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How To: Minimize Wireless Interference

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Wireless network connections, also known as “WiFi” make it convenient for users to take advantage of their local network and Internet connection from various areas within their homes.  However, wireless slowdowns and dropouts can cause many headaches and nightmares. Many things in your home can interfere with your wireless network. These devices operate in the 2.4Ghz band, a highly crowded spectrum. To give you an example of how crowded let me list some devices that use 2.4Ghz.

  • Cordless Telephones.
  • Baby monitors.
  • Wireless security cameras.
  • Wireless keyboards and mice.
  • Nearby wireless networks.
  • Clear Internet Services.
  • Microwaves. (They don’t technically operate on 2.4Ghz, but can interfere.)
  • Bluetooth devices.
  • R/C Toys.
  • Some T.V. Remotes.

Today, I’m going to focus on helping you minimize wireless interference from nearby or neighboring wireless networks by use of a simple freeware tool.

InSSIDer:

InSSIDer is used to get information about all the wireless networks in your vicinity. InSSIDer can be downloaded from the Metageeks.net website.

Install and run InSSIDer on a desktop or laptop with a wireless card. In the upper right you’ll see a drop down with a list of network adapters on your computer. Select your wireless card and to the right-click start. After a few seconds you should see something like this:

InSSIDer

Let me explain what this all means. The top part of the application shows all the wireless networks in range. It includes information about the vendor, network name or SSID, channel, RSSI or signal, and security type.

Below are tabs, select 2.4Ghz channels and a graph of all the wireless networks listed above with appear. This graph shows the channel of the wireless network on the x-axis or horizontal line and the signal strength on the y-axis or vertical line.

Note: Signal is displayed with zero being the highest number and -100 being the lowest. The closer a wireless network gets to zero the strong the signal.

From my graph above you can see where problems can occur. I live in a large apartment complex and the wireless spectrum is extremely over crowded.

The Parabola:

You might have noticed in the graph that wireless networks create a parabola. This is due to an unfortunate fact that wireless networks use more than one channel. As you can see with my network (BAMF). It is set to channel eight and overlaps both channel 7 and 9. This is extremely important to remember when choosing a wireless channel.

Finding the best channel:

Do you remember back in the day when you’d be watching something on T.V. via the antenna and all the sudden it would get all fuzzy or distorted? That was interference and the same thing can happen to your wireless network.

Using the graph get a feel for the best channel to use. Look at the other networks and try to find a space that looks the least busy. For my setup another network is sharing my channel (2wire902). You can see to the left that channel 6 is very crowded. Looking to the right channel 11 is being used used but most of the wireless networks near channel 11 are at a very low signal and would not give off much interference. Using this information, moving to channel 11 might be in my best interest. Use the same analysis and find the best channel for you.

Note: Most modern routers handle selecting the best channel for you automatically. Please look over the information provided to you by InSSIDer before modifying your router from auto channel selection to manual.

Change that channel:

Most routers have configurable options that can be access via a simple webpage. Please lookup documentation for your router at your manufactures website to learn how to change the channel for your equipment.

NetgearLinksysD-LinkBuffaloBelkinAppleMotorola2wireHawkinsDynex

End Game:

While InSSIDer may not eliminate all your wireless issues, it can be used to identify a channel that has the least likelihood for interference from other wireless networks, can be used to ensure your wireless network is operating on the wireless channel and encryption type you assigned, and verify signal strength in all parts of your home.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment below, join our chat, or get help on our forums.