If you find your home Wi-Fi connection is slow or drops out, it's worth changing the channel your router uses: it will likely fix the problem. Best of all it will take just a couple of minutes. Here's how to do it.
Ok, so it's not quite as simple as changing channel on your TV but, in a similar way, your broadband router has to pick and use a 'channel' to send data via Wi-Fi. The problem is the many routers default to the same channel and your neighbours' routers could well be using the same one as your router. This can cause so much interference that you'll all suffer from slow Wi-Fi speeds which means web pages will take longer to load and videos might stutter when streaming from YouTube or iPlayer. See also: How to use a spare router to boost your Wi-Fi coverage.
By manually switching to less crowded channel, or one currently not used by any other networks, your signal should improve markedly. Here's how to identify which channels are most crowded and how to subsequently swap your router to a different channel.
Step 1: You can use software such as the free inSSIDer utility for Windows, to locate nearby Wi-Fi networks and discover which channel they're on. Here, we're using an Android tablet and the free WiFi Analyzer app. Start by ensuring your tablet is connected to your Wi-Fi network and then open the app.
Step 2: You'll see a graph that shows the different Wi-Fi networks nearby in different colours and the channels they are currently using along with the strength of signal. This will give you an idea of whether your network has a strong or weak signal and whether the channel is currently set to is crowded or not. This will help you decide which channel you need to use. It's worth noting that out of 13 channels, all but 1, 6 and 11 overlap. So pick a channel as far away from your neighbours' if possible.
Step 3: Now you need to access your router's web interface. This can be done by opening a web browser and navigating to the router's IP address. This URL will either be printed in your router's documentation or possibly on the bottom of the device itself. If not, open a Command Prompt in Windows and type 'ipconfig' without the quotes and look for the default gateway address. This is your router's IP address, and will be similar to 192.168.1.1. Next you'll be asked to enter the routers name and password, these details will either be printed on the router itself or in the manual. Ideally, you should change the password to prevent anyone else accessing the settings.
Step 4: From the web page that is displayed, look for the Wi-Fi settings and the channel number should be selectable via a drop-down menu. The exact location of the option will differ depending on the router manufacturer. In this instance, we used a D-Link router and the channel settings were found by clicking Advanced from the main page. We then selected Wireless setup from the options on the let-hand menu and then chose Manual Wireless Network Setup. Make sure you save the settings - your router may reboot to apply the change.