Wi-Fi Tweaks for Speed Freaks

Software: Keeping an Eye on Your Connection

While much of optimizing a Wi-Fi network involves hardware, software can play an important part. Some routers, like those from Linksys, come with monitoring software that keeps track of the hardware that's connected and can do simple repairs; you typically set up this software during the initial network configuration.

Several other programs tcan be helpful as well. There's nothing like knowing how fast your network is, and an online bandwidth monitor like Speedtest.net or Alken (both free) can show your IP address as well as how fast data is flying -- or crawling -- into and out of your computer.

Dozens of these services are available online, and they all give wildly different speeds, so it's important to pick one and stick with it to compare speeds as you tweak your network configuration.

If things are moving slowly on your computer, JiWire Inc.'s freeWi-Fi Security Test might figure out why. After interrogating your system, it displays your encryption type, signal strength and channel you're using, plus any obvious security holes you have.

If all you want is the basics of your network's operations, try NetStumbler, which is also free. It hs been around for years and is technically still a beta, but it's still the best way to see what networks are active in your area and what channels they're using so you can avoid interference.

It'll also show how your signal strength has changed over time with a cool bar graph.

Wi-Fi Troubleshooting Checklist

Using the tips outlined above, your wireless network's range and speed should increase dramatically. But that doesn't mean your network will be completely without hiccups. Here are 10 steps to try if you've got a dead or weak connection:

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