There are a number of wireless network settings that affect the performance of your Wi-Fi connection, some of which may currently make your internet slower than it could be.
If you want web pages to load more quickly, YouTube or Netflix to stream smoother, and faster downloads, then you need to optimize your Wi-Fi connection and ensure you have the best equipment to make that possible. Assuming that the latter is a given (don’t use a first-generation AirPort Extreme Base Station, for example), then start by testing your internet speed: plug the Ethernet cable directly into your Mac, visit Speedtest.net, and click “Go”.
Since the router is the centerpiece of any Wi-Fi network, it can affect the speed of your internet connection if configured improperly. So have a look at the manual before proceeding and make any necessary changes, if required, based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Nowadays, good routers and access points support two frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Mac computers also support these two frequency bands, but older devices such as the iPhone 4, for example, only support the 2.4GHz band.
One of the most common causes of poor Wi-Fi performance is network interference. It’s unlikely that your router is the only one in the area using the 2.4GHz frequency – think neighbors’ routers, baby monitors, Bluetooth devices, cordless phones, and such – and so it’s important to keep in mind that adjacent channels will interfere with each other, therefore causing a poor signal.
There are only three non-overlapping 20MHz wide channels in the 2.4GHz frequency: channels 1, 6 and 11. We highly recommend using any of these uncontested channels but, if possible, try switching to the 5GHz frequency, because there are fewer clients using it.
Getting to Know Your Wi-Fi Network
Use the Mac’s built-in tools to get information about the network. If you hold down the Option key while clicking on the AirPort icon, macOS will share much more info about the wireless network you are connected to.
By selecting “Open Wireless Diagnostics” you will be able to determine common problems with your wireless connection and monitor it for issues, but instead we recommend holding down the Option-Command-4 keys to launch the Scan window. This will show the wireless networks, along with the protocol(s) this utility app has detected.
For more advanced information and detailed mapping, there are third party apps that we have found to be more useful. One of these is WiFi Explorer, which is even able to identify networks with a poor signal. As it scans your location for wireless networks, WiFi Explorer presents its findings in a nice and easy-to-understand user interface.
You can fully optimize your Wi-Fi network by using the report WiFi Explorer generates: it determines the signal quality of your wireless connection by monitoring the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the network, which compares the signal strength to its background noise levels. To make the most of your network, you should ensure that the SNR is above 25 dB. For example, if the SNR is lower than 25 dB and the signal strength is below 40%, you might need to decrease the distance to the router. WiFi Explorer will also highlight the interfering networks, so you can make an informed decision about the channel you want to switch to.
In order to optimize your network connection, you can also use WiFi Explorer or any other third party app to map your home. While keeping in mind that the range of the 5GHz band is shorter, try walking around your house and check the real-time data these apps generate to pick the best location for your Mac. We used this method to find the best location for our desk (excluding the most obvious choice of sitting it next to the router).
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