Browsing slowing to a crawl, the inability to stream, dropped Wi-Fi signals, wireless dead zones—every one of these problems is maddening in a world where getting online has become, for some, as necessary as breathing. Well, maybe not that critical, but important. If the only way you can get decent reception is to be in the same room as your wireless router, these simple tips can help optimize your network. Distance is the most obvious problem—there is a certain optimal range that the wireless signal can travel. If the network has to cover an area larger than the router is capable of transmitting to, or if there are lots of corners to go around and walls to penetrate, performance will take a hit. Interference is also a big issue, especially for those who live in densely populated areas. Signals from other wireless networks and electronics can impact speeds, as can physical obstructions, such as walls. Many phone systems and other wireless devices can also interfere with signals. This is a good thing to consider when you are shopping for a new phone system—many of them use DECT 6.0 nowadays, which coexists very nicely with standard Wi-Fi networks. It’s also possible the problem isn’t interference or other networks. Is there a chance you have unwanted guests piggybacking on your network? You can always look at your router’s administrator interface to see how many devices are connected. Or use a network analyzer tool to see if you have unknown machines on your network. If it’s an open network, close it. Set up security—preferably WPA2, as WEP isn’t as strong—and put in a strong password that’s hard for others to guess.