The Prescott Computer Society: Router signal is spotty

Q. My home router's wireless signal is rather spotty. In some locations my mobile devices lose their connections completely and I can't get online. What can I do to fix this problem?

A. Wireless (also known as Wi-Fi) signal problems can be difficult to track down and may require the help of a professional with specialized equipment. But the good news is that you can do a large part of the initial detective and correction work on your own at little or no cost. Android users should first obtain a Wi-Fi analyzer app. Most of these apps will give you a visual indication of Wi-Fi signal strength at any location. This information may help you determine the extent and source of your problem. I use WiFi Analyzer, which is available at http://wifianalyzer.mobi.

In general, these apps will show you the signal strength and security restrictions of any Wi-Fi signal in the area. Find the network that's yours and walk around your house checking the areas where you normally lose connection to your router. It may be that there's just too much distance for your signal to travel or there's some obstruction in the way (such as a big refrigerator). There could even be something such as a microwave oven or wireless telephone which operates on the same signal band as your Wi-Fi.

Possible easy fixes include repositioning the router, modifying its antenna or changing channels of the router's signals. While this may sound extremely technical, it really doesn't have to be. Googling the phrase: "troubleshoot wifi network" will bring up a multitude of free fixes you should try before calling a pro to deal with your situation. An example of some basic fixes can be found at: http://www.pcworld.com/article/260524/how_to_fix_your_wi_fi_network_7_tips.html.

Try all the free or low-cost fixes suggested by different websites before asking for professional help. It's possible that you will need additional equipment (such as a Wi-Fi repeater) to get your signal to a remote or shielded area. You might even need a new router, which will be able to penetrate multiple walls easier. But just try the easy fixes first!

The Prescott Computer Society (PCS) is a PC-based users group founded in Prescott over 25 years ago. Our monthly Saturday meetings help you get more out of your computer while keeping it safe from virus attacks. For further information, please visit us at www.PCS4me.com. Email questions for future columns to PCSquestions@gmail.com.