Speed Up Wireless Access

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Wireless routers usually work well with their default settings, but you can tune them for even better performance. Here are a few quick changes that can easily boost your results.

Speed kills; at least slow speeds do. To preserve compatibility, Wi-Fi routers let original, 802.11b clients join higher speed networks; the combination is called a mixed network. But part of grandfathering in the old technology slows 802.11g clients to those old speeds. Why run your 2008 gear at 1999 speeds? If you're only using .g--or .n--hardware, set the router to only broadcast on that protocol. If you have a mixture of old and new hardware, especially .b, add an additional, dedicated router for those clients.

Change the channel. The wireless spectrum faces constant crosstalk and interference from other routers. However, you can set your wireless router to a different channel to minimize this interference. Use a program such as NetStumbler to identify the channels of other nearby devices, and set yours to something different.

Go the distance. Wireless speeds slow down the further you go from the router. Consider adding a commercial, external antenna, or make your own reflectors to direct the signal. If your network has to span huge distances, add additional access points in a mesh, WDS configuration. Look for a good signal before transmitting big files, especially over a local network. And don't forget about your old friend, wired Ethernet. A good network should have a mixture of wireless and wired capabilities for any situation, such as temporarily plugging in a laptop for a big video transfer.

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