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On my Windows computer, the wifi indicator shows 4-5 bars out of 5 most of the time - I conclude that the signal is strong.

My internet is occasionally very slow - between 1/5th and 1/100th (sometimes even completely inoperable) of the speed my ISP advertises. I know that in my area, it is the norm for internet speeds to be about 1/5th of the advertised rate.

However, there is reason to believe that dropping to 1/100th is not normal. I wonder, could the problem be due to my wifi connection?

Case for WLAN issue:

  • Nudging the antennae of my wireless adapter card with my foot sometimes makes the connection slightly better (I mean the perceived internet responsiveness, not necessarily the number of bars).
  • The large metal body of the computer stands between the computer and the source of the signal (the router) and could be causing interference or blocking it.

Case against WLAN:

  • The issue is periodic, and seems to be more common around midnight, and especially on weekends.
  • The many bars imply a high quality signal.
  • Internet quality is known to be poor in my area.

If the problem can be narrowed down to my Wifi connection, then I can solve the problem by improving the signal, for instance by strategically placing a repeater.

If the problem can be narrowed down to my ISP, then all I can do is give up and accept it; and things like buying a repeater would be a waste of money (and time).

How can I narrow it down to one of these?

I reason that while I have many bars, the number of bars is only the strength of the signal in dB. So it is conceivable that the signal is somehow poor quality, despite beng strong (perhaps due to noise, being intermittent or complex interference). Is this possible? Or do the bars already take quality into account?


Note: The problem is with my desktop computer, which has a WLAN adapter card (plugged into the mainboard, with movable antennae coming out the back). It is not practical to haul the desktop around, but I also have a laptop available to test the wireless signal at different locations.

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If you have a computer directly connected to the switch/hub, then you can check the internet speed with speedtest.net. You can also do it with your wireless connection, but it doesn't tell you which segment is slow. –  LDC3 May 22 at 2:30
    
@LDC3 I think I can also use a laptop from a different room (where the signal would be better) to test it. However, part of my question is whether the number of bars indicates quality conclusively. –  Superbest May 22 at 2:31
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There is also interference from other devices. If you have your computer in range of your neighbor on the same channel, then when both are broadcasting, there is a chance of misinterpreting the information (which causes an error and a request for it to be resent). If you scan for wireless connections, check which channels are in use and change yours to an unused channel. –  LDC3 May 22 at 2:35
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The number of bars indicate the signal strength. However having 4/5 bars shouldn't degrade your Internet speeds down to 1/100th of the speed. I would suggest you try to rule out the wireless system all together. Plug your laptop directly into the router. See if the issue persists. If they do plug the laptop directly into the modem. If you are still having those issues at the modem it's most like an issue with your ISP. Have then check for packet loss. –  Eric Robinson May 22 at 2:53
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