If your home Wi-Fi seems slow in some rooms, your router might not be in the best location. Wi-Fi doesn’t travel far—especially through metal and concrete. So, it’s important to determine the best place for your router.
Yes, Router Placement Matters
It’s tempting to stick your Wi-Fi router wherever you have space, without giving it much thought, but that’s a mistake. A Wi-Fi signal only travels so far, and the more walls, bookcases, or other materials it encounters, the shorter that distance becomes. If the internet seems slow or spotty on your phone or tablet, check your Wi-Fi signal strength and check for channel interference.
If you find you don’t have a stable signal in certain areas of your home—even on clear channels—it’s time to consider moving your Wi-Fi router. It might not be in the best place to reach all the corners of your home.
Place the Router in a Central Position (or Not)
You might have heard or read that the center of your home is the best place to put your Wi-Fi router, but that advice isn’t accurate for every home. For instance, if a living room, kitchen, and garage comprise most of your first floor, sticking your router in the center of that floor might provide more coverage in your garage rather than the areas you use most.
If the closest room to the center of your home is the kitchen, following the “center of home” advice could also be detrimental, as some appliances (like microwaves) can interfere with Wi-Fi signals.
It’s helpful to consider not only what you tend to do in a given room, but also the devices that live there. While Wi-Fi in the garage might not be necessary for some people, if you have a smart bridge for the garage door, a stable connection is something you need. A Wi-Fi garage door opener might not need the fastest speed, but knowing a Wi-Fi device needs a stable signal can influence router positioning.
Ultimately, your router needs to go in or near the center of the most important area of your home. Wherever you want the fastest speeds, aim for the center of that location.
In a Multilevel Home, Consider the Floor or Ceiling
If you have a home with multiple floors, you also want to consider which floors you frequent the most. If you imagine your Wi-Fi coverage as a sphere (like earth), then the router is the core. If you place your router on the ground in the basement, half the sphere of your Wi-Fi coverage sinks into your foundation.
If you have two levels you use the most, the best placement to cover both stories is either the ceiling of the lower floor or the ground of the higher floor.
Most importantly, don’t hide your Wi-Fi router behind books or in a drawer. Your Wi-Fi signal already has to work hard enough to penetrate the walls and floors of your home without adding more barriers. The best location in the room is out in the open.
Separate Your Router From Your Modem
Your router doesn’t have to be tied to your modem. Even if you have a combined router and modem unit, you can use a separate Wi-Fi router instead. If your ISP installed your modem (and Wi-Fi router) in an inconvenient location (like the basement), that’s all the more reason to use a dedicated Wi-Fi router. You can run a long ethernet cable from your modem to the best location in your home and connect your Wi-Fi router there.
If your ISP supplied Wi-Fi router/modem only broadcasts on the 2.4 GHz spectrum, you should upgrade to a newer router that also offers 5 GHz. While 5 GHz doesn’t broadcast as far, you’ll run into fewer interference issues from your neighbors. You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot. While Netgear’s $160 router offers plenty of extra features and great coverage, you can likely get by with TP-Link’s $60 router if your home isn’t large.
If your home is exceptionally large, and you need coverage everywhere, consider either Wi-Fi range extenders or, for a more seamless experience, a Mesh Wi-Fi system. Most homes probably don’t need Mesh, but it does come with benefits, like automatic updates and automated handoff.
With a Mesh system, your Wi-Fi source automatically moves from one router to another as you move through your home. Range extenders often don’t handle the transition as gracefully.
Check Your Wi-Fi Signal Strength
After (or even before) going through these tips, check your Wi-Fi signal strength to see how well you did (or what you need to do). Walk around your home and keep an eye on it to see how strong the signal is in different rooms.
If you want to get even better coverage, try building a heatmap. Knowing, on average, how far your current router can broadcast a signal will help you determine where to put it because you’ll have a better sense of its out limits.