TIP: Get better Wi-Fi performance without upgrading to 802.11ac

Remember, a couple of years ago when you got rid of your old wireless-G router? You upgraded to Wireless-N and if you’re like most people, you didn’t see a lot of improvement. In fact, you might have even seen a decrease in your wireless range. Maybe you thought as your devices got faster, things would improve. Well, here it is years later and you’re looking at the same problems.

You might have upgraded to an 802.11ac router, which made things a little better, or you might be thinking, “Fat chance. Burned once on that.” What if there were a way to increase the performance of the router you already have? There just might be.

When Wireless-N came out there was not a lot of equipment that worked with it, so most routers run in “compatibility mode.” This means that most of the actually cool features of Wireless-N are turned off. Wireless-N is completely different from the older Wi-Fi protocols. It can run in a different frequency range, with different size channels, and it’s all that stuff that makes it faster. All that stuff is turned off by default.

If you turn off your router’s compatibility with older devices you may be able to get a lot more performance out of it. You’ll need to know that all your devices are Wireless-N compatible but that’s not hard; if you have a laptop, tablet, or phone made in the last two years you’re probably safe.

The procedure is different for every router but here are the basic steps:

  1. Go to your browser and type in the address for your router (usually
  2. Enter the username and password. You should have this from when you set up the router.
  3. Look for a menu that says something like “Wireless Settings”
  4. Within that menu look for something like “Wireless Mode.” Change it to something like N-Only.
  5. Apply the changes.

You might need to reconnect your devices, or they may just work. If all your devices work except one or two, those probably aren’t really Wireless-N compatible.

With Wireless a/b/g compatibility turned off, you should get better performance from your router immediately!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.