Does The Wi-Fi Password Affect The Internet Speed?


This is an interesting question to explore, because many of us want better internet speeds from our Wi-Fi connection, and maybe wonder whether disabling the password on our router and just using Wi-Fi unprotected can increase the speeds we get. Is there any truth to this? Can disabling or shortening passwords give us better internet speeds on wireless?

Here is a precise answer:

Using a Wi-Fi password does not affect the internet speed when using the newer security protocols of WPA-2 and upwards. Using passwords can affect speeds on the older WEP and WPA (TKIP) protocols, but these are hardly ever used anymore.

If we want better speeds from our Wi-Fi router we’ll have to resort to other methods. In any event, it’s not recommended to disable passwords and security on routers anyway, since Wi-Fi networks come with inherent security vulnerabilities anyway that will only be made worse when we don’t have some kind of password protection for our network.

Let’s look at the issue of Wi-Fi passwords and internet speeds in more detail.

The Wi-Fi Password Does Not Affect Speed With Newer Security Protocols (WPA 2 Onwards)

If you are connecting to your router with a WPA-2 or above security protocol, then using passwords does not have an affect on the performance of the network. WPA stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access and the WPA-2 (sometimes referred to as WPA-2 PSK) was introduced in 2006, with a further WPA-3 protocol introduced in 2018. See here for more on the history of WPA security protocols.

These protocols use different encryption methods (Advanced Encryption Standard or AES) to previous versions (TKIP), meaning that the use of passwords no longer affect network performance.

Similarly, with the newer protocols, the length of the Wi-Fi password does not have an effect on performance. Once a password is entered, however long it is, then it is converted into a fixed length 256-bit encryption key.

In other words, this secondary key is the same length in all cases and so does not change the eventual internet speed you get, regardless of whether the initial password you entered was 4 characters long or 30 characters long. See this forum for some technical discussion of the topic.

So there’s nothing to worry about using devices on anything on WPA-2 security onwards, which almost all devices will be using now – passwords don’t affect speeds.

The Wi-Fi Password May Affect Speed With Older Encryption Protocols

To be thorough about this issue though, we should mention that there are two much older Wi-Fi security protocols where password length, or even using a password at all, can affect the speed of the Wi-Fi connection.

If you have routers and devices still using the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) or the original Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA-TKIP, sometimes just called WPA) protocols, then wireless speeds may be affected.

See this much older post from 2010 which mentions Apple devices having Wi-Fi speeds restricted to 54 Mbps regardless of the potential connection speed, when using the older WEP or WPA (PSIK) protocols. They recommend switching protocols or disabling the Wi-Fi password.

To put this in perspective though, you’d have to be using a really old or not-updated-for-years router or device for this to be the case. In fact, all Wi-Fi certified products have had to use WPA-2 Security or above since 2006, which does not suffer this problem of passwords affecting speeds.

So there is only a very small chance of this ever being the case for someone, since almost everyone on the planet now will have modern enough routers and devices for this not to be an issue anymore. With the rise of WPA-2 and WPA-3 Wi-Fi encryption protocols, this problem is probably close to becoming extinct now.

Changing Your Router’s Wi-Fi Security Protocol

For the very rare cases when you may find your router is not updated and stuck on the WEP or original WPA security encryption, then let’s quickly run through how you can try to change this on your router:

  • Login to your router by typing the current IP/admin/password in. This is usually on the back of the router on a sticker somewhere. The IP address is most commonly 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1, or 192.169.1.254. Type it into any browser address bar to get started.
  • Once inside the router, look for “Wireless Settings“, or “Wireless Security“, or something similar.
  • If your current encryption mode is set to WEP or WPA, then change it to WPA2-PSK (AES), or WPA-3 protocols.
  • These are more secure and harder to hack than the older WEP or original WPA protocol.
  • If your router doesn’t even allow the use of WPA-2 or above, then it’s really old and you need a new one!

Go for WPA-2 security or above on your router

Is It Ever Worth Disabling Wi-Fi Passwords on Your Router?

For users still thinking of trying out their network unprotected without any password or encryption algorithms, let’s tun through the risks of this:

  • You’ll leave your network far more open to hacking, since there’s no need to even crack a password anymore. Your entire network, and the all the devices on it, will be exposed.
  • Without a password, you’ll leave your network totally open to strangers to use your bandwidth. If this continues and a lot of people take advantage, then you might be getting some very angry letters from your ISP about excessive bandwidth usage!
  • If you use your Wi-Fi for internet banking, online purchases or logging into any accounts, all these details will be much more exposed for hackers to steal
  • In short, it’s never recommended to disable passwords on your router.
  • See our article on staying safe on public Wi-Fi, which often is unprotected with no passwords. A VPN is a must on these types of open Wi-Fi networks. If you’re ever going to disable the password on your own router, then we recommend following the exact same steps as mentioned in the linked article just above, as the security risks are about the same.

What Factors Do Affect the Internet Speed?

Now we’ve covered that Wi-Fi passwords almost always don’t affect internet speeds, let’s cover some things that do affect speeds, so readers struggling with slow speeds can better identify where to look to solve their problem.

  • Distance from the router – The most important factor when on Wi-Fi. The signal will always weaken and drop out over distance. Move closer, remove obstructions, or use Wi-Fi extenders or Mesh Systems to boost the signal for better speeds.
  • Type of connection – Related to above point. Wired connections are always better than Wi-Fi, so use ethernet whenever possible, especially for gaming and streaming. Powerline adapters are a clever way of getting a wired connection if a long way from the router.
  • Network usage – Internet speeds will be affected by the number of users on the network. The total bandwidth on a package is not per device, but shared across the whole network. Speeds will be slower at peak usage times when lots of people are using the internet at once.
  • Devices – Make sure routers and devices are fully updated, including apps, operating systems and network drivers. Also disabling and re-enabling Wi-Fi adapters, plus resetting routers and devices, can refresh the connection and sometimes improve the signal. See our full article on disconnecting Wi-Fi for a full list of solutions for weak and unstable Wi-Fi.
  • Service – Sometimes the service can just be down, or slower due to peak usage times, network/server faults, maintenance, bad weather, or another reason. Check current status on Downdetector.

Oliver

Online gamer and general home networking enthusiast. I like to create articles to help people solve common home networking problems.

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