Having a weak Wi-Fi signal can be really annoying and can happen with all brands of laptop, including the ones we listed above (also other brands like Apple, Acer, Microsoft, Samsung, MSI and so on). How can we solve this problem?
In this article we will go through the different steps you can try and take to solve weak Wi-Fi, both with your laptop and with your home network.
Here is a quick summary of some of the quick solutions you can try:
- Reset your router and laptop
- Move closer to your router.
- Adjust the Wi-Fi antennae/card in your laptop.
- Make sure your network drivers are updated.
- Enable maximum performance from your Wi-Fi card.
- Use ethernet or a powerline adapter to get on a wired connection instead.
We will go through replacing or adjusting your hardware, software or the configuration of your home network as possible solutions. Powerline adapters are also a home networking product that can be used to solve weak Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately Wi-Fi signals can become weak when using laptops or other devices, leading to pages loading slower, longer download times and videos buffering. Sometimes it is because of faults or software issues with the laptop itself; other times it is simply down to the nature of wireless networks and so we need to separate out these two factors.
Wi-Fi signals always degrade the further they get from the router, as per the inverse square law of physics, as we have covered in another article. This is to an extent unavoidable, but sometimes there can also be things we can change with the laptop itself to get a better Wi-Fi signal. Let’s look at these steps first before moving on to ways of improving connectivity in the home in general.
Things You Can Try With Your Laptop
1. Adjust The Wi-Fi Card/Antennae in Your Laptop
Almost all laptops now have Wi-Fi built into them, but sometimes the Wi-Fi card or antennae in the laptop are either not installed properly or have become damaged or misaligned because of dropping or knocking the laptop. This will show up most often if you have a weak Wi-Fi signal even when you are right next to the router, and if your laptop struggles to pick up wireless networks at all, even nearby ones.
See the video below for a clever solution to this problem with the Wi-Fi antennae, where the technician basically swaps the wiring on the Wi-Fi card all over to the “main” connection and disconnects the auxiliary or “Aux” connection.
Counter-intuitively, this means the Wi-Fi card is not doing Wi-Fi balancing anymore (ie. not picking up the best signal from different antennas in the laptop), yet the signal gets better.
Warning: any work you do on your laptop is at your own risk and you may void your warranty by opening up your laptop and attempting any repair work.
The method shown in the video works in this case; before they could only get a partial Wi-Fi signal even right next to the source and picked up no other nearby networks. After altering the Wi-Fi cards he was able to pick up full signal and also other nearby networks.
The video is also well reviewed, with plenty of comments from viewers saying this trick worked for them also, though of course it isn’t guaranteed to work for everyone.
Also not everyone likes the idea of opening up their laptop and messing about with components. We understand this; see below for more solutions which don’t involve messing around with your laptop. This option is a clever little solution but is more a last resort if all other steps fail and it is clear that the Wi-Fi card/antenna is the problem and not other factors.
2. Updating Drivers
Another step to take is to make sure the drivers on your laptop, particularly your network drivers, are fully up to date to make sure your Wi-Fi is operating as good as it can be. Driver updates are often released which can improve the performance of certain aspects of a computer, including the Wi-Fi, so it is important to make sure you have the most up to date network adapter drivers possible.
Many computers and operating systems have an “auto-update” feature for drivers, which should install newer versions automatically; nevertheless there are ways to do it manually:
- See here for a good video on updating drivers for Windows 7
- See here for a video for updating drivers for Windows 10
- It is usually the network drivers you to need to update to handle the Wi-Fi card and antennae.
3. Enabling Maximum Performance on Your Wi-Fi Card
Another easily solved cause of weak Wi-Fi is that the power settings are configured so that your laptop does not use the maximum possible performance from the Wi-Fi card when on battery or plugged in. Navigating to your laptop’s power options and make sure that your wireless adapter settings are set to maximum performance for both on battery and plugged in modes. Here is how to do it for Windows 7 and 10:
Accessing Power Options on Windows 7:
- Click on the Start Menu in the bottom left, then go to Control Panel
- Select the Hardware and Sound option, then Power Options
- Click Change Your Settings, then Change Advanced Power Settings
- Click Wireless Adapter Settings
- Make sure both On and Off Battery power modes are set to Maximum if not already. See if there is a difference in Wi-Fi performance.
Accessing Power Options on Windows 10:
- Click Start, then Settings, then System
- Select Power and Sleep, then Additional Power Settings
- Click Change Plan Settings, then change your Wireless Adapter Settings as detailed above.
Battery consumption will obviously increase setting these options, but can deliver a better Wi-Fi signal by allocating maximum system resources to your Wi-Fi card and antennae, especially when running off the battery alone.
What If I Don’t Want to Be Doing All This Repair Stuff?
We get it that some people just don’t want to be spending time unscrewing all the panels on their laptops, risking voiding their warranties (and possibly getting an electrical shock!) in the process.
Similarly, you can take your laptop to a local computer shop to get them to repair it or put a new Wi-Fi card or antenna in there, but the bill might be a little hefty. Are there not some other steps you can take to get a better internet signal when using your laptop in the home?
There are some steps you can take with your home network to try and get a better signal. Be aware though that if you get a poor Wi-Fi signal even when your laptop is right next to your router, and you don’t have this problem with other devices, then it is probably your Wi-Fi card/antenna in the laptop that is the issue, and that is ideally the thing you need to fix, even if it entails some cost or manual work.
However, here are some general steps you can try and take to get a better Wi-Fi signal:
- Move closer to the router.
- Move the router to a more central location in the house if possible.
- Reset the router.
- Reset your device.
- Use an ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi if possible, for a stronger connection.
If none of these steps work then you may have to use some home networking solutions to get a better internet connection around the home. Let’s look at some solutions in more detail below.
Powerline Adapters as a Home Networking Solution
Sometimes it may not so much be the Wi-Fi hardware in your laptop so much as the configuration of your home network that causes the Wi-Fi signal to weaken. If you notice for example that your laptop Wi-Fi has problems at home, or in certain rooms, yet seems to work fine in other places, then it is more your home network signal that is the issue.
As we mentioned, Wi-Fi is prone to dropping out, especially if you are several rooms or floors away from the router. The more obstacles a Wi-Fi signal has to pass through, like walls, floors and furniture, before it reaches a device, the more likely the signal is to degrade and lessen the bandwidth that is delivered, leading to the problems we mentioned with slow loading, buffering and so on.
In this case there are home networking products which can help you solve this problem, the most common of which are powerline adapters, which consist of a pair of adapter plugs, one which is plugged in and connected to your router, the other of which is plugged in and connected to your device.
The two plugs then communicate through the electrical wiring of the house to deliver a strong wired internet access point to any room you like, even several rooms away from the router.
It is a little known fact that copper wiring can be used to send data as well as electricity and they are ingenious home networking solutions, allowing for strong wired internet access to your router but by using the house’s existing electrical wiring instead of having to run long network cables through the house. They are plug and play devices requiring little or no setup and can extend reliable connectivity to all parts of the home.
The TP Link Nano TL-PA4010 Kit model is an entry level, best selling no nonsense powerline adapter model with just one ethernet port and no passthrough. Click here to view on Amazon. It will provide a solid, wired ethernet connection to your router using the existing electrical wiring of your house. See our full review of the product and our Powerline Adapters page. Our Product Comparison Table compares all the wired and wireless powerline adapter models at a glance by feature and functionality.
Powerline adapters will give you all the benefits of being on a wired connection, such as increased bandwidth and reliability, and avoid the problems of unreliability of Wi-Fi as the signals keeps dropping out. They are great for people wanting to stream, game and download at distance from the router who keeps having problems with the Wi-Fi signal.
What If My Laptop Does Not Have Ethernet or I Want To Stay on Wireless?
Some smaller laptops and notebooks of course do not have ethernet ports and can only connect with Wi-Fi. Some people also prefer using Wi-Fi anyway, since it allows for full portability of devices with no wires trailing around.
For these people that prefer to stay on wireless connections, then wireless powerline adapters are also available, which have both wired and wireless connection options.
They produce a strong, cloned wireless access point on the receiving end as well as having one or more ethernet ports, meaning you can connect your portable devices to this closer and stronger access point, giving you a more reliable signal than the main router further away.
You simply plug your second adapter in wherever the signal needs to be strong around the house, and connect your laptop to this instead of your main router.
More basic products like Wi-Fi boosters and range extenders are available, but in general they are less effective and only consist of one plug which catches and passes on the existing signal from the router.
Full wireless powerline adapter kits consist of two adapters and actually produce an entirely new access point so they are generally more effective than more basic extender models if you really want reliable wireless connectivity around the home. See our page for a breakdown of the different types of these models.
If you are looking for a more complete wireless networking solution across larger homes, then Wi-Fi mesh systems are also another option to consider. They consist of a kit of two or three nodes or pods, which are placed strategically around the home and which “catch” and extend the Wi-Fi signal from your main router to all parts of the house.
Different models are available depending on the size of the home you need to cover. They provide access to more of the available bandwidth of your internet package more consistently in more parts of the home, and have the added benefit of being all wireless devices for convenience.
They are however quite expensive pieces of kit, running into several hundred dollars for some models, and so are a bit of a stretch if you are struggling with weak Wi-Fi on just one laptop. They are a more complete solution if you want better Wi-Fi coverage across an entire property and are not just struggling with one device.
See our article covering the differences between mesh systems and powerline adapters for an overview of when each product might be a better solution. Powerline adapters are on the whole quite a bit cheaper than Wi-Fi mesh systems and are probably a better solution for fixing weak Wi-Fi on laptops if it originates more from the home network than the device itself.