Clean Up a Wireless Signal By Changing The Channel

Note: This may or may not work for you, but it doesn’t cost anything to try.

Also note: If your wireless router is operating properly, you don’t need to do this.

Wireless routers all come shipped using a predefined channel. There are 11 channels.

If you notice that your wireless signal drops for apparently no reason and/or the connection is spotty at best even though you’re in close range, the channel your wireless router is using may be the problem. It could very well be that other wireless routers in your area are using the same channel, or there is some kind of interference that’s interrupting the transmission.

When you change the channel you do not need to do anything to your computer setup; your wireless card will automatically detect whatever new channel you choose.

The first step is to use a utility called NetStumbler to see if other wireless routers are using the same channel you are.

This is what a NetStumbler report looks like:

nstumb.jpg

The channel list is on the right. Mine is first in the list. I noticed that other wireless routers near me were using channels 6, 9 and 11 – so I changed mine to 3. I immediately noticed an improvement in the quality of signal.

The way I changed my channel was by going into my router configuration program via my web browser. I use a Belkin router and it looked like this:

brouter.jpg

All I had to do was pick a new channel from the drop-down menu and apply it. The router restarted using wireless channel 3 and I’ve been using it ever since.

A few notes:

  • This will not increase the speed of data transfer, but it will increase the stability of the connection.
  • Your wireless range is not increased, but a cleaner signal should allow you to connect from 75 feet away with no problems (assuming there’s not too many obstructions.)
  • If range is your concern, consider buying a low-cost second wireless router and use it as a WAP to extend range.

Comments

  1. I found your blog via Google while searching for and your post regarding PC Mechanic looks very interesting for me

  2. hi. i tried the netstumbler but it does not work for me. it says at the bottom no wireless adapter found. i tried it using my desktop which is hard-wired to the router, and the laptop which is wireless connected. (im having issues with signal strength with the wireless. sometimes it drops to 2 bars.)
    where do you find the router configuration program? I’m using a DI-524 d-link router.
    please help!
    thanks

  3. If a wireless adapter is not found, this is typically due to the fact that Windows itself is managing the wireless device. This can be switched over using manufacturer-provided software. For example, the Intel PROSet/Wireless does have its own software which is compatible with NetStumbler.

    The wireless router program is accessed by typing in the router’s IP address in your web browser. You can either consult your wireless router’s documentation to find out what the IP address is, or by typing IPCONFIG from a Command Prompt and using the Default Gateway IP address.

  4. All bad ideas. Using channels other than 1,6,11 will cause overlapping channels – where if the signal strength is sufficient, packets on both networks will be corrupted – 3 recieves interference from 1 and 6 and vice versa.

  5. The channels in 802.11 are actually a lot wider than they seem. While the channels are 22mhz wide they are only 5.5mhz apart. John is right, you should only ever use Channel 1, 6 or 11. Channel 1 bleeds up to channel 3, Channel 6 bleeds down to 4 and up to 8, 11 bleeds down to 9. They overlap.

    To recap:

    Only ever use channel 1, 6 or 11.

  6. “This can be switched over using manufacturer-provided software. For example, the Intel PROSet/Wireless does have its own software which is compatible with NetStumbler.”
    - can you tell me more about this please, Rich?

  7. Most default gateways for d-link routers and linksys routers are http://192.168.1.1 and the default password is usually admin. but if your using a netgear i think the gateways is the same but the default user name is admin and the password is password.

    hope this helped anyone in need.

  8. Googled my issue and this site was on the first page. Just want to say thanks for sharing this info. I was literally pulling my hair out trying to figure out why my consoles and pda’s were dropping signals. A quick change of my Belkin router to channel 11, and all my wireless devices connected right away! It’s always the simplest things. Thanks again fellas.

  9. Thank you very much, this helped me a lot. And the NetStumbler just works fine here. I just found out that I wasn’t the only one on channel 11, also 6 was used much and #13 by my neigbour. So I also moved to channel 3.

  10. I love these self-appointed networking experts who tell us to only use channels 1, 6, and 11. Despite what the author says (i.e. “I changed mine to 3. I immediately noticed an improvement in the quality of signal.”), and despite what any given user may experience. Yes, let’s all follow rote advice, and ignore actual results. I changed to channel 3 and immediately noticed fewer wireless problems–my wireless connection was much more stable. Should I stick to 1, 6, or 11 and suffer terrible reliability?

    Sometimes a little knowledge is worse than no knowledge at all. People like the above prove this daily.

  11. i type in my routers ip address to change the channel but the page doesnt work it never finds it for me

  12. LAKSHMANAN says:

    i have toshiba laptop with inbuilt wirless moderm.in wirelss properties icould not able clear the ip address.

  13. I don’t claim to be an RF guru, but I do manage an environment with 140 WAP’s… many of which in close proximity and can tell you from personal experience and RF consultant recommendation that I changed TO the standard 1,6, and 11 channels and it significantly helped stablize users connectivity. Those are “actual” results.

  14. After suddenly experiencing drop out problems with my wireless router I switched to channel 7 from 11 and it has never worked better.
    My neighbours were mostly on channels 3 and 6 so I’m sure why I was even having problems in the first place!?!
    I’m confused.com

  15. stephen says:

    So what is the consensus. I have 2 WAP, one on each floor (floors 5 and 6) and we have had some sptty connectivity issues. I was wondering if changing the channels to 4 and 8 would be a good first step.

  16. This has not worked for me I am afraid. How would I set up a wap with a netgear DG834GT? I have not got a clue how to do this.
    Thanks

  17. Tyler Adkisson says:

    A product that can help you find interference causing problems to WiFi networks is the Wi-Spy from MetaGeek

    http://www.metageek.net/products/wi-spy-comparison

    The lowest priced Wi-Spy is the 2.4i at $99

  18. I took your advice after hours of mucking around with the laptop virtually sat on top of the router, and bingo channel 11 works perfectly
    Thank you

  19. I have a lot of routers in my apartment building that my network card picks up (14-16 of ‘em). 40% are set to channel 1, and 40% are set to channel 6, 20% set to channel 11. I was having my wireless router drop all devices on my network at least 3-4 times day. I changed to channel 9 which partially overlaps into channel 11, but hopefully does not interfere with the 80% of cards on channels 1&6.

    It has been working significantly better. No drops now in 3 days…

    So, to any real RF experts out there… doesn’t my approach make more sense as it minimizes my overlap? Wouldn’t setting my channel to 1,6,or 11 result in total (100%) overlap of signal?

  20. Perhaps, I don’t know for sure, you may be advised to set to 1 6 or 11 because that is where the signals are strongest possible. Of course, if there is a ton of interference there then it wouldn’t be optimal. Just a guess.

  21. How about: “your mileagemay vary…”

    If you use a non-overlapping channel, that’s arguably “the best solution”.

    If you don’t then you may be causing problems for other folks (on the overlapped channels), but it might be “the best solution” (for you)

    And, of course, proximity has a good deal to do with it.

    In my case, NetStumbler worked for me, and it gave me the info I wanted/needed, and that helped me choose an “unoccupied” channel, and that’s working well for me.

    That said, the issues of “noise” from “other devices” in the 2.4Ghz range is a related factor. I switched my 2.4Ghz phones out for 5.8Ghz phones, and that helped, too.

  22. Octoplayer says:

    Instead of Netstumbler – you may like inSSIDer, this little program has a graph showing the signal strength against channel, and a chart of strength v time.
    It comes from metageek.net (like wi-spy mentioned earlier, and is free.
    The graphs make it nice and clear just how much interference and overlapping is likely.

  23. I must chime in here do to the lack of understanding or at least the simplified explanations. Signals have five things working against them, technically two. Interference of other wireless adapters that you can see on inSSIDer etc. Then there is the other items in your house neighborhood that you cannot see that interfere. Distance from your router/access point. Distance from others. Then there is channel overlap. Which all boils down to interference and distance to signal.

    The overlap is where the simplified explanation confuses people. Technically if people didn’t use channel 6 and instead used 4 or 8 you would have 4 channels, 1, 4, 8, and 11 that could be used that would not “overlap.” The problem with overlap is it is similar to distance and in ways works with or against distance. The closer your channel is to another channel the more overlap you have. But also the closer your distance is the more overlap you will have. So if you have a person 10 feet from you using channel 6 and you use channel 5 you might as well be both using channel 6 due to the overlap and distance being so close. Now if the two points are over say 100 feet away using channel 5 and 6 it would be similar to using a router on channel 1 and 6 that are only 10 feet apart in range. There will be little to no interference. That is why some people are experiencing huge gains from dropping 1 channel. On the flip side if there was truly zero overlap you could have two routers on channel 1 and 6 with antennas an inch apart and not see drops in signal quality, which is not the case. The case is that minor distance overcomes the overlap interference of the traditional 1, 6 and 11 channels or 1, 4, 8, 11 and that is why they call it non overlapping channels, 1, 4, 8, 11 take more distance then the 1, 6, 11 but not by much.

    The reason you might be on channel 11 by yourself and experiencing very poor connections with no overlapping channels can be due to some of the outside interferences you cannot see with typical scanners. Using inSSIDer’s dBm to measure signal strength will show you interference levels in a channel but not tell you what is causing them outside of wireless a,b,g and n adapter.

    Now with that being said, the reason you want to use 1, 6, 11 or 1, 4, 8, 11 is to avoid interference with others, call it wireless manners if you will. If you are close to someone and you are using channel 3 and they are also close to someone using channel 9 they realistically may not have a channel to use that wouldn’t experience some form of interference. Though realistically this won’t work in all residential situations as well as it does in an office that you control the entire wireless network for that area.

    Often times I find in residential areas channels will be set on 1, 6, and 11. Often I will find that using 1, 6 and 11 will all resort in some sort of dropped signal. So I look for the two weakest interference channels. If 1 and 6 have the weakest signals compared to 11 I can offset it to say 4 to minimize interference and have the best performance. Which is probably similar to why some of you have experienced increases in performance on an odd channel. Though the flip side to this is that the interference from the amount of users in that area can amount to more than either using 1, 6, or 11. Typically this is never the case and just finding that sweet point where your signal is the strongest is all that it takes.

    The following pictures show how signals fade through the channel spectrum.
    http://img.tomshardware.com/us/myimages/NTK/superg_ntk_11b_adjacent_chans_alt.gif

    http://img.tomshardware.com/us/myimages/NTK/superg_ntk_11b_1_6_11.gif

    From the pictures you can see that technically 6 barely overlaps with 1 and 11.

  24. Jay Dogg says:

    I got my HP DV7 in december. When I first got it I had full bars in my basement, it was great. I took a vacation, and when I came back- no settings changed on my laptop or the computer with the wireless router- I only get 2 bars. We have tried everything, from changing the channel to building small antenna to help amplify the signal. I do not understand, I pick up my neighbors internet in the basement and get more bars from theirs. How is it possible that I used to have full bars and now I have 2? ANY ideas or feedback would be greatly appreciated.

  25. One thing that I found through my own experience is that you have to survey your site with smartphone apps such as Wifi Analyzer or the like. It gives you a better understanding of what your specific situation is like. Once you know what your open channels are your can then freely configure your AP’s. Still sticking to the 1,6,11 rule to prevent overlapping

  26. Channel 11 can sometimes be a difficult as it borderlines with other RFequipment that might be near the building/room in those cases I juggle around the mix of 1,6,11 until I find a happy balance

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