Should You Set Your Router to a Different Channel or Keep It on Auto?

Wireless routers send and receive data using a radio signal. In order to avoid interference with other routers, cordless phones and other radio devices, routers can transmit on several different channels. Some routers also have an “auto” channel feature, which selects the least-crowded channel to use. If your network works properly on the auto setting, there is no need to change it. If you occasionally lose your connection, you can try different channels manually.

 Wireless Channels

  • While most routers use either the 2.4 GHz or the 5 GHz radio frequency, these channels actually divide further into several segments. 2.4 GHz routers in the United States, for example, can actually use any one of 11 channels, ranging from 2.412 GHz to 2.462 GHz. Because the differences between the channels are so small, wireless devices will still receive some interference from neighboring channels. Channels 1, 6 and 11 are far enough apart to avoid cross-interference, so you should use one of these three channels in most cases.

Auto Channel

  • Routers with an automatic channel setting will scan the area and switch to whichever channel has the least interference. In most cases, this setting takes the work out of selecting a channel and will provide the best experience. Some computers and devices, however, take a few seconds to reconnect to a router after an automatic channel shift, disrupting your work. If your computer loses its connection frequently, try setting the router channel manually.

Picking a Channel

  • Most computers and routers do not have software for displaying the least crowded wireless channels in your area. If you want to find the optimal channel, you can install third-party programs on your computer or mobile device to scan the area and determine which Wi-Fi channel has the least interference. Otherwise, the best way to pick a channel is by trial and error: change the channel on your router and look at the quality of the signal on your computer. If it has a poor signal or disconnects, try another channel.

Changing Channel Settings

  • The method to set your router channel varies by router brand. Linksys routers, for example, have the channel setting on the “Basic Wireless Settings” page under the “Wireless” tab on the router setup page. You can access the page by browsing to 192.168.1.1. On Belkin routers, visit 192.168.2.1 and click “Channel and SSID.” Netgear routers, accessed at 192.168.0.1, have the setting on the “Wireless Settings” page. These addresses and settings may vary by model as well; consult your router’s manual for specific directions.
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