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Tips for improving WLAN (1 Viewer)

Jessie-66

Germany
I've been reading through older threads in the computer category, so I'd like to share some tips on improving the never ending story WLAN. In the first post something about the technology, in the second then about software and settings.

The best option for networking is and remains Ethernet cable with category 5e. or better. If data rates are unsatisfactory, it should be checked whether it is not at least possible to lay cheap patch cable provisionally.

The cheapest way of improvement is to change the location of the WLAN clients or the router. The latter should be located as centrally as possible so that few walls have to be penetrated.

A cheap option is to use a USB WLAN stick / WIFI dongle, which is connected to the computer by a USB cable and can thus be positioned freely: High, not in corners or behind furniture, metallic objects, etc. How to position WLAN technology follows later.

WLAN amplifiers / WIFI boosters are a bad option. Works but: With cheap devices that have only 1 radio (transmitter-receiver combination), the transmission rate is halved. Also a hidden station effect can occur:
At least position the device so that it receives or transmits the maximum possible signal strength from the WLAN client (laptop, cell phone) and from the WLAN router. Position it somewhere between the router and the clients. I often saw how such a device was positioned close to the client, the operator was happy about high signal levels at the client and still annoyed about low data rates. How to measure signal strengths and thus position them cleverly will follow.

Powerline network adapters are another option. These are available with an Ethernet connection and with a built-in WLAN access point. The manufacturers devolo (marketing label dlan) and TP Link offer corresponding products. These adapters can be positioned at the router and near the client. The PLC protocol currently allows gross 1200 MBit/s, net (= without overhead PLC protocol data) 600 Mbit/s. In real terms, you can expect at most half of all specified values. Units from TP Link are cheap, but software updates are few and short, which is a significant security problem for wireless technology that can be received by strangers. Therefore, only the link to dlan devices from German manufacturer devolo:

A modern technology for extending WLAN is meshed WLAN. But beware, cheap devices have only 2 radios each for 2.4 and 5 GHz. In which connections to the clients as well as to the router (backbone WLAN) must share. This is old meat from marketing repackaged (see my text to WIFI booster), the only difference is a common, unified management with the router. Better devices have a third radio, i.e. 2.4 and 5 GHz for clients (access) and another 5 GHZ radio for the backbone connection to the router. Problem: 5 GHz works well only through 1 wall. This devices are expensive.

An elegant and technically practical way to extend WLAN is to use one or more WLAN access points that are connected to the router with Ethernet cables. Fast WLAN for houses with reinforced concrete ceilings is thus simple and possible. A poor temporary solution for single-family houses with reinforced concrete ceilings with missing Ethernet cabling are the described powerline WLAN adapters.

Ubiquiti and Mikrotik offer inexpensive and waterproof WLAN access points with directional antennas, as well as WLAN CPEs with directional effects. This can be used to supply neighboring houses and gardens with WLAN and to set up directional radio links. WLAN CPEs work like USB WLAN dongles or WLAN adapters in PCs, smartphones and laptops. They have an Ethernet connection, so you don't have to worry about drivers. Taking advantage of the directionality and free positioning through Ethernet patch cables, you can try to connect them to PCs - instead of the USB WLAN dongles with patch cables suggested above. Linux and xBSD friends avoid any driver problems for WLAN adapters by using the Ethernet connection for WLAN CPEs. Note: The company Mikrotik provides setting options for experts, laymen need a lot of training time. Since Ubiquiti is well known, Mikrotik less I link:
My tip for Mikrotik products: This manufacturer sells also cheap switches routers and access points for home and office, choose this product categories also.

My next post will include WLAN router settings and signal measurements for smart positioning or search for faults and low data rates.

Conflicts of interests:
I am retired, fortunately I am no longer involved with any company. Except when I do my own shopping. Jessie
 
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Jessie-66

Germany
Wireless measurements are easiest with a tablet and programs such as WIFI Analyzer. This way you are mobile and can measure comfortably.
For Linux there is the package linssid with Graphical User Interface. For Linux experts there are some command line programs, these people know this themselves. Possible programs for different operating systems:
I better show again clearly what I need to display all these programs:
Now you have to search for the transmitting channels of your own WLAN router or access point (2.4 or/and 5 GHz) and you can measure at any place. Experience values from me: Signal levels of -45 dbm are very good but only achievable in close range to the router, -65 dbm still works safely. Less level leads to frequent disconnections.
Windows command to show the signal level of the active connection:
netsh wlan show interfaces

Minimum router settings:
  • Assign own SSID (= "WLAN name") with numbers, letters and underline sign "_"
  • Own password (preshared key, PSK)
  • Connection security: WPA2-PSK (AES), recently also WPA3
  • Protocols for 2.4 GHz: 802.11n (possibly g+n for old WLAN clients)
  • Channel width: 20 GHz (not 40 GHz otherwise half the frequency band is wasted for only 1 WLAN transmitter, but you suffer from overlaps, interference)
  • WLAN channel selection: automatic (for laymen)
If connections through only 1 wall are required, deactivate 2.4 GHz radio and use only 5 GHz, since the 2.4 GHz band has only 3 overlap-free usable channels and there is often interference due to neighboring WLAN transmitters. Enthusiasts should select the channel manually and without overlapping, using channels 1, 6 and 11, and possibly consult with neighbors. In some countries, 13 channels are permitted. When operating multiple WLAN transmitters (routers and access points), use the same SSID for quasi-roaming of smartphones, but use different channels that are free of overlaps.

In the 5 GHz range:
  • Different SSID than in the 2.4 GHz band (just use the same one and append _5g)
  • Channel width: 40 GHz (maximum 80 GHz so as not to waste the whole band)
  • Protocol: 802.11ac (*)
In Europe, frequencies from 5.15 to 5.35 GHz are used with channels from 36 to 64 and frequencies from 5.5 to 5.7 GHz are used with channels from 100 to 140.
In the USA, the frequencies from 5.15 to 5.35 GHz with the channels from 36 to 64 and frequencies from 5.5 to 5.7 GHz with the channels from 100 to 140 are used, with the exception of channels 120, 124 and 128. Fortunately, in this frequency band the attenuations are higher, the ranges of interferers are lower. Due to the large number of permitted channels, in the simplest case you can choose free channels. I have shown the measuring technique. Dynamic frequency detection (DFS) is mandatory for many channels. For example, our WLAN must detect weather radar and take evasive action. The radar detection algorithm delays the start of WLAN radios with corresponding configured transmitting channels by about 2 minutes. Not all channels are approved for high signal levels. Not all WLAN clients can handle all channels. The lower channels 36 to 48 are a safe setting.

Addendum:
Professional WLAN access points can handle multiple SSIDs (often 8) per radio (= transmitter-receiver combination = short transceiver) and their mapping to multiple Virtual LANs (= VLANs according standard IEEE802.11q), for example, to separate a WLAN for guests from the operator's network with private shares that must not be usable by third parties. The technical term for this is "SSID VLAN Mapping". A VLAN-capable router is required for this. I can not explained this possibility in detail, the BF is not a technical forum. If necessary, I will answer specific questions from interested parties.

(*) There are some new protocols with high data rates für short distances: 802.11ad, 802.11ax ...
 
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Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Jessie,

I have a two year-old two channel router: a TP Link. Supposedly, it will switch from favouring distance to favouring bandwidth as required. It is certainly an improvement over the previous one, a eighteen year-old Apple Express, as the new one has little problem with steel reinforced concrete walls.
It has other issues, I cannot use its USB port to connect to an old printer. My new printer has its own wireless connection, so I am not too disappointed.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Jessie-66

Germany
Hi Arthur, thanks for the feedback. Witch switching for more bandwith do you mean the so-called automatic "bandsteering"? This means that the router kicks clients out of the 2.4 GHz band, so to speak, and they use the 5 GHz band with more possible data rate? There is a problem if clients cannot use 5 GHz and the router does not recognise this. Another problem: The client is quite far away, the 2.4 GHz signal level is sufficient but the 5 GHz level is very weak because of the higher attenuation in this frequency band. Then you should disable bandsteering in the router. You can try it. Such algorithms are often proprietary, manufacturers implement different. Best wishes. Jessie
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Hi Arthur, (wrt #3)

That's fine until you discover, as we just have, that our new wireless Brother HL-L2390DW printer can't recognize the Xfinity router (2.4GHz). So, right now it's just a very large door stop, although it worked fine when first connected a few weeks ago. :(

Thanks for the thread, Jessie. Sometimes I just want to be ignorant of details, but ... :censored:

Ed

Jessie — didn't see your post #4 until now.
 
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Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hi Arthur, thanks for the feedback. Witch switching for more bandwith do you mean the so-called automatic "bandsteering"? This means that the router kicks clients out of the 2.4 GHz band, so to speak, and they use the 5 GHz band with more possible data rate? There is a problem if clients cannot use 5 GHz and the router does not recognise this. Another problem: The client is quite far away, the 2.4 GHz signal level is sufficient but the 5 GHz level is very weak because of the higher attenuation in this frequency band. Then you should disable bandsteering in the router. You can try it. Such algorithms are often proprietary, manufacturers implement different. Best wishes. Jessie
Hello Jessie,

Yes. I have not had any problems. Each channel has its own name, so I could manually shift from one to the other, in network preferences as Apple calls it. My whole flat is 100 square metres, and the router is fairly centrally located. No spot is more than 8 metres from the router but those solid walls are no longer a problem. In fact, I have used my tablet 15m, down the corridor from the flat's door. Now, only the new printer is about 8m from the router. To use the old printer, I have to plug it into the old router and then connect that to my modem or to the new router.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hi Arthur, (wrt #3)

That's fine until you discover, as we just have, that our new wireless Brother HL-L2390DW printer can't recognize the Xfinity router (2.4GHz). So, right now it's just a very large door stop, although it worked fine when first connected a few weeks ago. :(

Thanks for the thread, Jessie. Sometimes I just want to be ignorant of details, but ... :censored:

Ed

Jessie — didn't see your post #4 until now.
Hello Ed,

Have you tried reinstalling the drivers?

My relatively new HP laser printer is also giving me agita. I had a hard time getting it to work, attempting reboots and reinstallation. I have decided not to shut it off. That printer can do duplex printing, which is often useful. I can use the old printer but it refuses to do envelopes and other odd stationery. Handles have broken off, but it still works and I have a new cartridge waiting to be uses.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Jessie-66

Germany
Tip for connecting local printers (e.g. with USB port, intended for a short, local connection between printer and PC) to the network: You can use cheap, so-called "network print servers", these are available with Ethernet and WLAN connection - and for legacy protociols. This is also a workaround if the USB connection of the local printer to the router does not work. Pick something that suits you:
Whether these devices work with scanners, I do not know. You must read data sheets, specs, experience reports of users.

Annotation:
I have added an addendum to post #2 regarding VLAN-SSID-Mapping.
 
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Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Jessie,

Thank you but I saw no indication that it worked with Apple products but my problem seems to be the printer, not the network.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Jessie-66

Germany
Okay Arthur, it's a thread with tips for all (and later) readers, some posts give me ideas. Regards also to Ed (elkclub). Jessie
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Have you tried reinstalling the drivers?

My relatively new HP laser printer is also giving me agita. I had a hard time getting it to work, attempting reboots and reinstallation. I have decided not to shut it off. That printer can do duplex printing, which is often useful. I can use the old printer but it refuses to do envelopes and other odd stationery. Handles have broken off, but it still works and I have a new cartridge waiting to be uses.

Stay safe,
The drivers and firmware turned out to be fine. Was/is your problem connecting it to WiFi? I really like the duplex feature on mine too — saves a lot of paper.
Tip for connecting local printers (e.g. with USB port, intended for a short, local connection between printer and PC) to the network: You can use cheap, so-called "network print servers", these are available with Ethernet and WLAN connection - and for legacy protocols. This is also a workaround if the USB connection of the local printer to the router does not work. Pick something that suits you:
After struggling for three days with my wife's mac-mini as well as my own, I finally figured out how the %^&% printer interface operates and was able to connect it to WiFi as well as make a direct USB connection to my wife's computer. Phew! Fortunately, I didn't need any additional equipment like a print server, and I could find an ancient USB cable in my parts box that actually worked. Thanks Jessie! (y)

Arthur,
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Ed,

My HP printer seems to have issues with Apple. My brother has no trouble printing from a PC to my printer. Even when I have difficulties, the indicator shows it is connected to the Wi-Fi, and my computer indicates a connection.

Sometimes, when I have difficulties, I unplug the printer, hold the start button down for 30 seconds. When I plug it into the mains, it starts and often works.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Jessie-66

Germany
Measuring WLAN signal strength on the Mac
You don't need an additional tool on the Mac either. You can find out the signal strength with on-board tools: The WLAN icon must be visible in the menu bar. If this is not the case, open the System Preferences. Under "Network" you can display the "WLAN status in the menu bar" behind "WLAN".
Now press the Alt key. Keep the key pressed and click on the now visible WLAN icon. A new menu appears with various information about the connected WLAN.
Look for the entry for "RSSI" ("Received Signal Strength Indication"). This indicates the signal strength. However, a high RSSI value does not automatically indicate better WLAN reception. A value between -50 and -70 indicates good reception.
Since I don't run a Mac, I don't know if this works with 2 WLANs (WLAN router + printer with own WLAN access point = WIFI direct). Then temporarily switch off router.
You can also have a android tablet with the program "WIFI Analyzer" measure in close proximity to the computer. In both cases the signal level from the WIFI direct printer (and WLAN router) is displayed.
Arthur, you have a WIFI direct printer? Otherwise, perhaps other readers are pleased about this contribution.
 
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Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
...
Now press the Alt key. Keep the key pressed and click on the now visible WLAN icon. A new menu appears with various information about the connected WLAN.
Look for the entry for "RSSI" ("Received Signal Strength Indication"). This indicates the signal strength. However, a high RSSI value does not automatically indicate better WLAN reception. A value between -50 and -70 indicates good reception.
Since I don't run a Mac, I don't know if this works with 2 WLANs (WLAN router + printer with own WLAN access point = WIFI direct). Then temporarily switch off router.
You can also have a android tablet with the program "WIFI Analyzer" measure in close proximity to the computer. In both cases the signal level from the WIFI direct printer (and WLAN router) is displayed.
Arthur, you have a WIFI direct printer? Otherwise, perhaps mitleser are pleased about this contribution.
Hello Jessie,

Your welcome advice makes no sense to me. There is no Alt key on a Mac; there is no WLAN button in System preference, although there is a button for displaying "Wi-Fi Status" in the menu bar. I do have an indicator with three arcs. Searching for RSSI provides no answers from the operating system.

My printer connects to my wifi, as far as I know. It certainly does not generate its own signal

Who are "mitleser"?

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Jessie-66

Germany
"Mitleser" is a German word and means other readers of the thread. An error of mine during translation. I have correct post #13.
Well, WIFI direct was an assumption of mine. I don't know your MAC operating system. You could simply use an Android tablet or smartphone to measure the WLAN level according to post #2 in the immediate vicinity of each WLAN client (MAC with WLAN, printer with WLAN). Maybe the signal strength is a bit weak, connection interruptions therefore?
 
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elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Hello Jessie,

Your welcome advice makes no sense to me. There is no Alt key on a Mac; there is no WLAN button in System preference, although there is a button for displaying "Wi-Fi Status" in the menu bar. I do have an indicator with three arcs. Searching for RSSI provides no answers from the operating system.

My printer connects to my wifi, as far as I know. It certainly does not generate its own signal

Who are "mitleser"?

Stay safe,
Arthur
Hi Arthur,
I think you should see "alt" written at the upper right of the "option" key? :geek:
Alt(ernate) <=> Option

Ed
Happy Insurrection Day + 1
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
Hello Ed,

My HP printer seems to have issues with Apple. My brother has no trouble printing from a PC to my printer. Even when I have difficulties, the indicator shows it is connected to the Wi-Fi, and my computer indicates a connection.

Sometimes, when I have difficulties, I unplug the printer, hold the start button down for 30 seconds. When I plug it into the mains, it starts and often works.

Stay safe,
Arthur
Hmmm. :unsure:If your printer is relatively close to the computer you might try looking for a USB hookup that avoids the WIFI altogether. Although not advertised, even mine had one for downloading firmware updates, and when connected to my computer I then had a choice of printing via WiFi or USB. USB-1, 2, and C connectors are quite varied.
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Ed,

Not any more, the option key now has some weird symbol in the corner. Using it, and a right click brings up some options but not RSSI.

The printer is far from my computer or where I use a tablet, out of sight. There is no question of the printer connecting to the computer, as indicated on the computer and as my brother has no trouble printing, This is an HP problem and it is out of contract.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
My HP printer/scanner often will not connect when I try to scan (using a Win10 setup). Clicking the back arrow and trying again usually resolves the issue.

Niels
 

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