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Three essential tools for solving the worst Wi-Fi headaches

Ian Paul | March 31, 2014
Wi-Fi is great, except when it's not. Here are three tools that will make your wireless life easier.


Thanks to improvements to routers and network management software, connecting to Wi-Fi is vastly easier than it used to be. But that doesn't mean the experience is seamless quite yet. Even now you can still run into problems like poor signal quality, dropped connections, lack of public hotspots, and slow speeds.

Sick of the hiccups? These three programs can help take the headache out of Wi-Fi woes.

Do your connection speeds suck even though you're paying for plenty of bandwidth? Does your laptop connection keeps dropping all the time? The problem may not be your broadband connection, but that all the other routers around you are using the same Wi-Fi channel and causing interference.

A free utility called ViStumbler can help you fix that.

Once ViStumbler's installed, fire it up and click the Scan APs button. After a few seconds, ViStumbler will show the closest Wi-Fi routers in your area. The app has some annoying sound effects, so after the scan has about 20 routers or so, you can just hit Stop.

Now you've got a list of Wi-Fi routers in your area with tons of supplemental information for them, including router names, signal strength, encryption type, and so on. But all we care about is the column that says "Channel." Find your router in the list (if you're connected to it, it should be near the top) and see what channel you're on.

Then compare it to the other routers on the list and see how many routers are sharing the same channel. If there's a ton, look at the list of routers and see which channels have fewer routers. Ideally, you'll want to use either channel 1, 6, or 11 since they are the only channels that don't overlap with each other.

Now that you know which channel to switch to, you'll have to login to your router to make the actual change.

If you don't know how to do this, your best bet is to call your Internet service provider and ask them for help, or do an online search for the make and model of your router to find a user manual.

You can also check out PCWorld's tutorial: How to Fix Your Wi-Fi Network: 7 Tips.

Speed Test

But then again, a bad Wi-Fi connection could be caused by your ISP providing less-than-advertised broadband speeds.

One of the easiest ways to test just that is to use by Ookla, a website that quickly tests your Internet speeds. Just navigate to the site and tap the green Begin Test button to start.


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