Fall has only just arrived. Soon, however, the clocks will be going back. Then the cold season will really begin. For most people, that means spending more time indoors. Realistically, that means spending more time on the Internet. With that in mind, here are seven tips for getting the best from your home technology.
Consider adding some ethernet cabling
If you work from home (or if you’re a serious gamer), then you might want to invest in some old-fashioned ethernet cabling. For all WiFi has improved over the years, ethernet still has the edge on speed, reliability, and security. Adding ethernet cabling to your home may increase its attractiveness to potential buyers. After all, everybody relies on the Internet these days.
Upgrade your router
There are two factors that determine how well your home Internet works. The obvious one is speed. The less obvious one is traffic management. Your ability to manage your traffic depends partly on the actual router and partly on the firmware it uses.
If you have a lot of online-capable devices (e.g. smart devices) then it really is worth investing in a router with decent traffic-management capabilities. Then get the most out of it by installing third-party firmware optimized for that purpose.
You will need to make the time to set up your new router how you like it. That said, this may be easier than you might think. For example, some third-party firmware options come pre-configured to suit most homes. You just have to go into them and make any customizations you need to suit your lifestyle.
Take care of your router
As fall and winter start to take hold, the chances are that you’ll be turning up the heating in your home. That’s fine for humans (and pets) but it can make life hard for your router. Its life will be even harder if it’s stuck next to a pile of technical gadgets which are giving off heat. Routers don’t like being hidden in boxes either.
Ideally, put your router somewhere it can stay cool. If you really must hide it, try just putting something in front of it rather than putting it in a box. That way there should at least be some airflow. If that doesn’t work, try putting it in a basket or a box without a lid.
Reboot your router at least once a month. This will make sure that it picks up any firmware updates. These may improve its performance. Even if they don’t, they will almost certainly improve its security. When you reboot your router, wait about 10 seconds, before switching it on again. This makes sure that the capacitors (tiny batteries) empty completely.
For completeness, if you do experience Internet issues, then rebooting your router will often solve them. Basically, it forces the router to take some time out and when it restarts it checks for the correct settings. Generally, it finds them and the problem is solved.
Add WiFi boosters
WiFi can be very sensitive to environmental conditions. This means that it’s particularly likely to play up in fall and winter. It doesn’t help that fall and winter are exactly the times when most people are likely to be spending a lot of time indoors using the Internet.
There are two main ways you can boost your Wifi. You can use them independently or together. Wifi extenders can be plugged into any wall socket. They connect over the air to your WiFi network and amplify the signal in the area(s) where they are located.
WiFi powerline kits need one powerline plug to be physically cabled to your router. This generally means there needs to be a spare wall socket nearby. You put the other powerline plugs wherever you have spare wall sockets. The first powerline plug will draw network signal from your router and broadcast it through the electrical cabling to the other plugs.
WiFi extenders are great for dealing with Internet blackspots in your home. WiFi powerline kits are great for giving your WiFi signal a general boost, especially near where the plugs are. Both WiFi extenders and WiFi boosters tend to give slower signals than your main router. This means that it’s best to position them near the gadgets you want to benefit from them.
If you want to speed up the connection to your computer but don’t have ethernet cable, look for a WiFi booster with an ethernet port. Position it near your computer and run an ethernet cable from your computer to the WiFi booster. This is highly unlikely to give you the same speed and reliability as a proper ethernet cable. It can, however, be a lot better than WiFi on its own.
Check you’re using the right VPN
Even though all VPNs serve much the same purpose, there can be noticeable differences in how they operate. In a home environment, you generally want the best VPN for streaming. This is particularly important if you’re into gaming (or your kids are). It also makes sure that you can watch videos without constant buffering.
You should put a VPN on your phones and tablets as well as your desktops and laptops. You probably use them a lot for getting online, even when you’re at home. That means they need protection too.
Have a proper digital detox
It’s amazing how much the performance of a gadget can improve just by giving it a proper, deep-down clean. If you really can’t face a massive detox in one step, then get a portable hard drive and dump everything onto that. Then commit to going through it over fall and winter. Frankly, if you haven’t found and organized it by spring, you probably don’t need it.
Similarly, purge your apps and your browser extensions. They may not look like much but they can make a serious difference to how well your tech performs. In particular, having a ton of extensions can really slow down your browser. If you can’t face deleting them, then at least turn them off unless you’re actually using them.
This is also a good opportunity to close off any Internet accounts you don’t use and unsubscribe from emails you don’t read. Honestly, this is unlikely to make your tech perform any better. It can, however, do a lot to protect your security. Quite bluntly, the fewer sites have your personal data, the less at risk it is. This is worth a bit of effort.
Give your gadgets a physical clean
You need to take care of your gadgets from the outside as well as the inside. This can improve their performance. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll certainly make them pleasanter to use. If you have a desktop computer and keep it at floor level, then disconnect it and thoroughly clean the floor around your work area. Then clean the outside of the computer with a microfiber cloth.
Microfiber cloths are the best way to clean most tech equipment. For screens, you might also want to use a proper spray or screen wipe. The key is to work gently. If you apply too much pressure, you could end up breaking your technology. Except for screen wipes, never use liquid to clean your gadgets.
Usually, the best way to clean your keyboard is with a hand-held vacuum cleaner. Keyboard slime can be great for more robust keyboards. It can, however, be a bit too much for more delicate ones. Compressed air can be useful for cleaning keyboards if there is plenty of space between the keys. If there isn’t, then compressed air can actually pack in the dirt.
Clean all your small accessories (especially headphones) and check their condition. If you see that they’re getting worse for wear, order in spares now. If you wait until you actually need them, you may find they’re out of stock.