad connection (my icon shows 1-2 bars IF I get 3 I get excited but still have crappy connection) I used to be able to go to websites quickly and with Ease I have 4 computers (only 3 are online and 1 of those is a occasional online computer – its my daughters so she’s mainly only on it for a hour or 2 on the weekends and maybe 25-30 mins during the weekday) ever since I had to get new routers, My computer has slowed way down (its new its windows 7 and it’s a big machine (the hard drive is measured in TB’s no MB) like i said i used to speed through websites now I sit here and watch it Load and load and load, If I’m lucky I don’t get timed out, or kicked off line before its done.

    so mainly what I want to know is if I can do these steps on the pc I am having the problems with and do you think it would even help my issue any at all? or do i need to continue my Google Search and find some other way to make my connection better/stronger/ Stay online Like it should =)

  37. Tyler K

    Im using some buddys WiFi and they can see anything I do how do I stop that from happening? HELP!

  38. tory

    nerds!

  39. Ajee

    Thanks a lot… I think, I am feeling better now!

  40. yohelpme

    i barely got a new netgear 600mb something but the internet makes it go slow and im trying to change the chanel that is 3 i think that sucks to a 6 or 9 but the program wont work on my xp profesional

  41. Zichelle

    I’m not sure if this is totally unrelated, but I have a NetGear router, and I used to be connected to Comcast, but now I have a different internet provider. NetGear says that it is only configured for comcast internet, and since my warranty timed out, they won’t tell me how to change it to the new provider unless I pay an exhorbitant one time fee, or renew my yearly warranty fee (also a ridiculous amount, since the router was only five bucks!) I’m wondering if it’s just a button I need to push, or should I just go ahead and get a new one from Walmart. Any help is appreciated. I’m not quite Geekalicious yet, but I’m working on it. Thanks!!

  42. hank

    What is a futurama? And why do you hope it’s ‘on’?

  43. Scotty

    Thanks for this article, had issues with my connection dropping and found out that there was a lot on my channels so have bumped it to 13.

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