Basic Wireless Troubleshooting
While there are allot of factors that are at play in order to a wireless network to function in an efficient manner, the steps involved are pretty basic and involve minimizing interference and optimizing the wireless network for the location and equipment you will be using. Most of this can be accomplished in three steps:
STEP 1. optimize wireless router placement
STEP 2. optimize the channel
STEP 3. minimize interference
When installing your DSL modem, there are many factors that go into its placement. The primary of which will most likely be availability of phone jacks and the location of any computers which do not have wireless capabilities, as you will need to run an Ethernet cord from any these directly into the modem. Ideally, you will be placing your modem in a location central to all of the places where you want to have a useable wireless signal. It isn’t a practical to place your wireless router at the far end of a house in the basement and expect to have a functioning wireless signal upstairs on the other side of the house.
Probably the most common cause of interference for a wireless network are other devices operating in the 2.4Ghz spectrum, which includes other wireless routers. While there are 11 channels to use in the 2.4Ghz spectrum, each channel has bleed over which affects the surrounding 3 channels. Think of the 2.4Ghz spectrum as a big highway with 11 lanes with cars that take up 6 lanes each. For example a router on channel 6 will interfere with channels 3-9 so in essence it is best to use either channel 1, 6, or 11 for setting up your wireless router. If things aren’t working well on channel 1 then go ahead and try channel 6, if that doesn’t resolve the issue then try channel 11. (See the articles in this category re: changing your wireless channel)
Next, you will want to take inventory of the wide variety of devices already in your home which could be causing interference. Some common causes are microwaves (while in use), anything using 2.4Ghz spectrum (older cordless phones are one of the main culprits here), and florescent light ballasts. Another factor is metal objects which tend to reflect the wireless signals (you don’t want to place your wireless router right next to the refrigerator or a big metal object). One of the hardest things for radio waves to penetrate is water which absorbs them. Its very difficult to transmit a useable wireless signal through things like metal foil backed insulation or radiant floor heating. Also the density of the building materials used in the walls, floors and ceilings play a big factor on whether the radio waves can penetrate or are reflected back.
So by minimizing the sources of interference, centralizing your routers location and optimizing its channel, you stand the best chance of having a usable wireless signal.