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I recently changed to a different internet provider, and at the same time I installed a wireless router at home, so now my machine connects to the wifi instead of a cable.

Since then I've been experiencing momentary (but severe) drops in speed that last a few seconds and happen every 20 minutes or so (this number actually varies a lot). This usually manifests more clearly as a terrible lags while online gaming.

I had never experienced any of this before, so I'm wondering: How can I test if the lousy sinal quality is due to a lousy router or a lousy internet provider?

EDIT:Forgot to mention: Since I installed the wireless router, both the router and the modem are pretty far from my computer, so getting a cable from one to the other will require a pretty long cable going from room to room (which I do not have). I do have another machine connected directly to the router, I'll try playing on it for a while to see what happens.

EDIT2:I just got a gadget on my desktop showing the wifi signal strenght. It is usually around 40-42, but sometimes drops to 30 ou lower. I'm thinking this drops will coincide with the high pings. If so, I know it's a wireless problem.

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Which internet provider were you with and who are you with now? Assuming your internet provider is the same, then wired will be better for gaming than wireless. There is less latency on a wired connection. You need wired if you're going to play any real-time strategy games or first person shooters. –  sunk818 Aug 18 at 21:11

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Check with a wired connection directly into your modem - if it persists, it's your ISP. Then check with a wired connection going through your router - if it persists, then it's a problem with your router. Finally, if that all works fine, it's the wireless portion of your connection that is bad. Check with another computer to see if it's your wireless NIC or the router.

Be sure there are no electrical obstacles between your computer and the router, you'd be surprised what can interfere with wireless connections.

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The router has quite a few eletrical devices around it, but there's nothing actually between it and my machine. Could that be it? I'll try moving stuff around a little. –  Malabarba Oct 26 '09 at 20:12
    
It shouldn't, but you'd be surprised. It can't hurt to try relocating your router temporarily. I have a printer right next to mine, and it works fine, but if i have the power cable for my printer too high up it causes problems, for example. –  Dmatig Oct 27 '09 at 16:20
    
Moving stuff didn't really help. I got a gadget on my desktop showing the signal strenght. It is usually around 40-42, but sometimes drops to 30 ou lower. I'm thinking this drops will coincide with the high pings. If so, I know it's a wireless problem. –  Malabarba Oct 28 '09 at 17:25

Hook your computer up directly to your modem and run some tests (Speedtest.net is a good one) and use it for a period of time. If it works well, it's your network at home. If you still have the same problems, it's your ISP.

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Hooking it up directly is not an easy option, but I'll try repetittively running some tests on the other PC. –  Malabarba Oct 26 '09 at 18:08
    
Running pingtest.net on the computer thats connected to the modem didn't turn up any peeks in ping, and always resulted in an A grade. But, to be fair, I'll have to keep trying for at least 20 minutes to be sure if it's not hapenning there too. Even on my machine I had to keep trying a lot for the pingtest to catch it. I think I might just install some light online game there and play it for an hour or so. That should be enough to remove doubts. –  Malabarba Oct 26 '09 at 20:09
    
Ping test and speed test is not as useful, since you want to know what your speeds are like to the game server. –  sunk818 Aug 18 at 21:09

The first thing I'd do is check that you're not using a default, out-of-the-box SSID on your wireless router. If this is the case, and a neighbor has the same SSID within range of your PC, then it's very possible (probable) that your PC is bouncing back and forth between your network and your neighbor's and you're experiencing poor performance due to the low signal that you have from your neighbor's router.

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No, it's not the default. Really didn't know that could happen, though. –  Malabarba Oct 26 '09 at 18:10

I assume from your description that you're running Windows.

If you have passed from wired to wireless connection, this is a "normal" functioning of the wireless networks under Windows. Every so often it will scan for new networks, even if you're already connected to one.

The solution is a small frewware called WLAN Optimize:

A small freeware tool for Windows Vista / 7 (XP with limitations) disabling the periodical background scan activity for wireless networks. It improves latency time of wireless connections. Hence it is useful for people with wireless connections getting lag spikes (especially during online gaming, audio and video streaming). The application automatically tries to optimize your wireless connection when started. If it works for you, you can make it launch when Windows session starts (e. g. minimized to tray). Closing WLAN Optimizer will restore Windows standard values.

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Tried it. I checked the "Disable Background Scan" box a hit save, but it didn't work. –  Malabarba Oct 26 '09 at 20:02
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Could you be getting interference from your neighbors? Maybe try another channel on the router (11 is nicely orthogonal). –  harrymc Oct 26 '09 at 21:32

I use Notebook, Tablet and Phone. At first all 3 worked bad. My router is for 2.4GHz band.

I used freeware named WiFiInfoView, checked what channels are used by all networks in reach. ("WiFi Info View" is small and free, no ads and no install. Just run the EXE file and read.) Almost all of my neighbors use channels 1, 6 and 11.

When I moved my router from Auto Channel to Channel 10 all troubles went off like charm. My problems were not with my provider, modem or computer(s), but with "ignoring neighborhood". (My Aztec required reboot to start working on new channel.)

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