Like practically everyone else on the planet, I have a wireless network at home. I use a wireless router to share my broadband connection with all six (or seven or eight, depending on whether either of my kids happens to be visiting) PCs in the house. And, like practically everyone else on the planet, I’m not always happy with the connectivity I achieve.
You see, my wireless router resides in the furnace room in the basement. The furnace room is also kinda like the server room, because all the cabling for phone, cable TV, and wired LAN converge there in a junction box. My wireless router also has four wired LAN ports, so it makes sense for it to be located in the furnace room, too. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the most ideal location for getting a wireless signal to all other parts of the house–especially considering that my house has three floors.
There are other factors that come into play, too. How many other wireless networks are in range? What channels do they use? What happens if I change the locations of my wireless adapters, or I reorient the antennas on my router? The default Windows XP wireless network manager will tell me if it sees other wireless networks and will give me a rough indicator of signal strength, but it doesn’t tell me what channels they use. This turns out to be important information.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon the Practically Networked web site. It’s full of great information aimed at helping home users set up, maintain, and troubleshoot their home networks. And, in their article “The Free Windows Networking Toolkit: 10 Must-Have Apps,” they referred to a cool app called inSSIDer. This little baby tells you pretty-much everything you need to know as you’re trying to troubleshoot or optimize your wireless network.
I have it running as I type this, and it’s currently detecting eleven wireless networks (including mine). I can tell which wireless networks are using channels that overlap with mine, so I can know to move to a different channel to reduce possible interference. I can make changes to location and antenna orientation and immediately see what impact that has on the signal strength. How cool is that?
I’ve always had issues with wireless connectivity on my main floor, and after seeing inSSIDer’s display, it became clear to me that many of my neighbors were using the same wireless channel as me. Moving to a different channel appears to have improved that connectivity, as well as making a few adjustments to the orientation of the wireless router antennas.
Unfortunately, I still get knocked offline momentarily when the phone rings. It’s a 2.4-GHz cordless phone. I’m going to replace it with one of the new DECT 6.0 phones that’s supposed to not interfere with wireless networks. I’ll let you know how it goes.