How to speed up your home's WiFi speeds by testing the best 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi channels

Posted by Paul Braren on Nov 16 2014 in
  • HowTo
  • Network
  • This article is geared toward the IT person in your family, likely the person who installed and configured your home's WiFi router.

    If you live in a not-terribly-congested residence, with perhaps two or three neighbor's 2.4GHz OR 5GHz channels showing in your home, then your situation is likely similar enough to my home where this article may help. The idea is to obtain more consistent, better speeds by methodically testing a new or existing router.

    As far as the 2.4 GHz band, only channels 1, 6, and 11 are good choices, and you probably shouldn't mess with the auto bandwidth settings either, explained here.

    But on the 5 GHz, there's a lot more channels to test drive yourself, to see what speeds you actually get in your home, with the devices most important to you.

    This is a simple test that'd work from anybody's home. Admittedly, it's not as accurate as tools like Chariot used by SmallNetBuilder and Tom's Hardware, for example, but it's also a lot simpler to do such testing yourself, at no cost other than perhaps an hour of your time.

    Here's the summary:

    1. find the spot that those handheld WiFi devices will get used the most in the home
    2. login to the Web UI of the WiFi router, typically
    3. backup all the WiFi router settings before you begin, just in case you lose track of what you changed, or if you have trouble later and wish to undo all WiFi tuning
    4. on the mobile, run iOS Mobile Speed Test app or Android app, and manually chose a server that gives you consistent, repeatable results
    5. now run the speedtest 3 times in a row, recording results in a spreadsheet that is similar to the one I created, click on the image below to view it in full
    6. using the WiFi router's Web UI, make a change to the WiFi channel
    7. repeat steps 4 and 5 until all channels on 2.4GHz and 5 GHz have been tested
      optionally, you may wish to repeat the entire process at the worse WiFi location in the house, and determine if the results have you re-thinking which channels give you the best balance of speed and distance

    What you'll wind up with is a pretty clear view of which channels give you the best download speeds.

    My spreadsheet also has some WiFi realted tests in there related to the recent 802.11ac WiFi reliability troubleshooting I was doing, if you're interested, see also If you’re using a 802.11ac WiFi device, you may want to avoid 80MHz channel width.

    To read this spreadsheet, basically you're looking for the speed champ for each category, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. It's basically my home lab notes notes that I took, so I could easily spot the best channels, seen in bold-black-border boxes. You can open it, then use the File, Save As to download a copy if you'd like.

    TinkerTry WiFi speed testing matrix, click to view the entire sheet

    See also

    If you’re using a 802.11ac WiFi device, you may want to avoid 80MHz channel width 

    by Paul Braren on Nov 16 2014

    Linksys EA6900 802.11ac WiFi Router security best practices

    by Paul Braren on Feb 23 2014

    Firsthand experience with ASUS RT-AC68U, Netgear R7000, and Linksys EA6900 802.11ac WiFi routers

    by Paul Braren on Oct 05 2013