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I have had a Netgear WGR614v10 router for some time now (probably a year) and it has been a good router up to now. However, lately I am having a problem with signal strength, even though I have not moved the router or any of the computers connected to it wirelessly.

On the Windows wifi monitor icon in the system tray, the signal strength will go from 2 to 5 to 2 to 4 to 1 to 5 bars back and forth every 30 seconds or so. This happens to every wifi device I have, so I doubt it's my computer. It used to stay at 5 bars constantly, rarely if ever dropping to 4.

Given that this has only started happening lately, should I buy a new router or is there something that I can do to the current one to get the signal strength to stop fluctuating and stay at 5 bars like it used to? I have already tried changing the channel but that didn't help at all.

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It is possible that a new environmental variable was introduced and is interfering, try changing the channel and see if there is any improvement. –  MaQleod Aug 26 '11 at 19:21
    
@MaQleod I have tried that and it didn't help; sorry I forgot to mention that. –  Seth Carnegie Aug 26 '11 at 19:22
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2 Answers

Odds are that an foreign radio signal is interfering with yours. You can get a high gain antenna to combat this problem.

Also, it couldnt hurt to make sure your router is at the latest firmware. Every so often patches do increase signal strength and reliability.

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If you read the manual for all wifi products, they basically say that they dont guarantee their product will work at all. There are to many factors that can affect their performance. In my old house I could sit on my couch with my laptop and get a full signal on the left cushion. If I were sit on the middle cushion, I had no signal at all. On the right cushion, 50% signal. That was frustrating. I bought the antenna I linked in the answer and now I never have signal strength issues. –  Keltari Aug 26 '11 at 22:08
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As long as your experience is still good, then I wouldn't worry about it.

A newer router (802.11n or pre-802.11ac) will generally provide more range/coverage than your current router, but this is also at least partially dependent on the capabilities of the wireless devices connecting to it. If you do decide to buy new, I would recommend buying routers/client devices with "dual band" capability. While they tend to cost more, this adds a new frequency range to communicate on that does not have as many other types of devices using it.

However, before spending any money, I would look for sources of radio interference and try to fix any you find. This could improve your existing WiFi and if they are currently negatively impacting your WiFi, they will continue to negatively impact your WiFi even with a new router.

You can use a free tool like Metageek's inSSIDer (http://www.metageek.net/products/inssider/) to look for neighboring networks. If you check the 2.4 GHz channel graph, you will see that WiFi actually uses a frequency range, rather than just a single frequency. To avoid overlap, WiFi devices should really only use channels 1, 6, and 11 although many of them will auto select other channels. Find which of those channels has the fewest networks overlapping it and try using that channel.

Following that, look for (and reduce or eliminate when possible) non-WiFi sources of interference, especially those near the router. Here is a quick list of some devices I have found in 2.4 GHz (but by no means complete):

  • Cordless phones
  • Microwaves (generally only when operating)
  • Bluetooth or other PAN wireless devices (keyboards, mice, etc)
  • Game systems (Wii, Playstation3, Xbox360) - Note: I have observed a number of Xbox360's that communicate with their controllers even when "off" and only go silent when unplugged
  • Video cameras - these can be a huge source of RF noise
  • Baby monitors
  • Doorbells
  • 2-way radios (walkie-talkies)
  • Zigbee devices (not common in homes, and in US often run in 900 MHz)
  • Cars (some car alarms, some tire pressure monitors, etc)
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