Few things are more frustrating than needing a good internet signal when your WiFi keeps dropping in and out, or having to watch your device fruitlessly search for a WiFi signal with none to be found—especially if you're able to connect a few feet away or in the next room over. No matter how many times you try, how high up you hold your phone, or how you tilt your tablet, the device just won't connect in that one critical spot.
These experiences can be maddening, especially if you need access to WiFi throughout your home and in a specific area for a work presentation, important conversation, or pivotal moment in a video game. In this article, we dig into WiFi dead spots—what they are, how to find them, and how to fix them.
What is a WiFi dead zone?
Maybe you're a phone pacer—you like to walk around when chatting with friends or family—and you notice that your WiFi calls always drop when you pass through a particular spot in your home. Perhaps you bring your tablet into the kitchen to reference a recipe while cooking and, suddenly, can't pull up the page. Or maybe you set up your outdoor patio to have the perfect work-from-home feng shui, but your laptop just won't connect in the precise spot where you're the most comfortable. Why does this happen?
The answer: WiFi dead zones. A dead zone is a place in your house, apartment, office, or anywhere else that's supposed to get WiFi that, for some reason, doesn't: When you try to connect, your device can't find the signal. Dead spots happen for a bunch of different reasons, but the good news is that they're relatively simple to troubleshoot—and even fix.
What causes dead spots in WiFi?
If you could see your WiFi signal, it would look like a consistent series of waves emanating from the source (the router). Certain things can get in the way of these waves, interrupting the WiFi signal before it has a chance to reach your device. WiFi dead spots happen because of interference or obstructions to these waves, or because you're trying to stretch your signal over too large an area.
In terms of obstructions, a few common culprits include thick walls or bulky metal furniture like filing cabinets or refrigerators. Other devices that rely on radio waves, like baby monitors or connected security systems, can cause interference—and it's the same case with signal-producing appliances like microwaves. Cordless phones can also cause WiFi dead spots in the immediate area when they're in use.
What's more, if you live in an apartment building, other families' networks can confuse your connection. Even in a single-family home, your neighbors' WiFi networks may compete with yours if they use the same wireless channel—decreasing your signal's strength or resulting in dead zones.
Finally, a traditional router is only so strong—it may not be able to reach all the way across a large living space with several rooms, down to a basement, or out to a balcony or garage. This may be particularly true if you live in an older home, which likely has thick, plaster walls with metal wiring inside for support.
How to check for WiFi dead zones
If you have a specific WiFi dead zone that's driving you bonkers, you probably already know exactly where it is. But if you're trying to figure out where all the possible dead spots in your house or office are, troubleshooting is simple: Just pick up your phone or another wireless device, connect to the internet, and move around. As you walk around slowly, monitor the signal indicator on your device—if it drops down to nothing or a very low level, you’ve found a WiFi dead zone.
You can also use software to figure out where wireless dead zones exist. On Android devices, for instance, you can use an app called WiFi Analyzer to get specifics about these WiFi deserts. On a PC or Mac laptop, you can download the network scanner application inSSIDer to gauge signal strength in various spots of your home.
How to boost WiFi signals and fix WiFi dead spots
Now that you've located your WiFi dead zones, you can go about trying to fix them. Below are the most common and effective tactics for bringing the dead zones in your home back to life.
Move your router
Router placement is an important part of the puzzle, and if yours is still sitting where your internet provider initially set it up, a simple fix may be moving it somewhere with less interference with the WiFi signal. For example, a router positioned behind a big piece of furniture in the corner of a room may perform much better if you move it to a more central, unobstructed location like on top of a bookshelf.
Update the router's firmware
Another approach you can take is to check that your router's software (or "firmware") is up to speed. You can probably find the most up-to-date version of this firmware on your router manufacturer's website. Follow the owner's manual instructions or seek guidance online to complete the update. Sometimes, this simple fix is enough to solve basic connection and speed issues.
Change the channel on your router
The majority of modern routers these days are dual-band—they use two different channels, 2.5GHz and 5GHz, to both send and receive WiFi signals. But if your neighbors use the same channel, it can cause a traffic jam. The more devices trying to access a channel at a time, the slower the WiFi speed.
Since the 5GHz channel tends to be used less often, manually switching your router settings to operate on that channel may improve your connectivity. You can also play around with different channels via WiFi analyzer tools, which can detect the least congested channels available in your area.
Use a WiFi extender, booster, or repeater
Buying an external device like a WiFi repeater (which amplifies the signal) or an extender (which rebroadcasts signal to areas where the original router has trouble reaching) is another way to quickly solve for dead zones. These devices can spread WiFi more evenly throughout a space, allowing you to bring a better signal to any trouble spots.
Upgrade your WiFi
Sometimes, a traditional or old router just isn't up to the task of providing strong and consistent WiFi throughout your home—especially if you have a lot of smart home devices or many members of the family online at the same time.
Another option for ensuring the best possible WiFi signal and fixing any dead zones—for good—is to upgrade to a connected, whole-home WiFi system. Plume HomePass, for instance, is a smart, adaptive WiFi ecosystem that offers a full suite of tools to optimize performance across all your devices. HomePass uses artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to map WiFi patterns in your household—and adapt according to your unique usage patterns, as well as your home's layout.
Boost your WiFi signal strength with Plume
Say goodbye to those frustrating moments of WiFi dropping in and out. With a smart, adaptive system like Plume HomePass, you get a seamless WiFi signal every time—and in every nook and cranny of your home.
If you're interested in making the switch, learn more about HomePass here.