As more people work from home to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, they’re using their home internet networks for activities usually reserved for the workplace. But your home network may not be equipped to handle all the video conferencing and file-uploading you may be doing at the moment.
What can you do if your home Internet connection isn’t up to the job? Here are eight ways to get an internet speed boost while you’re working from home.
Consider time-shifting video chats
Getting the best possible Internet speed is all about finding the balance between what data you’re moving online and when you need to move it. Gotta start your meeting at 9 o’clock sharp, huh? That may not be the best idea — if lots of people in your area are doing high-bandwidth activities at the same time, it could slow things down for everyone.
The solution? Just wait a few minutes. Time shift your call five to 10 minutes ahead or behind to avoid any connection issues and put less strain on the calling and videoconferencing services you’re using. Even a 10-minute delay in a call can improve quality and decrease the likelihood of disconnections.
Schedule big downloads and updates for the evening
Similar to time shifting calls a few minutes, scheduling huge downloads and updates during times when internet use is lower can help things move faster. You can schedule updates for your PC or Mac to occur in the middle of the night, when internet use is down and congestion is low.
On Windows, you can pause downloads for a week, or schedule them to resume on a day of your choosing (like the weekend). You can also adjust the automatic installation of updates to accommodate the hours you set manually. Visit the Start menu, select Settings, Update & Security, Windows Update, and select “Change active hours.” From the same Windows Update menu, you can select “Pause update for 7 days” to put a stop to any downloads until you’re done working for the day or week.
While you can’t schedule updates to happen at night on your Mac, you can disable its automatic update feature and update yourself manually whenever the mood strikes you. Hit the Apple logo in the top left, then select About this Mac. Select Software Update, Advanced, and uncheck the “Download new updates when available” option.
Turn off your idle devices
While you might be the only one working from home, you aren’t using the only device that’s accessing the web. While you might not think your smartphone is doing a lot of downloading in your pocket or your PlayStation is doing much in rest mode, idle devices can still pull down software updates, eating up precious bandwidth. Shut down, unplug or disconnect your extra devices while they’re not in use if speed is your priority.
Understand your router’s strengths
While every router is different, yours might have a few extra tricks up its sleeve. Many routers allow you to customize how traffic is divided among devices, letting you prioritize a particular device, putting your computer or smartphone first in line when it comes to sending and receiving data. It’s a great feature perfect for that conference call that’s more important than your kid’s Netflix binge in the next room over.
Moreover, if you’ve got a dual-band router (one that supports both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies), consider moving your computer to the 5GHz band, which typically offers faster speeds at the cost of decreased range. If you’re a room over, you should be fine, but the farther you move away the more degraded your connection will be.
Don’t hide your router
Look, it’s not your fault your router isn’t much of a looker. Hiding it behind some knick knacks or putting it under a table might be one way to disguise it while staying online, but all that obfuscation is not doing you any favors in terms of connectivity. Doors, walls, and everything else in your router’s way will degrade the range and connection strength, especially if you’re working in another room.
To alleviate the issue, consider showing off your wireless router, placing it somewhere prominent — or at least somewhere unobstructed. After all, it’s not like anyone’s coming over to criticize your interior design these days.
Or just get a new one
But chances are you haven’t upgraded your router lately, or you’re using your modem’s built-in wireless router capabilities to stay online. If you’ve got multiple people at home, all vying for the same internet connection, you might want to upgrade your router to one more capable of handling all that traffic from multiple devices.
If you already work near your wireless router, you could be fine upgrading to one that supports MU-MIMO, a standard that lets multiple devices transmit and receive data simultaneously instead of waiting their turn (if both your router and the device you’re using supports MIMO.) You could also invest in a mesh router network to fix any internet dead spots. Using a mesh network also means less stress on mesh router, as devices will connect to the closest router.
Whatever you do, it’s generally a good idea to avoid using the router that your Internet provider supplied. They’re generally slower than routers you can buy for yourself, and buying your own router can save you money on equipment rental fees in the long run.
Wired connections are always better
If you’ve got the option to forego the wireless web completely, consider breaking out the Ethernet cable and making a direct connection between your device and your router. Wireless internet is certainly convenient, but one drawback is its latency — the time it takes for signals to go back and forth between router and device — especially compared to a wired connection.
That matters even more when doing activities in real time, like playing competitive games or video conferencing with colleagues. That latency leads to lost information, which leads to lag, degraded quality, or missed headshots (hopefully not during your conference call.)
If the above tips don’t help enough, you can consider paying extra for a faster Internet connection, either from your current provider or by switching to a new one, if available. Keep in mind, though, that your actual Internet speeds might fall short of the advertised numbers, for a variety of reasons. And, if applicable, check with your employer to see if they’re offering any kind of reimbursement for your Internet bill while you’re working from home.