Ways To Improve Your Wireless Network Signal

ttt-logoIf you’ve ever suffered from slow WiFi, you’re not alone. But there are a number of easy things you can do to try to speed up your wireless network.

The most common wireless problem I encounter is poor access point placement. Wireless access points should be placed as high as possible, such as on a bookshelf, and away from sources of interference like speakers and landline phones.

Building construction is also a factor. Try moving your computer in relation to the access point. If possible, line-of-sight gives best performance.

If you have an older wireless router, consider replacing it. The newer devices have improved speeds and are better at resisting interference. Similarly, older computers will be slower on wireless networks.

Make sure it’s a wireless problem and not an overall network problem. If you’re still experiencing slowness when you plug in your computer manually, it’s not just the wireless. Try rebooting your router and/or modem according to your Internet provider’s instructions. Using a surge protector will prevent equipment damage due to brownouts or blackouts.

If there is a virus infestation on your network, this can also cause a slowdown as the virus tries to call home to its command servers. Run antivirus scans on all computers, and be especially wary of ransomware.


Top Five Computer Nightmares, And How To Fix Them

Since the 1980s I’ve been fixing computers that won’t start up, won’t print, or can’t find files. The Internet adds an extra level of complexity, but we’re still facing the same basic tech support problems.

1. Your computer won’t start up.
There are three possibilities: your computer isn’t getting any power, it can’t find the hard drive, or there’s something wrong with your system software. The latter is by far the most common, and may be the result of a virus, a program conflict, or just bad luck.

First, try powering your computer down. If it doesn’t start up, follow the prompts on the screen. But don’t expect your PC to work properly in Safe Mode, which is meant as a diagnostic tool only. Once you’re in you need to find what caused the error and fix it. Likely suspects are new programs or devices. Run your virus scanner not just once, but several times. If your startup failure is caused by a virus you may need a tool like Malwarebytes to get rid of it completely. Reboot several times to make sure things are working, and make an immediate backup (but don’t overwrite the old one in case you still need it).

2. You can’t print.
Once again, three possibilities: the printer has no power, it’s not connected to the computer, or there’s a software error. Let’s assume you’ve tried rebooting and you’ve checked the cables. If you’ve printed successfully in the past, then it’s probably a problem with the software or file. Try a different file as well as a different program. You can look up any error messages or misbehavior on the printer’s support site. As a last resort you can unplug your printer, remove its software, and reinstall according to manufacturer instructions.

3. Your data is missing.
The default directory for Windows XP files is My Documents. In Vista and Windows 7 it’s Documents, as it is for Mac users. But this is just the default location; files can be saved almost anywhere. If your file or folder isn’t where you expect, try searching for it by name or date.

What if all your data is gone? If your desktop also looks different, you may be logged in under the wrong account. Check under the Start menu in Windows or the Apple menu on a Mac to see your login name.

In the previous case the data was simply misplaced. What if it really is gone? The sooner you try to recover a file, the better your chances of success, although it’s far easier to recover from a backup. In truly grim situations you might have to send your drive to a data recovery service.

4. You can’t get on the Internet.
Sometimes it’s not your Internet connection, just one specific program. But if none of your Internet applications are working and a reboot doesn’t help, it’s time for some diagnostics.

First, check your cables and the lights on our router and/or DSL modem. As I explained in a previous article, you should familiarize yourself with what “normal” looks like for your setup so you know what “not normal” looks like. Power everything off and back on, wait a few moments, and try again.

If it’s a wireless problem you may be able to connect with a wire, and this is a good way to determine if it’s just the wireless or the whole network.

5. You can’t open an attachment.
This almost always means your computer doesn’t know which program to use. You should be able to open anything with a common file type: TXT, DOC, PDF, JPG. But you might receive an attachment created in a program you don’t have. One common example of this is receiving a DOCX file, the new Word format that replaced DOC. If you can’t open DOCX files you either need a plug-in for your word processing program (typically free to download) or the person who created the file needs to resave as DOC.

Once you get the hang of common tech support problems, they waste less of your time.


Five Ways To Fix Your Internet Connection

We’ve all been there. You’ve got something vital to do, you click on your Web browser and… nothing. Hourglass. Spinning beachball. Page Not Found.

Never fear, many Internet problems are easily repaired. Here are my top five ways to fix your Internet connection.

  1. Reboot your computer. It’s possible your computer is simply misbehaving itself, in which case a reboot will clear up the problem. This is especially true if other computers on your network are still able to see the Internet.
  2. Reboot your network. Turn off your computer(s), your router, and your DSL or cable modem. Leave them off about thirty seconds, then turn them back on in reverse order waiting a minute or two between devices.
  3. Examine the blinky lights. The lights on modems and routers give you lots of good info. You should jot down what they look like when they’re working so you can recognize when they’re not. Typically you’ll have a steady green Power light, a flickering Activity or LAN light, and a green light for the Internet (might be called WAN or DSL). You may have other lights depending on your device. Check your manufacturer’s Web site for manuals that will explain which lights should be steady, which should flicker, and which may turn amber or red if there’s an error.
  4. Check the cables. You’d be surprised the number of times a simple loose wire is the culprit. Shut down your computer and check all the cords coming out of it, as well as all the cords coming out of your router and modem. Unplug each and plug it back in, but be sure to put it back in the same place!
  5. Is the Internet light out? If the Internet or DSL light is out, the problem is likely with your service provider. You should contact their support and have them test to see if your connection is active.

If you like I can help you document your setup on my next service visit. I’ll show you what the lights on your router represent, and I’ll label your wires in case you need to unplug them in the future.

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Why Cleaning Prolongs Your Computer’s Lifespan

If it seems like your computer is the dustiest thing in your house, you’re probably right. Computers attract dust through static electricity, especially on their internal components. But dust is death to a computer. Cleaning on a regular basis can increase the lifespan of your hardware.

For best effect you’ll want to clean your computer inside and out. This involves taking off the computer case. Most cases have a side panel that either unscrews or pops off. If you check your manufacturer’s web site you should be able to find specific instructions.

Use a can of compressed air to blow out the dust. Pay particular attention to the computer’s fan. If the fan clogs your computer will overheat and likely fail at some point. Also blow out any dust in the vents on the computer case, to keep air flowing and temperatures down.

The same can be said of other devices such as network routers and wireless access points. You won’t want to unscrew the cases for these, but you should blow the dust out of the vents to keep them from getting clogged. Printers gather not only dust but tiny particulates from paper. You can use compressed air to keep the paper path clean. For keyboards, a combination of compressed air and isopropyl alcohol works well.

What about your screen? Don’t bother with commercial screen cleaners. Instead, use a soft cotton cloth with perhaps a bit of distilled water but no solvents. Modern LCDs can be scratched by dust particles and damaged by alcohol-based cleaners.

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Solve Problems By Replacing Your Old Router

routerIf your Internet connection is slow or unreliable, it may be due to an old router.

Routers that are more than a few years old predate current network technologies. While these old routers may still work, they often don’t work at peak efficiency, and may even make your connection so intermittent as to be unusable. Replacing them can be an inexpensive way to improve your Internet performance.

I have also seen this problem with old cable and DSL modems. If you contact your Internet provider they will tell you if your modem is still supported. The trick is, you have to ask; they will not be proactive in contacting you to let you know your modem is out of date, and they may not recognize the cause if you call to report problems.

A new router can also improve your network security, as the latest consumer devices now include firewall technologies previously available only on more expensive business-class models. If you have an older wireless router (wireless B or G), upgrading to a wireless N device can boost your speed. While you’re at it, you should check your network cables to make sure they’re still good quality.

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