Have you taken a look at the speeds you’re getting with your home Wi-Fi network lately? Many web workers work out of their homes, and if that’s you and you work wirelessly, it makes a lot of sense to do a checkup. There are some free tools you can turn to for doing this easily and quickly. In this post, I’ll cover some of the best choices.
Wi-Fi is radio technology, and radio technology is weird in its behavior. Many users don’t experiment with the physical setup of their wireless equipment, which is a mistake.
In response to a previous post I did here, I learned that many readers use only a router, and no access points, for their home Wi-Fi networks. This can be fine, depending on your home layout. However, if you have a multi-level house, or many obstructions between where you receive your wireless signal and where your router is, it can be a mistake.
Access points are very inexpensive, especially if you are still using 802.11g technology. You can find them for about $30, and they can greatly extend your wireless roaming range. I have a router upstairs in my house, in a central location, and an access point centrally placed downstairs. The access point definitely makes a difference when I’m downstairs, especially if I want to work out on the back porch.
Experiment with the placement of your router and access points. Sometimes the strangest locations can work the best in terms of range and performance. Also, don’t put your router adjacent to prominent obstructions or metal.
I’ve mentioned two free software tools that I’ve used to precisely measure your wireless signal and throughput in this post. Xirrus Wi-Fi Monitor is a good tool for both finding available networks, and checking the status of your signal. You can get it free as a Windows Vista gadget, a Mac OS X widget, an XP widget, or a desklet for Linux. For more serious throughput and signal tests, try QCheck.
PC World has a very interesting item up on DSLReports tools for Wi-Fi testing. These look highly interesting, and I’m going to try some of them this weekend. You can do quite targeted things with these tools, including packet-by-packet line quality testing.