It's easy to take a smoothly functioning home wireless network for granted, especially when you're sipping coffee on the patio and catching up on the news of the morning with your iPad.
You can faintly hear your family - camped out at the kitchen table - tapping away on keyboards.
All is right with the world.
Few things in digital life are more frustrating, however, than when a home wireless network goes haywire. It's painfully slow. The signal is weak and connections drop. Your comfy sofa is a Wi-Fi dead spot.
Try these tricks to boost your wireless router's range and speed - and you'll soon be taking your Wi-Fi for granted again.
1. Update your technology
If your router, computer and gadgets were made in the last two or three years, they probably support the latest wireless-N standard. If so, make sure your router is set to N-only mode for maximum speed and range. The b/g/n setting - needed to support older devices - will be slower.
If your PC is getting on in years and stuck at wireless-G, consider upgrading to a new model or a new wireless-N card.
Buy a new router if it doesn't support wireless-N. Chances are, it also doesn't support the latest security encryption.
Make sure your computer is running the latest version of its operating system and has the latest driver for your router.
Visit your router manufacturer's website to see if you've missed a firmware upgrade. I bet you have.
2. Find the sweet spot
Routers aren't the best looking gadgets, so your inclination may be to hide them. That's a bad idea because routers are susceptible to overheating and need good airflow.
The devices also perform much better when placed in an open, central location - away from walls and obstructions, such as metal filing cabinets.
If you place a router that has an omnidirectional antenna against an outside wall, it will send half its wireless signal outdoors. That might create a dead spot on the opposite side of your home.
A high location is usually better than a low one, especially if you have a two-story home. If you can, put the router on a high shelf or on top of a cabinet.
3. Change the channel
Like radio stations, wireless routers can broadcast on a number of different channels. When you and half the neighborhood are on the same channel, it causes a lot of static.
This shouldn't be a problem if your router features automatic channel selection. If it doesn't, tune in a channel with less interference. Consult your router's manual for quick assistance in changing router channels.
4. Reduce interference
Another nice thing about having a newer router is that it is probably a dual band. The 5 GHz frequency reduces interference from 2.4 GHz cordless phones, garage door openers, baby monitors and other common wireless gadgets.
Microwave ovens also emit a very strong signal in the 2.4 GHz band.
Put some extra distance between your router and interfering appliances.
5. Pop open a beer
If you've tried all this and your router still doesn't have enough reach, it's time for the trusty beer-can hack.
This involves cutting a beer or soda can open with a utility knife to make a parabolic antenna out of it. I know, it sounds a little crazy, but this trick can boost your network by two bars or more. It's easy. And I made a fun video to show you exactly how to do it. Watch it now.
Finally, once your home Wi-Fi is humming along again, don’t forget to secure your network. Encryption has little effect on the performance of newer routers.
Why does it matter? If your network is open, neighbors can piggyback on to it to do their Internet surfing - and that will really slow you down. Worse, hackers can exploit your unsecured network and snoop for personal data.
Be sure to use the latest WPA2 encryption and create a strong password.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Get the podcast or find the station nearest you at www.komando.com/listen. Subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters at www.komando.com/newsletters. Copyright 1995-2012, WestStar TalkRadio Network. All rights reserved.